IT may be slow but the exodus from Parti Keadilan Rakyat is surely taking place amid signs of a crumbling organisation. Former PKR secretary-general Datuk Salehuddin Hashim thinks the party could be heading for the political doldrums sooner than many would expect.
Early signs of an implosion in the party, and by extension Pakatan Rakyat, surfaced after Kulim Bandar Baru member of parliament Zulkifli Noordin made public the rift between PKR and DAP, particularly in Penang.
His statement in late January that DAP was a Chinese chauvinist party drew brickbats from Pakatan Rakyat, with many branding him a turncoat.
For a moment, the small-built politician appeared like a lone rebel in PKR. That was until PKR Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim joined the fray.
A close associate of de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for more than 30 years, Zahrain's outburst -- branding Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as "chauvinist, extremist, dictatorial and communistic" -- opened Pandora's box wider.
The former Penang PKR chief, who was replaced after his criticism of Lim's leadership in Penang, then joined Zulkifli as targets of character assassination and ridicule.
PKR and DAP leaders accused the duo of being bought over by Umno and that Zahrain was a disgruntled politician.
PKR Nibong Tebal MP Tan Tee Beng jumped on the bandwagon, criticising DAP's alleged dictatorship in Pakatan Rakyat.
The root cause of the disgruntlement in PKR and other Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives was Lim's iron-fisted rule and the PKR leadership's lack of courage to act against the DAP secretary-general.
PKR's disciplinary board came into the picture later to discipline the "rebellious" leaders but the absence of any investigation into or action against the "root cause" just made matters worse.
On Feb 12, the exodus began when Zahrain quit the party and opted to be an independent MP.
The presence of Salehuddin, who quit his party post in a surprise move in January, at Zahrain's press conference to announce his decision to quit, fuelled speculation that all might not be well in PKR and PR.
The 58-year-old corporate player- turned-politician dismissed talk that he was engineering an exodus from PKR during the occasion, but his presence sent shock waves through PR.
The crisis in PKR and PR, and Zahrain's decision to leave, were dismissed as a minor hiccup by PR leaders and analysts.
On Sunday, however, former Pe-nang deputy chief minister I Mohamad Fairus Khairuddin quit the party and applied to join Umno.
The former Penanti state assemblyman, who quit his seat, paving way for a by-election, said he was forced to vacate his seat due to differences with Lim.
Barely 12-hours after Fairus' midnight press conference, Tan announced his decision to leave the party.
"If they think I'm alone, they are wrong. There are many others who will follow suit. Many have called me to voice their support. This is not about me. This is to stop people from being hoodwinked by politicians with a personal agenda."
The presence of Salehuddin at the press conference yesterday again caught the attention of those present.
He said PKR was breaking up and facing an exodus of original members who were sick of staying on in a party that had been hijacked.
"This is what you get if the party acts like a child and starts teasing everyone who leaves, then there will be no one in the party family. Only those who want to hijack the party will stay because they are needles who keep blocking people's views, except (the views) for socialists and eastern liberals."
Concurring with Zulkifli's contention, Salehuddin said the party had been hijacked by little Napo-leons, and that one-third of the party's MPs would find their way out soon.
The exodus, he said, might not just be confined to PKR as there were other elected representatives in Pakatan Rakyat who were also unhappy with the goings-on in the coalition.
When the exodus stops, Barisan Nasional could have the upper hand in Parliament or we could witness the formation of like-minded independent MPs.