December 11, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections
IT is beyond doubt a party in turmoil, despite the best efforts of its president to maintain otherwise, and the rift dividing the two sides is so wide and the positions adopted so hardlined that an immediate solution looks highly unlikely, unless the antagonists are kicked out.
A much speculated splinter national congress didn’t take place but a dinner by the opposing camp was well attended, at which more condemnation and bad blood was spilled. The congress itself was first marred by a ruckus and some violent conduct which resulted in injuries but the most telling incident was a walkout by a majority of elected executive committee members and that was one up for the PKR faction led by deputy president Azmin Ali.
Ironically both opposing leaders – the other being party president Anwar Ibrahim – spoke of a willingness to reconcile but an earlier truce mediated by a couple of leaders aligned to Azmin just days before the congress appeared to have gone to shreds and that was cited as the reason for the walkout. A reconciliation not mediated by a neutral and independent person is bound to not go far and so far no such person has emerged.
There are of course supporters of Anwar who say that the rebels have done enough damage and should just be sacked and there was a suggestion yesterday for action to be taken against a vice-president and Azmin guard dog and loyalist Zuraida Kamaruddin.
Given a choice this would be Anwar’s preferred option but while the numbers among the leadership group may not be in the majority for Azmin, he has enough of them behind him to have the boat rocking violently enough.
Having 14 of 20 elected excos walking out in support is a big deal, just as having 15 Members of Parliament from 50 can inflict damage not just on the party but the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition. Within these two categories are at least four ministers, a deputy and a mentri besar, each with his or her own band of supporters. The Wanita leadership is with Azmin while there are enough Azmin supporters too in the upper echelon of the Youth wing.
The Azmin camp is well aware of the numbers in their favour and this could be a reason why they do not appear unfazed with threats of disciplinary action. And the Anwar camp too must know the repercussions of such a move but they only have themselves to blame for allowing the impasse to drag on. When you do that more contentious issues are bound to crop up, turning what could otherwise be a simple solution into something so delicate and difficult to contain.
Some Anwar diehards, friends included, have abandoned him
The other point some may not be aware of is the number of former Anwar diehards and supporters who have switched their allegiance.
One notable individual is deputy minister Kamarudin Jaafar, a man for many years seen as Anwar’s trusted lieutenant. In the 90s he chaired the Institut Kajian Dasar think-thank that was formed by Anwar and mainly served his interests. But despite their long association which goes back to their schooldays at the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar, where Anwar was a senior by four years, and then into the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or Abim, Kamarudin surprisingly did not join the Keadilan party that was born from the 1998 Anwar dismissal from Umno and government. Kamarudin has travelled quite a bit in politics – beginning with Umno then to PAS and then closely linked to Amanah but eventually joined PKR.
Another Anwar believer who has switched flags is Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, another MCKK boy, though much younger. Yet a younger MCKK old boy, Rafizi Ramli, has recently declared his decision to abandon politics for the time being, which means one less staunch Anway supporter in the PKR leadership group, and with daughter Nurul Izzah conspicuously absent since about a year ago from party meetings, Anwar’s support at the higher levels of the party is definitely shrinking.
This may not be widely known public knowledge but recently a letter carrying the name of former MP and PKR secretary-general Kamarul Baharin Abbas made the rounds on social media.
Baharin, as friends call him, is another schoolmate that goes back a long, long way with Anwar and was a pioneer in Keadilan. Let’s just say that for someone who probably got into politics actively solely because of Anwar, Baharin’s letter was uncomplimentary and would have surprised many who know of his association with Anwar. Privately, amongst the older MCKK former students, there has been talk too about how a few others who stuck by Anwar for almost the last five decades have deserted him, with trust deficit being a main reason.
Thus despite his best efforts in recent days, not many Malaysians will believe Anwar that all is fine in PKR.