Commentary Politics

PKR, a party in crisis — and denial

Azmin (left) was once Anwar's main aide and at times, guard dog, but both are now at each other's throat.

Written by Aziz Hassan

November 30, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections

IT’S not the most ideal situation and because it is the strongest of the four parties in the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, the problems that have caused divisions in PKR do not make for good reading, certainly not for the government.

The issues are not new but have been allowed to remain unchecked since months ago, starting with the run-up to party elections last November. Thereafter we have seen a clear divide between those in favour of party president Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy and one-time righthand man Azmin Ali.

Of late four members have been expelled, including a leader from Bera and both the permanent chairman and deputy chairman for PKR Youth, a decision unprecedented in local politics. One maybe but never both. That the latter decision comes about two weeks to the party’s annual congress makes it all the more disruptive. What’s nonsensical were the two reasons cited for the sacking – being overaged and getting more votes in the elections than should be. This a year after they were elected!

The latest news to rock the boat is the memorandum signed by 20 central committee members led by Azmin to protest the dismissal of Bera division head Zakaria Abdul Hamid and ordinary member Ismail Dulhadi, a decision said to be mainly influenced by a letter incriminating the two from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission which later admitted that it should not have done this.

Those who signed were Azmin, vice-presidents Zuraida Kamaruddin and Tian Chua and 17 others. Apart from the elected central committee members, support from among the vice-presidents at this moment also favours Azmin.

Because the MACC admitted to its error in sending that letter, there emerged the argument that the party thus has no case against the two but party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution responded to say that the agency had only erred in terms of procedure, not case facts. “Nothing changes the contents, the complaints and the months of investigation carried out by the commission,” was his remark.

This is not the first time central committee members had signed a protest, with the first in July by 28 of them plus also some MPs over Anwar’s statement on the sex video case alleging the involvement of Azmin. The support from the state chiefs at that time was not definitive, although six did sign a letter on this and four or five others said to have done so a day or two later but the statements were not from party headquarters.

Having 20 or 29 central executive members disagreeing with a decision that is made by the committee itself is not a good sign for PKR because the number of dissenters is not far from being half of the total number of committee members.

And imagine a state chairman being absent from his state’s convention, as was what happened in Sarawak recently.

Glaring indecisiveness from a man who wants to be prime minister

Questions have often been asked as to why Anwar has not acted decisively over the rift that has divided PKR. On the contrary, he has often denied the existence of factions in a party that began with Anwar’s sacking as deputy prime minister and deputy Umno president in 1998.

Is Anwar playing it safe in the knowledge that he simply can’t afford to be firm because support for him has been waning? The PKR constitution is silent on the action that can be taken against those in the leadership group, including against those who continuously absent themselves from regular, scheduled meetings and main party events and this is where PKR may have found itself in a quandary.

PKR, with 50 MPs, has the largest representation of the four Pakatan members and a disintegration of PKR will undoubtedly cause havoc within the coalition, with a break-up a strong possibility. Unless Pakatan can entice new partners it would mean a break-up of the government itself.

But not acting decisively now can also mean a bigger problem later, if and when Anwar does get nominated as the man to succeed Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister. Where will Anwar secure the majority support of MPs to get past that first stage before his name goes to the Agong for confirmation?

With the recent sackings of the four, it will not be surprising if many voices of discontent are heard loud and clear at the national congress next weekend and what has been happening in PKR doesn’t bode well for a party led by someone who thinks that the post of Malaysia’s eight prime minister belongs to him.

Of one man’s ashes……

Never has some ashes been a subject of much debate and controversy but this is certainly the case since earlier this week, after it was known that the ashes of communist leader Chin Peng had been brought back into the country from Thailand and scattered over two places in Perak. Sympathies and much understanding of course to those whose loved ones were victims of atrocities committed by the communists. But I shall not add to the discourse and will only touch on a couple of points raised at Facebook, which surprisingly no one has reacted to to help clear my mind. A sort of academic exercise for me…..

The first question posed was to ask why the Malays do not appear to be as bitter against the Japanese for what they did to the people and the country during their occupation from 1941 to 1945 as they are about the Communist Party of Malaya. Both committed atrocities and caused various other hardships to the local people. The second poser was to ask why the Malays did not seem to object to the return of Musa Ahmad and family from China in 1981, which was followed by wide media coverage. Another prominent CPM leader, Shamsiah Fakeh, returned with her husband, also a prominent CPM member, and sons in 1994

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.