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The Zuraida conundrum that looks dicey for PKR

Zuraida is acknowledged as having strong support in PKR.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

January 31, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

SHE is widely regarded as the firebrand of PKR and given the stance she has taken on a number of issues in the party especially since last year, not many can dispute that. Significantly, Zuraida Kamaruddin is perhaps the staunchest ally of PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and that’s where the problem starts for her.

The issue does not appear to be so much between her and party president Anwar Ibrahim per se but rather a spillover from the Anwar-Azmin conflict, with Zuraida becoming Azmin’s most vocal public backer and simultaneously Anwar’s most vocal critic. After several months of the infighting being played out in the open, the PKR disciplinary board recently decided it was time to issue Zuraida a show-cause letter, to which she has duly replied. In between there were calls by a big group of elected members and others more ordinary that the action against her be called off.

Most of the state chairmen, being appointees decided by the president, have voiced their disagreement with Zuraida but amongst those in the Cabinet, the main PKR executive committee, and those representing the youths and women, Zuraida has strong support. The crunch though is to what extent those with her are prepared to go if the board recommends tough action like dismissal. Demonstrations and other forms of public support count for nothing.

No one is officially saying why Zuraida is being asked to defend herself but of the three reasons said to have been outlined by the board, one relates to Zuraida’s hard-hitting speech against Anwar at a dinner organised by the Azmin faction at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur on the last day of the party’s national convention in Malacca last December and the other concerning her absence from several meetings since last year.

No action so far against others in the main committee for also being absent, Azmin included

Coincidentally absenteeism is also reported to be the reason why seven Youth executive councilors have been removed from their positions but because there has been inaction against some others who also decided to stay away from meetings – like Azmin, Rafizi Ramli and Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah – PKR finds itself being accused of selective prosecution, although in the case of Rafizi any action is academic since he has said he is quitting politics while not firmly confirming if it’s for good. The other point is that these recent disciplinary cases have all been against Azmin’s supporters.

Zuraida’s position as a federal minister is not likely to be affected by whatever decision that will ultimately befall her, not when a Cabinet appointment is the prerogative of the prime minister and especially since Dr. Mahathir Mahathir is said to like her. Even if there are signs that her appointment here could be in jeopardy, the lobby in her favour among the PKR ministers looks very strong. Thus it is her position in the party that will determine what will happen to PKR.

In most cases involving Malaysian politicians, support for a dissident often wanes after a while, often due to the realisation that continuing to do so will get the supporters nowhere. But if the support for Zuraida from both ordinary members and those in the leadership groups is unusually strong, PKR could be in for a rough ride and by extension, the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition. Maybe this is why Azmin remains untouched but to continue to do so would only create a credibility issue for PKR.

At least a week behind others….

Citizens from several countries have either arrived home after being flown out of Wuhan by their governments or are waiting to be flown home in the next few days. Those flown out or are to be flown out include Americans, British, Japanese, citizens of European Union countries, Australians and Kiwis. Some have been placed under quarantine in military facilities while Australia has decided to isolate them at an immigrant centre on remote Christmas Island, about 2,000 kilometres to the northwest of the continent.

More and more countries are closing their borders to Chinese citizens while Singapore is also barring entry to foreigners who had visited China in the last 14 days. There are of course airlines that have suspended flights to and out of China as the Wuhan coronavirus had until earlier today caused the deaths of 213 people and affected 9,809 others. Cases have been confirmed in at least 21 other countries.

China has also announced that it will arrange flights to fly home from overseas people from Hubei province where Wuhan is located.

So far Myanmar looks to be the only country to have ordered a flight from a Chinese airline to return to where it came from. One Chinese national on board a China Southern flight from Guangzhou to Yangon was allowed to disembark to be treated at a local hospital, two Maynmar nationals were also allowed to leave on condition they agreed to be quarantined for 14 days while everyone else had to return to Guangzhou.

Amidst all these goings-on Malaysia only decided a couple of days ago to consider bringing home its citizens, with Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu saying that his minister was offering an aircraft. Yesterday came the announcement about the formation of a committee to look into this evacuation plan. Why the delayed action only our Cabinet knows.

By the way Singapore is also busy distributing free face masks.

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About the author

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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.