Sunday, October 24

Can Anwar Ibrahim save PKR Sarawak?


Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim


By Hakim Bujang

The relationship between Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak and their president and Prime Minister-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has hit a new low after the party’s recent election.

This frosty rapport will put PKR in a very tricky position in its attempt to sway the people of Sarawak into voting for a change of government.

Former PKR member Badrul Hisham Shahrin, popularly known as Chegubard has said it loud and clear that Anwar’s alliance with a certain political figure in Sarawak does not augur well for the party.

This is not the first time the political jingle has been played to PKR’s disadvantage. The first time the same tune was sung was in 2009. Maybe Anwar and his men have forgotten.

Back then, Anwar was leading the first wave of attack to crush the Barisan Nasional (BN) after serving his jail sentence.

In those days, PKR, still under the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) banner, contested in three by- elections, taking place almost simultaneously for various reasons.

Coffeeshop talks dubbed the scenario at the time as the two ‘Bukits’ and one ‘Batang’ by-elections. The two Bukits were Bukit Gantang, Perak, and Bukit Selambau, Kedah, while the one Batang was Batang Ai, Sarawak.

In Bukit Gantang, Perak, former Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin took over from Roslan Shaharum who had passed away due to a heart attack, while in Bukit Selambau, PR fielded S Manikumar to replace V Arumugam who had resigned for personal reasons.

In Batang Ai, a relatively unknown engineer, Malcolm Mussen Lamoh from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) was fielded against former Lubok Antu MP Jawah Gerang.

PR won almost too easily in the two Bukits but was soundly beaten in Batang Ai where Malcom, now an assistant Minister, polled 3,907 votes to Jawah’s 2,053.

The Batang Ai contest had grabbed the headlines over a sarcastic remark from PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang that PR had lost in a place where “people lack thinking capacity and still dressed in loincloth.”

What many people seem to have forgotten is that the man, linked to the PR candidate (Jawah Gerang) in Batang Ai is none other than the very man linked to Rafizi Ramli’s challenge against Azmin Ali for the PKR deputy president seat – Datuk Sng Chee Hua.

The irony, as Malaysiakini columnist Terrence Netto once wrote, was that Datuk Sng was the first person to arrive at the 2010 Hari Raya Open House of Azmin, the man he tried to unseat from the deputy presidency this time around. Indeed, the nature of politics is very fluid.

To quote the Malaysiakini columnist’s words in 2011: “The way a reception room in a Petaling Jaya hotel emptied one evening last November when Sng wafted in upon Anwar’s arrival to meet Dayak delegates to the PKR Annual Congress, should have told the opposition leader something.

“Even Baru Bian, the Sarawak PKR chapter leader, and an ex-PBDS stalwart, was obliged to sidle towards the exit, upon sighting Sng.”

From what had transpired, it’s patently clear that Anwar knew very well PKR Sarawak does not welcome Sng, whereas, on the other hand, the very same PKR Sarawak leader is still in charge, and getting popular over the years for championing Native Land Rights issues.

Out of the 29 PKR branches in Sarawak, Sng’s team won in Sarikei, Julau, Kapit and maybe Limbang. Twenty-five other branches are still with Baru Bian who happens to be the only Dayak in the Pakatan Harapan federal cabinet.

PKR Sarawak has been campaigning hard for Saratok MP and Krian state assemblyman, Ali Biju, to be included in the PKR Central Committee.

However, not a single Dayak has earned a place in the Central Committee via the e-voting system although there are five Dayak-majority parliamentary seats now flying PKR flag. Only Larry Sng has won a seat in the Committee after garnering one of the highest votes.

For reasons best known to Baru Bian and Anwar, the PKR Sarawak chairman did not show up at the Party Convention. This incurred the ire of Anwar who rebuked him in his speech, followed by some strong words for Baru Bian in a post-Convention press conference.

Baru Bian’s reply to the whole controversy was rather non-chalant. He posted a photo of him and his wife, enjoying the famous Ikan Patin at a highway RnR restaurant.

Baru also insisted that he had informed the organising committee he would not be attending due to work commitments – which was very clearly a lame excuse as such prior engagements were apparently very minor ones.

With two reports lodged with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) by PKR Sarawak over alleged election irregularities, the problems besetting the 20-year-old party are far from over.

Many police reports have also been made on the suspect electoral list and tampering of electronic gadgets, used in the e-voting system, coupled with a statutory declaration by PKR Sarawak Information Chief, Vernon Aji Kedit, detailing alleged fraudulent acts.

With a thumb-drive already in MACC’s hands, only time will tell whether the information and evidence, said to be stored in the device, will cause PKR to implode.

PKR’s enemies – some now turned political allies — had been trying very hard to destabilise the party, including sending their top leader to prison on what had been claimed to be “trumped up charges,” and persuading their supporters to switch sides in an apparent attempt to cripple the once mosquito party.

Now, the party is hanging precariously by a thread over bitter internecine factional rivalries at the expense of their status as the largest component of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition.

Unless the feuding parties are prepared to let bygone be bygone and start afresh after the acrimonious wrangle for the Number Two post, the highly charged internal bickering – if allowed to fester and ferment without being defused with a mutually satisfactory solution — will most likely have an adverse impact on the future of PKR as a political party — and very possibly also see a shift in the power-sharing structure, or in the worse scenario, even the rupture of the PH government.