Anwar: PKR is a party for the people and not the elite

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

In a keynote speech to flag off a special congress called to push through iconic reforms, PKR advisor and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim reminded party members never to forget the country’s struggle for independence from colonial rule.

He urged a crowd of some 2,000 delegates to approve a slew of resolutions aimed at putting the party at the forefront of the political league and helping it to achieve national power together with coalition allies DAP and PAS.

“We must remember to always stay progressive and egalitarian. This will differentiate us from Umno,” the reform icon said.

He pointed to the party’s re-branding exercise, which he said was precisely aimed to ensure that PKR never forgot that it was a party for the people and not the elite.

This would set PKR apart from arch rival Umno, which remained stuck in a feudalistic and colonial mindset, Anwar added.

Strengthening the party with reforms and Zaid

At a press conference held after his speech, Anwar announced that former law minister Zaid Ibrahim would join PKR.

The move, while not unexpected, nevertheless came as a surprise as Zaid has been keeping the nation in suspense for months if he would return to active politics.

“I’m confident in the party’s cause. I believe I have an opportunity to assist Anwar and PKR,” said Zaid.“I am ready to help Pakatan become an alternative and viable government that the people can rely on.”

Among key reforms to be debated are the granting of direct vote to the party’s 300,000-odd members, allowing them to choose the leaders that they want – from the president’s post right down to the 20-member supreme council.

Other much-watched reforms include reducing the qualifying-age for Youth wing members to 35 and below, limiting the tenure of the presidency – currently held by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – to three terms or nine years, and allocating women a minimum 30 percent of all party posts.

The  debates, which began after lunch, are expected to end around 5pm, when a vote expected is expected to be taken. The full-day congress is due to end around 6pm.

Meanwhile, Anwar said PKR’s re-branding exercise would include replacing old feudalistic terminology with language that was more egalitarian.

According to the 61-year old leader, this was a simple but effective way to set itself apart as a party for the people. For example, PKR will now use terms such as cabang instead of bahagian and ranting instead of cawangan to denote branches and divisions, he added.

Chin Peng and Unity Talks

In his speech Anwar had also called on the Umno-BN government to allow former communist chief Chin Peng to return to Malaysia.

The reform icon also said any move to ban any political organization just because of differences in opinions over its ideology should be condemned.

“There is no reason not to allow Chin Peng to return. This does not mean that we support the cause of the Communist Party of Malaysia. It is just that the issue has been played up with racial overtones and political motives,” said Anwar.

In a bid to rally Malay support after his popularity plunged following a messy coup d’etat in Perak state, Prime Minister Najib Razak has been playing up a request from the banished 85-year old communist leader to come home to spend his last days.

Despite pleas from the Chinese community, which sees nothing wrong in showing compassion for the octagenarian, Najib has denied Chin Peng’s request on the grounds that it would upset the Malays whom he said had suffered at the hands of the CPM.

Anwar also reiterated that Pakatan Rakyat would not form any unity government with the ruling Umno-BN even though the coalition may meet with Najib to break the political deadlock in Perak.

He agreed with PAS president Hadi Awang that any unity talks would come only after Najib’s coalition “stops all the cruelty, reforms the judiciary and the Election Commission”.

“But I would like to stress that there is no such thing as forming a unity government with them,” said Anwar.