Theatrics of PKR’s ‘ketua umum’

The latest PKR elections were mired in so much controversy, with reports indicating that, of the 162 formal election complaints from members about fraud and non-compliance of election rules, less than 15 per cent were officially discussed.

Syed Nazri, New Straits Times

FOR a person who goes around talking so much about democracy and human rights, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a walking, talking contradiction.

How else could you describe it when he is now actually stepping into another term as unconstitutional, non-elected ketua umum — the supremo, great leader, the mighty chief — of Parti Keadilan Rakyat?

To many, the declaration of support by delegates at the weekend party congress legitimising his position would remain just that — a show. A rerun of 2007, in fact.

He is de facto leader definitely because his powers seem to exceed and override those of party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, his wife — which makes it bad enough that it has to be a family-run party.

But wasn’t it just two weeks ago that the parliamentary opposition leader was in Australia spinning a yarn about Malaysian democracy?

He was telling his audience that Australian leaders had been “ill-advised” to avoid speaking out about human rights and democracy in Malaysia.

“I think the issue of democracy, human rights, rule of law — they’re not something that you can just ignore,” he was heard saying over Radio Australia on Nov 16.

Absolutely, Datuk Seri. But it does seem a little strange, doesn’t it, coming from a person who is not really living up to what he preaches.

The latest PKR elections were mired in so much controversy, with reports indicating that, of the 162 formal election complaints from members about fraud and non-compliance of election rules, less than 15 per cent were officially discussed.

It was also alleged that some of the most blatant frauds occurred in Libaran, Sandakan and Tawau (all in Sabah) and Sri Aman (Sarawak) where the process and voter attendance were heavily disputed.

But the cases, some insiders said, were ignored by the ketua umum.

Disgruntled PKR members even staged protests on many occasions against unfair practices in the party.

Just imagine — Anwar, the godfather of street demos, now having to face this wrath. It was really a case of senjata makan tuan or the weapon turning on its master.

But perhaps his most glaring disregard for democracy is his continued tenure as non-elected ketua umum, even if the “legitimisation” came from the floor on Sunday (1,200 delegates declaring without vote on behalf of the thousands of other members).

What do you expect when it was done in his presence?

A pattern seems to be building up somewhere with this latest development. Let’s look back a little at what happened when PKR had its last elections in 2007.

Members had then wanted Anwar to run for president, giving him numerous nominations in the process. So, it was to be a three-cornered fight between him, Dr Wan Azizah, the incumbent, and former party treasurer Abdul Rahman Othman.

But at the very last minute, the scenario changed when Anwar suddenly announced he was withdrawing as he did not want to run foul of the law, which prohibited someone who had been in prison from holding any post in any society for five years upon release.

Anwar, who came out of prison three years earlier, made an impassioned plea at the party congress in Seremban.

And this was how the New Sunday Times of May 27, 2007 reported it:

“He presented a tough choice to the 1,500 delegates — if he won, he was prepared to face a personal legal battle. But if the PKR ended up being dissolved as a result of his victory, both the party and members would suffer the consequences.

“It was then that some delegates stood up, interrupting Anwar’s speech to convey their support for him. Then, a long line of delegates waited for the same opportunity to use the floor’s microphone to give their two sen’s worth.

“The exchange of opinions on the pros and cons of Anwar being the party president went on for almost an hour. And when Anwar returned to the podium on stage after more than a dozen people had expressed their views, the silent hall of the Chung Hua High School heard him propose a formula.”

It was at that moment, it was reported, that Anwar announced to everyone that he could be the leader, but asked delegates to accept Dr Wan Azizah as president.

A delegate then stood up to propose that Anwar be made PKR’s de facto leader with a provision that he would stand in the next elections (this year). And the floor shouted its agreement in unison.

To add to the drama, Abdul Rahman then declared he was withdrawing from the contest as a mark of respect for Anwar’s announcement.

It was theatrics at its best. The no-contest has left Dr Wan Azizah as president for another term and Anwar stronger than ever in the party.

Are we seeing another round of theatrical outburst this time with the Wanita motion?

But the question remains as to why Anwar is reluctant to contest the PKR presidency this time around when he is, by law, eligible.

Why should he hold on to the very ambiguous position of ketua umum? Is he afraid of a possible embarrassment that he might not get 100 per cent support, hence a dent on his ego? Or is there another underlying reason?

Anwar is trying to portray that he has been so wronged he could be the Aung San Suu Kyi of Malaysia. But the way things are going, he could end up more like Kim Jong-il.