EPISODE 7: The man behind PKR (Part 1)

The motive of Soh’s entry into the party has been mysterious. A former stockbroker-businessman, Soh’s emergence in PKR has raised eyebrows because of his past links to former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, ex-MCA president Ling Liong Sik and his son Hee Leong. Nonetheless, he surprised many business people and those in the MCA circles, when after the 2008 general election, he openly declared his financial support for Anwar and the PKR. Wong Choon Mei, Harakah


Raja Petra Kamarudin

There’s too much in being No 2

(The Star, 10 October 2010) – Zaid’s side had reportedly campaigned along this line during the early stage of the race – that if Anwar had to go to jail again, the No 2 would have to be a capable man who could run the show.

It was what everybody was thinking, but when said out loud, it was, well, not very tasteful.

A great deal of Zaid’s woes are of his own making. After the nasty experience in the Hulu Selangor by-election, he thought it best to pre-empt certain thorny issues before they could erupt in the open.

But a party election is quite different from a by-election. Issues are rarely aired openly in a party campaign but are discussed in a low-key manner.

Few people were aware he is close to millionaire-strategist Datuk John Soh Chee Wen or that John Soh is supposedly associated with Tun Daim Zainuddin, until he went public with it.

He would fare much better if he were a little less thin-skinned about what his opponents say.

He is obviously hurt that after being welcomed into the party like a hero, his ambitions are now being questioned.

Soh: The millionaire-strategist businessman who became an issue in Datuk Zaid Ibrahim’s campaign.


Business tycoon has nothing to do with party, say PKR leaders and Zaid

(The Star, 17 November 2010) – Maverick businessmen Datuk Soh Chee Wen has been dragged into the PKR chaos.

However, PKR leaders and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim have distanced themselves from allegations in political circles that Soh was behind the mess that was happening in the party.

“The allegations are nothing but political trash talk,” said PKR strategic director Tian Chua, adding that propagating the point that financiers could control the party by sponsoring certain politicians was an insult to the members’ intelligence.

“Only really stupid politicians can be used as puppets,” he said, commenting on recent speculation that Zaid’s campaign for the deputy president’s post in PKR was sponsored by Soh.

“We can gain cheap publicity by talking about it in the blogs but it serves no purpose, as in reality, it is almost impossible to execute such plans (that enable sponsors to control the party),” he said.

In a previous blog posting, Zaid denied any involvement with Soh and also questioned if the attempt to link him to Soh was part of a smear campaign aimed at labelling him as a traitor and a greenhorn.

Zaid said that as far as he knew, Soh was a close friend of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and that he had been of assistance to PKR.

Zaid’s aides also denied Soh’s involvement in internal party campaigns.

Since early this year, there had been talk in cyberspace that Soh was the banker for PKR and had also helped to organise the party’s strategies.

Soh was also said to have financed the Malaysia Today news portal and allegedly supported its editor Raja Petra Kamarudin’s stay in London.

He was also believed to have played a big part in the Permatang Pauh by-election that returned Anwar to Parliament.


Wong Choon Mei, Tian Chua’s ‘partner’, wrote in Harakah, the official party organ of PAS, the following (which is the opposite to what The Star reported above):

The emergence of John Soh

The motive of Soh’s entry into the party has been mysterious. A former stockbroker-businessman, Soh’s emergence in PKR has raised eyebrows because of his past links to former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, ex-MCA president Ling Liong Sik and his son Hee Leong.

In 2002, Soh was arrested on arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport after having fled the country in 1999 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to two charges of securities fraud and was fined a total of RM6 million, or 30 months jail for each charge in default of payment.

Nonetheless, he surprised many business people and those in the MCA circles, when after the 2008 general election, he openly declared his financial support for Anwar and the PKR. Soh has often been seen operating from the party headquarters in Tropicana when Salehuddin was still the secretary-general.


On 1st May 2010, Perak Today came out with this report:

Dato John Soh Chee Wen adalah banker kepada Parti Keadilan Rakyat dan juga bantu PKR susun strategi. Soh Chee Wen juga bayar memberi sumbangan duit untuk membiayai aktiviti laman web Malaysia Today dan Malaysiakini dan juga untuk membantu Raja Petra Kamarudin hidup mewah sebagai banduan di London.

Soh Chee Wen adalah seorang taukeh China yang telah jadi kaya dengan bantuan Anwar Ibrahim sewaktu Anwar menjadi Menteri Kewangan dan Timbalan Perdana Menteri. Dia kroni Anwar. John Soh Chee Wen sekarang memiliki 118 syarikat berdaftar.

Selaku Ketua Perancangan dan Pembangunan Sumber PKR, dia merangka strategi parti dan mempunyai akses secara langsung dengan Anwar Ibrahim. John Soh terlibat dalam strategi perang propaganda PKR.

Soh Chee Wen juga telah mengupah Private Investigator untuk menyiasat latar belakang Saiful Bukhari Azlan untuk tujuan bantu Anwar menghadapi tuduhan liwat.

John bertanggungjawab membawa masuk Chua Jui Meng menyertai PKR. Dia masih mempunyai pertalian rapat dengan beberapa pemimpin MCA. John masih mendapat maklumat sulit daripada pemimpin tinggi MCA berkenaan kedudukan MCA di lapangan untuk manfaatkan PKR.


There are, of course, many more such reports on the Internet as well as in the mainstream newspapers. Nevertheless, the above gives you a fair enough idea as to what is being said.

Who is John Soh and who is he to Anwar Ibrahim and PKR?

John Soh has been an enigma in both the business and political scenes. You either love him or you hate him. His name arouses admiration, awe, envy and dislike, all at the same time. It is said that many fear and dislike him and yet there are many who admire and respect him. But one thing both supporters and detractors alike would have to agree on is that he is one brilliant strategist and planner.

He has been openly supportive of Anwar since 1998. Anwar had such high regards for him that he created a special position for him as head of the Party Planning and Development Committee. This committee was quietly tasked with the job of overhauling the party, the set-up of the party building and computer systems which was non-existent, change of the party constitution, strategy planning, and even covert ops.

It was whispered in the corridors of power that John Soh was the person tasked with handling the Rahimi, Rashid, Fairuz, Helmi, Munawar, etc., explosive issues and to keep them under control for as long as possible. An open secret was his role in the turning point in the Permatang Pauh by-election where his group managed to roll out the Federal Territory Mosque Iman just in time to ensure an impressive win for Anwar.

He was the person of the last resort sent in when all other attempts failed. As seen in the Sabah peace accord, he liaised with Jeffrey Kitingan and Christina Liew after the crisis first exploded. Likewise, he was instrumental in Zaid joining the party. He was also instrumental in establishing the media team at Suara Keadilan and in setting up a team of cyber-troopers and bloggers.

He planned for and pushed the appointment of Anwar as the Economic Adviser for Selangor, even writing out the powerful terms of reference and scope akin to the British Resident’s style. He even set out the first hundred days rollout programmes for Anwar as Economic Adviser. He was responsible for the major milestone events, major speeches and major appointments in the party.

He has maintained a stoic silence despite all the rumours and attacks on him by party troopers. These are unlikely to faze him though. He fought Ling Liong Sik in a very public battle, then with all the might of Dr Mahathir behind the MCA President, and took whatever they threw at him, even the three years exile he had to endure.

It is rumoured that John Soh is held in high regard and is a personal friend of top triad leaders in the region. When his father passed away in 1997, the number of regional triad leaders who turned out in full force to pay their respects in Batu Pahat surprised many. A Chinese newspaper once speculated about his continued influence in PKR and went as far as to opine that whoever he threw his weight behind would emerge victorious in the next party polls.

In the next episode we shall talk about the man who ‘made’ PKR into what it is today and how he nearly gave the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, the federal government on 16th September 2008, and the events that eventually led to the falling about between John Soh and Anwar Ibrahim.