Anwar-worshipping at PKR congress

The PKR congress swept the thorny issue of its broken ties with PAS under the carpet to focus on the general election and lay claim to the prime minister post.

Joceline Tan, The Star

IT was a trip down memory lane at the opening of the PKR congress.

The party went all out to drive home the point that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the party’s choice for prime minister and placards with the slogan “Anwar PM Ke7” (Anwar 7th PM) were all over the hall.

A video highlighting Anwar’s long journey – his sacking, the sensational black eye, his family’s suffering, the birth of the reformasi movement and his second impri­sonment played on the big screen throughout the morning.

There was also a rather poignant “portrait of courage” of their president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the woman who stood by him through it all.

The special video on her was to underscore the fact that she will be the interim prime minister.

The whole thing was quite emotional for her and she cried at the start and end of her presidential address.

Anwar also sent a lengthy speech from prison which was delivered by their daughter and vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar.

It was quite unprecedented and the PKR chat groups began asking tongue-in-cheek which speech the delegates would be debating.

It was an over-the-top play of the Anwar family saga and no one felt it more acutely than Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was seated on stage with the PKR top brass and VIP guests like Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Mohamed Sabu.

The opening session was hardly over when Dr Mahathir suddenly got up and headed for the exit. Some thought he had to use the restroom but instead he was usher­ed into the VIP holding room where he sat alone at one of the round tables.

The old doctor was probably suffering an overdose of Anwar mania.

When he arrived, the organisers had made him stop at a mock jail cell erected by the main entrance and sign a petition to free Anwar.

Dr Mahathir is good at pretending that he cannot remember the unpleasant bits of the past but he is not senile or stupid.

He could see that certain elements in PKR were out to put him in his place, to remind him of how he used the instruments of the state against their leader and their party.

It was quite humiliating but Parti Pribumi has to make nice with PKR because it is depending on PKR for seats to contest in the general election.

Both Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin refused to join everyone in holding up the “Anwar PM Ke7” placards.

All is not forgiven and it will not be a smooth road ahead for the two parties.

The no-holds-barred atmosphere at the AMK congress a day earlier was not repeated at the main congress.

The youth wing had let loose their views on PAS, Dr Mahathir and corruption in their ranks but speakers at yesterday’s congress played it safe.

The word had gone out for delegates to steer clear of prickly issues. There was not a critical word uttered about PAS or the RUU355.

It was as though PKR did not have a problem with PAS and it was a clear sign that Datuk Seri Azmin Ali intends to keep PAS onboard the Selangor government until the ge­neral election.

His partners in Pakatan Harapan, especially DAP, will not be happy but Azmin’s priority is the survival of the party as well as his own.

There was also no chest-thum­ping about capturing Putrajaya. The debates were centred around doing well in the general election and being true to their reformasi cause.

PKR is in shambles in Sabah where a recent survey showed that PKR’s approval rating in Sabah was only about 25%.

But the party is eyeing parliamentary seats in Sarawak, going by the big PR effort to remember the murder of their Sarawak activist Bill Kayong.

One speaker after another called for Anwar to be freed and put Dr Wan Azizah on a pedestal.

Anwar’s star seems to shine brighter behind bars than when he is outside.

The day-long congress resembled an Anwar-worshipping session.

A party veteran from Terengganu said that training the spotlight on Anwar was to bring together the rival camps in PKR to work together in the general election.

“It’s to tell everyone that if we want to free him, we have to win the general election,” said the vete­ran.

But he admitted it is also to block Parti Pribumi from laying claim to the coveted prime minister’s post.

Or as secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution put it, PKR must be the one to captain the ship.

One praiseworthy thing about annual gatherings of PKR is how the members have stayed true to their aspirations as a multi-racial party.

The delegates speak good Bahasa Malaysia regardless of their ethnic background and, more important, they do not view issues through the narrow prism of race and religion.

The party will struggle to do well in the next general election but it has come such a long way as a truly Malaysian party.