Split in PKR leadership over Anwar?

PKR members have long campaigned for Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, but recent actions by the veteran politician have eroded their trust in him, says a party source.

(FMT) – The top PKR leadership is split over Anwar Ibrahim’s recent actions and statements which they say were bordering on lobbying for support from powerful elites, just a month after Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the May 9 polls and his release a week later.

They say the man they had campaigned for the last two decades to be Malaysia’s prime minister, is fast showing that he is not suitable for the post, at least judging by recent actions.

A source within the party said many including his inner circle who are part of PKR’s political bureau are saying that Anwar’s whirlwind trip to meet Malay rulers is being interpreted as a public relations stunt for him to be in the good books of royalty, more than two decades after he backed Dr Mahathir Mohamad to strip rulers of their personal immunity under the law.

“They say that since his release, he has not been conducting himself as a prime minister-in-waiting, but still giving an image of a young man-in-a-hurry,” said a source in PKR who is close to Anwar’s inner circle.

Anwar, who turns 71 in August, was released on May 16, after being granted a long-awaited royal pardon that could allow him back to active politics. Hours after his release, he was called to Istana Negara to have an audience with the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V.

Anwar later held audiences with other Malay rulers at various state palaces, with critics questioning if he was trying to lobby for royal support to ensure that Mahathir keeps his word to make way for him within two years. 

But it was his late night trip to the palace in the middle of the impasse over Tommy Thomas’s appointment as the attorney-general, that got PKR supporters, including loyalists, questioning his motive.

“When he publicly announced that he was meeting Sultan Muhammad V again in the wake of the Tommy Thomas episode, it was as if to say that he engineered the royal consent,” said the source.

“This is indirectly trying to reinforce public perception of a rift between Mahathir and the palace, and that Anwar had saved the day. It’s novice for a seasoned and senior politician to do that,” it said.

Anwar had defended himself against allegations that he was lobbying for palace support.

“You see, after 60 years, the constitutional monarch is facing a change in government,” he said in an interview organised by PKR outfit Invoke Malaysia recently.

“The Pakatan Harapan government was set up amid strong propaganda that it was led by DAP, which would erode the powers of the monarch and the Malays. So I was there to tell them that the honour and sovereignty of the sultans will be upheld.”

That statement was challenged by influential former newsman A Kadir Jasin, who is part of PPBM’s Supreme Council and who is a staunch Mahathir loyalist.

In a blog posting, Kadir said there was no need for any such reassurance for the royalty as they had been well taken care of, including some RM257 million in expenditures for the present Agong in the last 16 months.

Anwar wasted no time criticising Kadir, saying the former New Straits Times Press editor-in-chief lacked decorum. Kadir has since resigned his post from Putrajaya’s Council of Eminent Persons.

The PKR source said that party leaders were also increasingly not happy with Anwar’s recent statement that he would not ask his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, to vacate her Pandan seat for him to contest and enter Parliament.

“And he would definitely not be asking his daughter to do it as well,” said the source, referring to Nurul Izzah Anwar who won Permatang Pauh, the seat Anwar once represented and which his wife vacated in 2008 for him to return to politics.

“That means we are going to see father, mother and daughter on the government’s side,” said the source.

“That basically confirms what Umno had said all along, that we are a party of ‘anak pinak’,” he said, using a Malay slang for family dynasty.