Missing Baru sends negative signals about PKR’s stability, say observers

(FMT) – Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian’s absence from the party convention in Miri yesterday sends negative signals about the party’s stability, observers said.

Azmi Hassan, a geostrategist at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said Baru’s absence showed that he had thrown his support behind deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali in the infighting going on within the party.

“A few days before this, Baru said the convention had been cancelled, but at PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s insistence, the convention went on. I think Baru had no choice but to make himself unavailable even though he is the Sarawak PKR head,” Azmi told FMT.

He noted that Baru, who is also the works minister, had the support of 32 out of the 46 Sarawak PKR council members.

If all 32 members did not attend the convention, he said, then it showed that the party was in deep trouble.

“But I doubt all 32 of them were absent,” he said.

Azmi said if Baru was ousted as the Sarawak PKR chairman, the ripple effect would be felt in Peninsular Malaysia.

“It would show that severe punishment awaits any leader who is defiant towards the party by openly throwing their support towards Azmin.

“Currently, there is still status quo in PKR even when two camps exist, but any action taken against Baru will translate to trouble for the party on a national scale,” he said.

Asked why it was difficult for some leaders in PKR to be on the same page, Azmi said “it is about who will be the prime minister after Dr Mahathir Mohamad”.

“Anwar’s supporters see Azmin as a threat to the succession plan. Therefore, for these two camps to be on the same page is next to impossible if the threat by Azmin is still present.

“Things become worse when Mahathir is ambiguous about the succession timeline,” he said.

Awang Azman Pawi, a political analyst from Universiti Malaya, said Baru was risking his own political future by siding with others who had wanted the Sarawak PKR convention called off after it was agreed by the central leadership council.

“Anwar’s presence in Miri shows that he is a stern leader and will not bow to those who try to undermine him,” said Awang Azman. “It also shows his patience towards them.”

He agreed with Azmi that it was tough for some leaders to see eye to eye.

“Some leaders are trying to form their own cliques and camps to go against Anwar in terms of power and influence,” he said.

Asked if he thought Baru’s absence would affect Anwar’s transition to the prime minister’s post, Awang Azman said this was unlikely.

“The agreement was decided by the PH presidential council and not Baru. The presidential council consists of leaders from PH’s component parties, not Umno, PAS or anyone else,” he said.

About 1,500 members turned up at the convention yesterday, according to a member of the organising committee.

It was opened by Anwar despite Baru saying it should be cancelled until the national-level leadership resolved its problems over who should officiate the PKR Youth congress next month.