- Anwar: What I would do as S’gor MB
- Anwar: There was never a Khalid-Azmin ‘deal’
- Anwar: If Chong Wei contests, I’d admit defeat…
Posted: 03 Feb 2014 10:27 PM PST
The first person that visitors to the PKR headquarters would meet is mustachioed security guard Balu, who usually stands at the entrance of the building in the high-end neighbourhood of Tropicana, Selangor.
Although he has a seat in the information booth, Balu cannot help but crack a joke when asked why PKR has not provided him a chair: "In this party, the biggest problem is seats."
In the latest episode, the seat in question is the post of Selangor menteri besar, with the 'Kajang Move' being seen as a way to unseat Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and replace him with PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.
A consummate politician, Anwar who is contesting the Kajang by-election in a bid to enter the state legislative assembly, insisted on prefacing his plans with the word ‘If’.
"If I become MB," he said, raising his voice on ‘if’, "it will be until I become prime minister."
His meeting with Malaysiakini yesterday was sandwiched between a long list of media interviews, and even his cheery pink candy-stripe shirt did not mask the shadow of fatigue on his face.
Still, fatigue cannot push a seasoned player like Anwar to say what he should not – that the MB's post is merely a stepping stone and Khalid another pawn to be toppled on the longer route to the premiership.
Instead, Anwar painted a gentler picture of friendship and politics. Khalid, he said, is a good friend but Selangor needs "political clout".
"It is sad how … he has to leave. It is sad. The circumstances and the dictate of the time requires that Selangor be driven," he said, clenching his fist at the end to prove this point.
"I cannot accept Selangor being held every time to ransom. Every other week you have this problem, this attack.
"We seem to be quite helpless, either they (the BN) use state apparatus or some NGO and not much can be done … we will not allow this to happen. This requires political leadership."
‘It’s not about the money’
Enter Anwar – former finance minister and someone so deft in political manouevring that he managed to oust Ghafar Baba for the Umno deputy president's post in a heartbeat despite Ghafar’s four-decade long career in the party.
But Khalid, too, has solid credentials. Under his stewardship, Selangor reserves now stand at an astounding RM3 billion, a mountain of cash that he jealously guards.
He has refused to play politics with the funds, either by through politically-expedient projects camouflaged as state initiatives or through feeding the party.
Critics of the 'Kajang Move' allege that this is actually the main reason behind the manouevre. They say it is just a bid by PKR to break into the coffers.
Anwar shrugged, as if this is nothing new, and without missing a beat lamented how "unfair" such accusations are.
"How can I, at this stage of my political career, compromise on good governance? It is sheer insanity if I do that! … On that score, I am not going to change."
What he will change, however, is how the reserves are used. He argued that there is no point of talking about reserves with issues like poverty and public housing still a problem in the state.
"The mantel of economic management is not good reserves but good management of the economy. If you spend money, say the reserves, for public housing and free education for Universiti Selangor students, then is it wasting public money?"
Solution to Bible seizure
Anwar took the long and winding route in responding to a question as to why he chose to finally intervene in Selangor.
At the end of this, it is not hard to conclude that one of his grouses was the way the state has handled the Bible seizure issue.
While the Bible Society of Malaysia continues to await the return of the copies seized, Anwar sees this as a cut-and-dried "administrative" matter. This, he said, will be his first stop as MB.
"I would say: 'Guarantee that they won’t be distributed to Muslims, don’t send them to schools and only use them for Christians. I want it in writing.’ And then I (would) send them back," he said.
Comparing himself to Anwar, Khalid last week had said that, unlike him, Anwar can face impossible demands (he uses Hindraf’s demands as an example) but at the end of the meeting, those making the demands will be part of Anwar’s fanclub.
It is this trait that Anwar seems to be banking on to deal with rising religious tensions over the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims.
If he heads the Selangor government, Anwar said he can use state resources to build the confidence of Muslims so they would not feel threatened by purported threats to their faith.
He said he has met Muslims who are "virtually fearful" of mass Christianisation and this means the issue is "beyond political".
"No, I don’t believe Islam is threatened or (that) we (would) allow it to happen. I would say you have all the resources at your disposal to strengthen the position of Islam, to use the mosque to educate, to launch your dakwah (preaching) programmes.
"But you should never allow people to be held to ransom, to instill this sort of fear among the non-Muslims. This is something that is just pathetic after half a century of independence."
If Anwar becomes the MB, would he then support a change in the state enactment to bar non-Muslims from using 'Allah’?
In answer, he related the anecdote of a Permatang Pauh Muslim scholar who had questioned him as to why non-Muslims want to change the enactment.
"I told him, Tuan Guru, if you have a non-Muslim living on Jalan Masjid, then technically he cannot use the term 'Jalan Masjid'.
"(The scholar) said, 'He can.' I said, 'But this is the law.' Then he was shocked and his immediate reaction was (that) you have to correct the law, not knowing the implications.
"So I think we have to explain. People say, no, we change the law. But I think give it time, we have to explain. Don’t under-estimate or over-estimate your influence or power without engaging with the people."
Deference to palace
Outside Khalid’s reverence for his "political animal" instincts, Anwar, too, prides himself as being in tune with sentiments on the ground.
Reading this while planning the 'Kajang Move', Anwar has known that, even if the palace cannot legally reject his nomination as MB, it would be unwise to arrogantly brush off the influence of the palace.
"I know the (state) constitution, I understand it. But as deference to the ruler, I always said that in a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, it’s not just the legal constitution.
"If you accept the institution of royalty, of kingship (sic), then there is the paraphernalia, the facade of office that you need to recognise, and that means deference."
Royal assent, protest votes and consensus within Pakatan Rakyat are hurdles he has to clear to become MB, but these are all things that Anwar and his team of advisors have accounted for.
This is why his candidacy was announced less than 24 hours of Kajang incumbent Lee Chin Cheh’s resignation from the state seat and why he is "taking the soft line" in explaining why it was done.
It also means admitting to "mistakes" – like leaving DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng in the dark over the 'Kajang Move', blaming "pressure" to get things going and miscommunication (he thought DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang would tell his son).
Simply put, he said, Kajang was chosen among several seats because its demographics reflect that of the state and doing it now means there will still be time for Anwar and Pakatan to prove their chops in Selangor before the next general election.
"I cannot go on with this (and the feud within PKR Selangor and attacks by BN) on a protracted basis. I have to decide. It was a very difficult decision, not very popular in this instance andMalaysiakini is partly responsible.
"But the decision has to be made for the larger interest and I think, at least for a start, we have caught BN off guard. Nobody anticipated it …"
Neither did the people, some of whom are incensed that PKR is forcing yet another by-election.
For now, though, Anwar almost appears proud.
"It’s not bad (our responses). It means we had read the sentiments, which to me is a positive trait in political leadership."
Posted: 03 Feb 2014 07:34 PM PST
INTERVIEW Despite much speculation, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said that no condition was set by Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim when he agreed to the controversial ‘Kajang Move’.
As such, he said, it is "untrue" and "unfair to Khalid" to speculate that he will dig his heels in and not budge from the MB’s post if Selangor PKR chief Azmin Ali (right) does not vacate his Bukit Antarabangsa seat in the Selangor legislative assembly.
"If you know Khalid, (you would know) he is not that type. Not only is (the speculation) incorrect, but it is not fair to Khalid.
"Of course he expresses his views, but to put (conditions) of this and that, no," he said in an interview with Malaysiakini today.
He was responding to a report in The Star, quoting sources close to the MB, that Khalid will not budge until Azmin vacates his state seat.
Likewise, he said, there was no understanding with Azmin, who is also PKR deputy president, that he would take over as menteri besar after the 14th general election, which can be called as early as 2016.
Asked directly on this, he said: "No. Even with Khalid, I said, ‘your services are required’ while to Azmin, I said ‘we need to work together’."
"People say, ‘Anwar is a politician, he makes deals’. No. That is why I am a bit curious how this Star report came about’," he said.
He also denied that this could be a way for Khalid to "save face", if he has to step aside before completing his second term in office.
"It depends on how we deal with him. Not only now but (what happens) afterwards is important. He is not advised … to leave because he was incompetent or failed. No. He did well."
It just that, he said, Khalid’s nature means he does not have the political acumen required to stave off attacks by the BN to wrest the nation’s so-called crown jewel state.
The PKR-dubbed ‘Kajang Move’ refers to the resignation of the Kajang assemblyperson to pave the way for Anwar’s entry into the state legislative assembly.
Although Anwar insists that Khalid will remain MB “for now”, it is seen by many as a move to eventually replace Khalid as menteri besar.
‘Why talk of feudalism now?’
The bold strategy came as the internal dispute between Abdul Khalid and Azmin took an ugly and public turn, with Azmin’s termination from the Selangor State Development Corporation board of directors.
The feud also made public grouses from certain factions on alleged "feudalism", or the grip on the party by Anwar and his family, through his wife and party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ibrahim (right), and daughter and vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Sighing before answering the question, Anwar, who appeared almost saddened by the whole thing, said it just does not make sense now when Wan Azizah has already indicated she will retire.
Having held to her post uncontested in PKR’s inaugural 'one member one vote' polls in 2011, Wan Azizah is expected to stay out of the PKR elections this April.
"At the time (when Wan Azizah entered politics following Anwar’s incarceration), there was a vacuum, and everybody wanted it and she had to struggle at the time.
"Now, when everything is in order, everybody is either a menteri besar or an assemblyperson, you want to talk about feudalism – after 15 years?" he asked.
This he said, has hurt his wife who despite more than a decade in politics is not immune to its twists and turns.
"She asks ‘Why? I have been working (all these years) and then suddenly people talk about feudalism. I have indicated I am leaving, and then it becomes feudal.’
"It’s okay. We just have to be patient. As prison was not a bed of roses, this job is truly not something comforting. I am okay," he said.
Posted: 03 Feb 2014 07:32 PM PST
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim last night joked that if Lee Chong Wei contests in the Kajang by-election he would be defeated as he would not be able to counter the popularity of the world's top ranked singles player.
Anwar admitted that he is a big fan of Lee and always would pray for his success, in each game.
"If Lee contested I would admit defeat… (but) I would be defeated in badminton," he said.
"Everytime he is at the badminton court I will pray for his victory. I am confident that if I contest in Kajang, Lee would also pray for my success," said Anwar in his short speech last night at Taman Mesra, Kajang.
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