Let Anwar or Nurul take over as PKR president
PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s term of office ends in May next year. She has reportedly expressed her desire to step down from the post she has held unchallenged since the birth of Parti Keadilan in 1999. Keadilan later merged with the small Parti Rakyat Malaysia led by Dr Syed Husin Ali to become Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
I had my first serious conversation with Wan Azizah (pix, below right) sometime in late 1998 soon after her good husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pix, below centre), was arrested and imprisoned. I had sought a meeting with her at her former residence in Damansara Heights.
I was then the secretary-general of the State Reform Party (Star) of Sarawak. At the meeting, I relayed a proposal from my party to her to be the national president of Star.
Star’s mission, as its name implies, was reform and this jelled with the “Reformasi” movement that erupted following Anwar’s sacking and incarceration at that time. However, Anwar’s people had other ideas.
Wan Azizah is a nice, humble and well-meaning lady, a person few could find fault with. Later, she was to helm the fledgling PKR and carried it along the rough and tumble of Malaysian politics over the next 14 years.
She was the torch bearer who helped shape and brought the party to where it is today with her moral conviction and unyielding courage. Starting out as a loyal wife and reluctant politician, Wan Azizah soon became a polished politician and a well- respected woman leader.
It was also at her residence during those tough years for the family that I first met Nurul Izzah (pix, below left), then a teenager.
Like her mother, Nurul came across as a humble and caring person. She was mature beyond her years and somewhat more outspoken than her mother. Daddy’s political traits must have been imbued in her even at that young age.
With Wan Azizah’s tenure as PKR president ending in eight months, the daddy-mummy-daughter combo has been thrust into the spotlight again.
Unfortunately, recent media reports on the family seemed to put it in a negative light. Nepotism has reared its ugly head again. Whether it will adversely affect the family’s political fortunes is left to be seen.
What is most unfortunate is that the allegations seemed to have emerged and intensified from within PKR. Anwar’s family has some internal party problems to resolve over the next few months.
One name sticks out like a sore thumb in a purported challenge for the PKR presidency and hence, a go at dismantling the father-mother-daughter’s tested leadership.
That name is Azmin Ali, deputy president of the party.
That Azmin has never denied his interest in the president’s post after he was widely touted as a possible challenger by the media is a sign that a contest could be on his agenda.
To be fair to Azmin, he has been an Anwar loyalist and a PKR stalwart for years and probably deserves to be rewarded with a senior post in the party or government. He is also believed to have strong support within PKR.
However, he is seen as overly ambitious and still has too much Umno blood in him. He is not particularly popular among the leadership of DAP and PAS, PKR’s allies in Pakatan Rakyat.
Somehow, he has not earned the confidence and goodwill of those who matter in the two parties. The element of trust is just not there.
In the tussle over the Selangor Menteri Besar’s job after the May 5 general election, both DAP and PAS supported Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim over Azmin.
Then, Azmin even questioned Anwar’s decision to hold the ‘Black 505’ rallies nation-wide in protest against the election results
Since he was released from prison in 2004, Anwar has been reluctant to take over as PKR president because of his unsettled legal battles at that time.
Now, that is over and done with. He has already been anointed by Pakatan Rakyat as its supremo and is also parliamentary Opposition Leader. This could be the right moment to take over as president.
If for some strategic reasons he is still not ready, then Nurul is the most acceptable choice to succeed her mother.
The young lady has come of age as a politician. She is also a wife and mother now. Although she is still relatively young, it’s really political maturity that matters, and she has proven she has it in her.
When I interviewed her on Malaysiakini TV soon after she became MP in 2008, I was not surprised at how she had matured in wisdom and substance from the time I first saw her as a teenager in 1998. She articulated her views in clear, concise fashion – a journalist’s dream subject – not to mention that she was photogenic at the same time.
Nurul is one bright lass who will grow up to achieve great things and do good for the people and nation along the way.
Having defeated two Umno ministers in Lembah Pantai in two general elections, Nurul has also risen in the party hierarchy on her own steam. She is now an elected vice-president.
As “Puteri Reformasi” in the Reformasi days, Nurul had been able to draw the young towards the cause of justice, political decency and fair play. No one could do the job better than her, at least not in those early years.
Along the way, people noticed her and believed that she was destined to play a prominent role in Malaysian politics. Certainly a role that is bigger than an ordinary MP.
Perhaps that time has arrived. If her mother decides to step down as PKR president, there is no reason why Nurul should not step up.
Personally, I do not see anyone else who could hold a party as delicate as PKR together at this rather challenging time.
Apart from her father, that is.
Francis Paul Siah is a former editor and politician from Sarawak. He currently heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at email@example.com