PKR Sarawak Convention: A Go-Ahead or No-Go?

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The PKR Sarawak convention in Miri this Saturday will proceed as planned despite a protest by the faction led by state leadership council (MPN) chairman Baru Bian in Kuala Lumpur today.

Miri MP and Miri branch chief Dr Michael Teo Yu Keng confirmed this today, saying that the convention will be held at Pullman Hotel and party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will officiate at the opening ceremony.

Asked to comment whether it met the party’s constitution requirement, Teo replied that the final decision to proceed in Miri lies in the party’s central leadership and MPN does not have the authority to override it.

“All conventions in PKR are actually controlled by the president and Majlis Pimpinan Pusat (MPP) together with the Central Political Bureau. So, the State PKR Leadership Council’s (MPN) role is only to carry out the convention as the final decision from the president,” he said during a press conference held at Pullman Hotel Miri.

He said MPN were obligated to carry out the order and should not go against the decision of president.

Teo said the convention in Miri will be attended by 1,000 delegates and members in conjunction with the anniversary celebration and launching of the party’s election machinery in Miri.

Asked if Baru Bian and his group will be attending the convention, he replied that “all delegates and members were invited to attend.”

Teo also said that the majority of PKR leaders, as well as the grassroots in Sarawak, want Anwar to lead the party’s campaign in the coming state elections.

He said that this was why Anwar had been invited to preside over the PKR national convention in Miri on Saturday.

“The convention this Saturday will see the convergence of more than 1,000 state and national PKR leaders.

“As the chairman of the organising committee, I can say that Anwar has confirmed that he will be coming.

“The main agenda to be discussed is the coming state elections, which we, in PKR, feels will be very soon.

“We must activate our state election machinery now,” he said.

Teo added that Anwar was the best person to lead the state election machinery.

Asked if this meant that PKR leaders in Sarawak had no confidence in state PKR chief Baru Bian, he said this was a separate issue.

“We have also invited Baru Bian to our convention in Miri this Saturday.

“Whether or not there will be any other issues brought up by others… I do not know. But as far as I am concerned, our focus this Saturday is on the coming state election,” he said.

The 12th state election is due by June 2021 but there is talk that polls will be called by the middle of next year.

Over the past few days, there have been public spats in Sarawak involving claims of mutiny against Baru by 18 of the 31 PKR branches in Sarawak over his leadership.

Baru is said to be a key supporter of PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali who has had a falling-out with Anwar.

  • Baru claims:
  • The national leadership had dishonoured the agreement that the Sarawak and Sabah chapters of PKR would have autonomy in all state matters
  • The majority in the state leadership council wanted the convention cancelled
  • There is a move to remove him as chairman of the Sarawak leadership council
  • Large amounts of money had been offered to divisional heads in a bid to convince them to oust him
  • The issue of uninviting Azmin from officiating Sarawak’s annual congress next month needs resolving

Meanwhile, Baru said today that Sarawak PKR is to defy party national leaders by cancelling its annual convention, until problems in the party are resolved.

This is despite directives to go ahead with the meeting.

He said Sarawak PKR was disappointed that the national leadership had “dishonoured our gentlemen’s agreement” that the Sarawak and Sabah chapters of PKR would have autonomy in all state matters.

Seth Akmal/TMI

“A state convention comes under the purview of the state but the decision by HQ to proceed with the convention blatantly ignores the wishes of the majority of the state MPN and breaches the autonomy agreement,” he said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

Baru, who is also works minister, said the issues in PKR now, although stemming from the party’s youth wing retracting an invitation to Azmin to officiate its congress next month, had become a problem affecting PKR’s principles of justice and democracy.

He said decisions made through consensus by elected leaders, had been superceded by appointed office holders.

“As much as other national leaders wish to portray the narrative that the retracting of the invitation to officiate at the Youth convention was merely a move away from tradition, we must remind everyone that 21 out of 25 elected Youth leaders had opposed the retraction.

“And yet, this was ignored in favour of appointed Youth leaders, not elected Youth leaders.”

He said the decision to cancel the party’s state convention was made through consensus of a majority of the state leadership council and was not his opinion alone.

The move to cancel was slammed by Anwar, who said no one should threaten the party.

PKR state conventions director Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad also told Sarawak PKR to proceed with its meetings as agreed between state and national leaders.

“We want to state clearly that this is not a threat but merely a need for our top leaders to resolve the party’s crisis and take into serious consideration the voice of elected members who represent grassroots party members,” Baru said.

With Baru were 16 out of 19 party Sarawak division chiefs who support cancelling the state convention.

Baru, however, said that of the state leadership council’s 46 members, 32 supported cancelling the convention.

FMT

“This is a clear majority.”

He said the majority included 17 divisional heads, as well deputy divisional heads, MPs, assemblymen other state party leaders.

He said if the remaining division chiefs and others who did not agree with cancelling the convention were still to go ahead with the meeting, the state leadership would not take any action.

“If they want to go ahead with the meeting, let them,” Baru said.

Defiant Baru said they were ready for disciplinary action.

“We are making our stand as state leaders. This is our position.

“If they think we have gone against the constitution, that is up to them to decide,” he said.

Baru said the show of force at today’s press conference put paid to two allegations.

One, he said, was Anwar’s claim that “only a few Sarawakian leaders” wanted the convention cancelled.

The other was the claim that more than half of the 31 PKR branches in the state wanted him out as Sarawak PKR chief, he added.

On Anwar’s claim, he said the PKR president might have received the wrong information from the ground.

“It’s obvious that the number is wrong,” he said. “We are obviously the majority in the state leadership council.”

On the second claim by Selangau branch chairman Joshua Jabeng, who said 18 out of 30 of the party’s branch leaders in Sarawak had pledged to remove him as state chief, Baru said the former was trying to make it appear as though he had the majority.

“The presence of the leaders here today says it all,” he added.

He also alleged that large amounts of money had been offered to divisional heads in a bid to convince them to oust him.

“We are aware that this move to remove me as chairman of the Sarawak leadership council was planned to be executed during this Sarawak PKR convention.

Seth Akmal/TMI

“This goes against the democratic principles the party stands for and we reject such insidious moves,” Baru said.

He said statutory declarations calling for his removal as state party chief have been circulated among division heads.

“Huge amounts of money (are) being offered to ‘sweeten the deal’,” he added.

He also urged the national leadership to close ranks for the sake of the party, and to respect Sarawak PKR’s autonomy in deciding matters for the state chapter.

He said the national leadership first has to resolve issues affecting the party’s democracy and justice, in reference to the Youth wing’s move to uninvite deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali from officiating its annual congress next month.