ANWAR Ibrahim’s move to strengthen the Penang PKR leadership with national personalities is causing unease among state officials, who fear losing important posts in the state government.
Among those slated to take up top posts are party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, who was appointed strategic adviser to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in January this year.
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar’s name has also come up. The Lembah Pantai MP has been widely speculated to contest in Penang to defend her father’s old parliamentary seat, Permatang Pauh, although the party has made no official announcement.
It was previously reported that Penang PKR had not been happy about the central party making decisions without consulting local leaders and the latest unhappiness is over the nomination of Saifuddin as the next Penang Islamic Council (MAINPP) president.
“The Penang PKR leadership did not know anything about Saifuddin until he arrived in the state. They were not consulted,” one PKR source said.
Another PKR insider said the state party leadership would likely protest to the central leadership over the matter.
What more, as local party leader, Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Mohd Rashid Hasnon was also nominated by Penang PKR for the MAINPP top post, the sources said.
The MAINPP presidency is currently held by Permatang Pasir assemblyman Mohd Salleh Man, whose tenure expires on December 31. The MAINPP president is appointed by the Agong, who is the head of Islam in states without sultans, like Penang.
Salleh is PAS’ sole elected rep in Penang, but is considered a member of the Penang government as he has always been friendly with the DAP-led administration.
With the PAS no longer part of Penang Pakatan Harapan, it is unlikely the post will be given to a leader from the Islamist party should Salleh’s tenure be discontinued. So far, there has been no official word on the matter.
PKR and DAP are partners in the PH opposition pact. DAP has led the state government since 2008 and dominates the executive council line-up, while PKR has three excos, including Rashid. The other two are Abdul Malik Abul Kassim and Dr Afif Bahardin.
The strategy to bring in leaders from outside Penang is part of a bigger plan by the top PKR leadership to have its party leaders be part of the DAP-led state government, the first source familiar with the inner workings of the party said – and the order comes from Anwar.
“PKR wants to put capable Malay leaders in the forefront. Anwar wants to have Malay PKR leaders of calibre who can sit on the same stage with DAP in Penang,” he said.
He confirmed that Saifuddin’s nomination for the MAINPP president came from Anwar himself, who is currently serving a sentence at Sungai Buloh prison for sodomy charges.
“The letter (warkah) from Sungai Buloh said to name Saifuddin as a candidate for the post. It was Anwar’s call.
“The decision made earlier this year caused quite a stir in Penang PKR,” he said, adding that Saifuddin was also nominated because of his abilities.
“Anwar wants Saifuddin because of the latter’s outstanding administrative skills. He had good track record when he worked in the government during Anwar’s days as deputy prime minister.
“He also has good communication skills. If you have two sides fighting, Saifuddin has the diplomatic skills to settle it,” the source said.
The MAINPP presidency may not be all, as Saifuddin’s name has also been in the rumour mill for months now as a potential candidate for Penang deputy chief minister I, the source said.
“The other two names that have come up are Mansor Othman and Nurul Izzah.
“PKR is also working to promote its capable female leaders. It is possible that Izzah will be given both parliamentary and state seats in Penang to contest,” the source said.
Mansor, who is Penang PKR chief, was previously Penang deputy chief minister I before he contested for the Nibong Tebal parliamentary seat to become MP in the 2013 general election.
Saifuddin could not be reached for comments but he earlier texted reporters that there have been no announcements by the state government about the MAINPP presidency.
This was after a local Islamist group protested at Komtar, calling Saifuddin an unsuitable candidate for the job.
Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang, a group that regularly protests against decisions by the state government, also slammed PKR and the Penang administration.
Its leader, Mohd Hafiz Noordin, said PKR is a party that promoted liberalism and its top leaders like Saifuddin should not be leading a religious body.
He said the group would protest against the nomination and take the matter to the palace to inform the Agong what PKR and the Penang government were about.
Penang government information officer Wan Ji Wan Hussin, whom Hafiz also slammed in his tirade against PKR, responded that the party was not liberal as alleged.
“PKR does not promote liberal Islam. It promotes progressive Islam,” said the preacher from PKR, who recently moved to Penang from Selangor to take up the government post, also at the orders of the party.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT