LEADERS from PKR’s national headquarters will meet Penang’s party leaders next week to resolve the recent controversy surrounding Anwar Ibrahim’s strategy of bringing in politicians from outside to strengthen the state leadership.
The move by Anwar triggered objections from state leaders who felt disrespected, as they claimed their opinions were not sought prior to the decision being announced.
The recent appointment of Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as head of Penang Islamic Council upset many within the state’s party leadership, as they claimed there was no discussion prior to the appointment.
“We will go to Penang on November 11,” a top PKR leader said on condition of anonymity.
“This outstanding problem needs to be resolved quickly because the 14th general election (GE14) is coming soon.”
The source said PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar will be one of the top leaders sent to meet with the Penang leadership council to explain the decision and to find a solution to the grouses aired by state leaders.
The move is part of Anwar’s GE14 strategy, where the de facto PKR leader will bring in well-known politicians from outside Penang to contest in the state with the hopes of winning more seats and be on a par with DAP.
Among some of the people rumoured to contest in Penang include Saifuddin, Nurul Izzah and popular preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussain.
In January, Saifuddin was appointed as strategic adviser to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Nurul Izzah, who is also member of parliament for Lembah Pantai, is expected to contest in Permatang Pauh, which was formerly Anwar’s stronghold, although no official announcements have been made.
In September, Wan Ji was appointed information officer in Penang to assist the state government in fending off criticism, specifically in Islamic policies.
A source told The Malaysian Insight that Saifuddin’s appointment in the religious council came directly from Anwar, who is currently serving a jail sentence in Sg Buloh.
PKR and DAP are partners in the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, along with Amanah and Bersatu. Penang has been ruled by DAP since 2008, and three PKR leaders – Mohd Rashid Hasnon, Abdul Malik Abul Kassim and Dr Afif Bahardin – currently hold positions in the state executive council.
PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said Saifuddin’s appointment should not have been turned into an issue, as it was further proof that the party champions a moderate and progressive approach to Islam.
“PKR members should be proud of Saifuddin’s appointment as it is an acknowledgement of the moderate approach to Islam which PKR embodies,” Rafizi told The Malaysian Insight.
“For the first time, a PKR leader has been elected to head an Islamic body, we should be proud and not make it an issue,” said the Pandan MP.
Rafizi said Anwar’s instructions to send high-profile leaders to Penang is an election strategy to win over Malay votes, as a majority of Malay voters in the state practised a moderate approach to Islam.
“In the past, the grassroots leaders in Penang were unhappy that DAP didn’t give PKR enough roles to play in the state government.
“Now that Saifuddin is elected, they are opposing it just because Saifuddin is not one of them. We should stop this narrow-minded politics,” said Rafizi.
PKR’s strategic director Sim Tze Tzin said there has yet to be any official discussion between the national-level leaders and the grassroots leaders in Penang.
“But I know that the leadership is always prepared to have a dialogue,” Sim told The Malaysian Insight.
A grassroots leader in Penang said those in the state leadership will have a discussion among themselves soon.
“As of now, nobody has contacted us. If PKR central only discusses this with the state leaders, the problem will not be solved.
“They need to spend time with the grassroots,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“Listen to what those of us who are working on the ground have to say.”