Questions abound as Nurul Izzah quits

Ms Nurul Izzah said her parents were aware that she was planning to quit as party vice-president and it was not an overnight decision.
Ms Nurul Izzah said her parents were aware that she was planning to quit as party vice-president and it was not an overnight decision.ST FILE PHOTO

She is reportedly unhappy over many issues, including betrayal, factionalism

PETALING JAYA • It is 3pm on Monday, way past lunchtime, and Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar has finally found time to have her meal.

She is joined by her two children and a family member.

But her smartphone is ringing incessantly. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders and members are shocked that she has just announced her decision to quit as party vice-president.

Some think it is fake news. Others think that this is just theatrics from her and that she would eventually retract her announcement after a flood of orchestrated pleas from members.

But those who know the three-term MP well are aware of her stubborn streak. If she has made up her mind to do something, it will be tough to dissuade her.

"Yes, dad and mum are aware of my decision. It's not something that's decided overnight," she said. And that was all she was prepared to say on record, beyond her press statement.

Ms Nurul Izzah, 38, spent the entire morning working on the press statement to ensure it was properly crafted, and released it just after 12.30pm.

And now that this last piece of business had been settled, she was frantically trying to book a flight to join the rest of the family, who are on holiday in the Philippines.

The resignation was without doubt a bombshell, and yet, her close friends and supporters were not surprised.

OUTSPOKEN WITHOUT A POST

She feels she can be more outspoken and fight for the promises of the election and reforms without a party post, as that reduces significantly her ability to speak up.

A FAMILY MEMBER, on Ms Nurul Izzah being fed up with the games some are playing that are hurting reforms.

Recent developments in Pakatan Harapan, and even within PKR, had disturbed her and she felt let down.

Always the idealist and reformist, and a child born out of the Reformasi movement, she must have felt disappointed with some of the things that had taken place recently. After all, she did not get her Puteri Reformasi (Princess of Reform) moniker for nothing.

Ms Nurul Izzah is unlikely to completely open up to party members and the media about what she probably feels is the "derailment of the reformasi spirit" in the new Pakatan government. She is well aware that, being Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's most outspoken and most political child, her statements and remarks would have far-reaching consequences.

But there had been signs. She posted a Twitter message, just days ago, on the defections of Umno MPs to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Two have joined PPBM and more are said to be keen to join.

She wrote: "Betrayal of mandate given the 9th of May (elections), insults those who are loyal to the cause... There is no meaning to democracy if Malaysia is governed by elite-based politicking."

There have been other pent-up frustrations, including the appointment of former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Noor as a facilitator for peace talks in southern Thailand. He was the man who beat up her father Mr Anwar in jail, and gave him the infamous black eye, in September 1998.

"I unequivocally oppose this appointment of a brutal assaulter of an innocent man as he lay there blindfolded and handcuffed - left without medical attention for days," Ms Nurul Izzah wrote on Twitter in August.

According to those close to her, she had also questioned the attempt by former Melaka chief minister Rahim Thamby Chik to join PPBM, as the bitter 1990s feud between Tan Sri Rahim and Mr Anwar is well-known.

There has been a series of issues that she finds hard to accept and she feels the ideals of reforms have been betrayed through "high-handed political machinations", in the words of an aide. Her loyalists say she is fed up with the games some are playing that are hurting reforms and the work her father and many people are trying to do.

"She feels she can be more outspoken and fight for the promises of the election and reforms without a party post, as that reduces significantly her ability to speak up," a family member said.

In private conversations, she has shared her frustration over the federal government's failure to address many issues, even as reforms have been carried out.

A family member said Ms Nurul Izzah wanted to make it easier for her parents - Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Mr Anwar - and minimise the tight spots they are in. (There had been claims of nepotism.)

She has also been perturbed by the government's plan to reboot the national car, a pet project of Dr Mahathir, and had tweeted that she hoped the government "will take into account the concerns shown by the people".

And within PKR, she is obviously unhappy with what she sees as a betrayal of her father by senior leaders in pursuit of ambition for higher posts in the party and possibly in the federal government. Factionalism has crept into the party, with allegations of manipulations, and worse, even fist fights breaking out.

Clearly, she is not ready to share her thoughts for now. But her party members and admirers out there want to know, and this can only get more intense.

She owes it to her party and supporters to open up.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

• Wong Chun Wai is the group managing director/chief executive officer of The Star Media Group.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'Questions abound as Nurul Izzah quits'. Print Edition | Subscribe