MELAKA - Delegates allied to deputy president Azmin Ali staged a boycott of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Congress on Saturday (Dec 7) to protest what they said were attacks on them in speeches made by those loyal to president Anwar Ibrahim.
Hundreds of them began walking out of the hall at the start of the afternoon session, and gathered outside the hall chanting “leave, go home”. This left the venue more than half empty.
Datuk Seri Azmin, claiming 21 other central leadership councillors stood with him, told a press conference that these attacks violated the truce agreed by PKR leaders on Wednesday ahead of the four-day congress that began Thursday.
He said the president’s policy address “clearly paved the way for debaters to launch personal attacks”, because it referred to the historical story of a traitor in Melaka known as “Si Kitol”, although Datuk Seri Anwar did not refer to Mr Azmin by name.
However, The Straits Times understands Datuk Seri Azmin’s patience wore thin after a speech by Kedah representative Firdaus Johari - son of pro-Anwar MP Johari Abdul - implied the Economic Affairs Minister was an “escorting minister”.
This is a reference to how Mr Azmin is often appointed to accompany Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad or Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah at events in Malaysia and abroad.
“The debate by lopsided representatives did not represent the voice of the grassroots but only to uphold the dreams of one side and attack the other. This shows the failure of the president to fulfill his promise that debaters abide by parameters,” Mr Azmin said.
Mr Azmin said his faction decided “it is not reasonable” to remain in the congress “to listen to provocative speeches” that “will cause tension and division”. He said that he had upheld his end of the bargain with a “boring” speech on Thursday night that did not hurt any party.
Mr Azmin had also defended Mr Anwar on Thursday night against allegations of sexual assault by a former male aide that surfaced earlier this week, calling it “gutter politics”.
Yet, Mr Azmin said, leaders in his camp had to face accusations from “new members asking us to leave because we are traitors”, he added. “These traitors are the ones who built the party,” he told reporters on Saturday.
The duo had agreed to end weeks of rising hostilities on Wednesday night, just 24 hours before Mr Azmin was due to give his speech at the opening of the youth and women congress, which sources said would have triggered a civil war without the truce.
As of Saturday evening, Mr Azmin's supporters also plan to skip Sunday’s meeting, where several vice-presidents in the group and Mr Azmin himself were scheduled to respond to the debate on the president’s speech.
They will instead be in Kuala Lumpur, where Mr Azmin is supposedly briefing PKR members on the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 economic roadmap spearheaded by his ministry.