MELAKA - Delegates allied with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali boycotted the youth wing proceedings on Friday evening (Dec 6) after violence marred the morning session, despite Wednesday's truce with president Anwar Ibrahim's faction.
Deputy youth chief Hilman Idham, who is Economic Affairs Minister Azmin's political secretary, said the decision not to attend for security reasons was reached by 20 of the 25 elected youth executive committee members.
The pro-Azmin camp skipped the closing address by Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Datuk Seri Anwar's wife, possibly reopening wounds in the largest party of Malaysia's ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan.
The chaos started when organisers barred non-delegates from entering the hall at the Melaka International Trade Centre, including recently sacked youth wing permanent chairman Mizan Adli Noor.
Mr Mizan, whose election as chairman at the party polls last year was declared invalid by the Registrar of Societies, insisted he had the right to kick off meeting proceedings.
The stand-off led to a prolonged scuffle between black-clad security personnel and pro-Azmin members in blue, with Mr Mizan managing to force his way into the hall before being ejected later.
Mr Hilman said: "We are unsure why there is this squad, people who we don't recognise, who can decide who is allowed to enter."
Skirmishes continued to break out as a new chairman and deputy were elected and youth chief Akmal Nasir, allied with Mr Anwar, gave his opening speech.
Mr Mizan said later that he would file a police report against the "illegal" vote to replace him, which saw Melaka youth secretary Rashid Abu Bakar elected without contest.
Mr Akmal told reporters that as youth chief, he took responsibility for the disturbance.
"The attempt to enter without courtesy and against security endangers the delegates inside the room," he said of Mr Mizan's entry.
Mr Anwar said he has asked the party disciplinary board to sack those involved in the incident. "I have also asked the police to investigate and take necessary action," the PKR president added.
The police said on Friday that two individuals have been arrested in connection with the brawl, and were being investigated for rioting.
But Mr Hilman claimed there was "a planned act of sabotage and hijacking" of the youth wing assembly. "Hundreds of legitimate delegates and observers were not allowed in. But it is mysterious how youths in black T-shirts can enter without having any accreditation tags," he said.
There were more than a hundred of these youths, some clearly in their teens, and some told reporters they had been asked to come for three days to support "Reformasi" (Reform) and would be paid at the end of the congress.
But youth chief Akmal said he had no knowledge about who the group in black T-shirts were.
Mr Hilman's camp called on youth secretary Syukri Razab, appointed by Mr Akmal, to take full responsibility for "these incidents and explain how legitimate delegates and observers can be denied entry".
The Anwar-Azmin meeting on Wednesday ended weeks of rising hostilities between the two camps.
The two men agreed that Mr Azmin would resume the traditional duty of officiating the youth assembly on Wednesday night in exchange for promising that his faction would not boycott the four-day congress in Melaka.
Until that meeting, there had been talk that this week's party congress would force the PKR to splinter, and put the promised handover of power from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to Mr Anwar under threat.