Mahathir calls for peace in PKR amid Anwar-Azmin rift

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) being greeted by Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim on arrival at the party's retreat in Port Dickson on July 19, 2019.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) being greeted by Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim on arrival at the party's retreat in Port Dickson on July 19, 2019.ST PHOTO: SHANNON TEOH

PORT DICKSON - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the largest party in his government on Friday (July 19) not to be distracted from fulfilling its pledges and responsibilities to the public after a fractious week for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) whose leaders are split over gay sex allegations levelled against its deputy president Azmin Ali. 

“We must ask ourselves whether we will retain the mandate from the people if they continue to see us bickering for power, unaware that these squabbles are why we will lose power,” Tun Dr Mahathir, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman, said when officiating PKR’s weekend retreat in Port Dickson. 

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had also pledged the party will “stand united in addressing the plight of the people” ahead of the retreat’s opening.

Datuk Seri Azmin and most leaders aligned to him were absent.

The closed-door retreat was held after a week-long escalating war of words among leaders of PKR that has 50, or 39 per cent, of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition’s 129 MPs.

Datuk Seri Anwar, 71, who is supposed to succeed PM Mahathir, 94, under a transition plan agreed by PH leaders, posted on Twitter on Friday evening: “Let’s take a step back and not lose sight of the issues that matter.” 

Earlier on Friday, six PKR state chiefs expressed support for Mr Anwar after he came under fire from an opposing faction on Thursday for not supporting Mr Azmin, 54.

The six - out of 14 including the combined federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya - signed a statement saying they stood “firmly behind him in facing any challenges and efforts by those who want to weaken our party”. 

“We give full and undivided commitment to him in his efforts to lead the country to what is desired by the public,” said Kedah PKR chief Johari Abdul, representing the six.

 
 
 

He said “God willing”, all 14 state leaders - appointed at Mr Anwar’s discretion as president - would sign their statement of support for the president at the retreat.

However, 13 women’s wing state chiefs then called for the police to prosecute those behind the sexually explicit video purportedly of Mr Azmin and a sacked PKR grassroots youth leader. 

They are appointed by the wing’s head Haniza Talha, known to align with Mr Azmin, who denies being in the clips that went viral last month. 

Police have said that while they cannot confirm the identity of the two men in the videos, the mastermind behind their circulation is a leader of a political party who paid hundreds of thousands for its production.

This was after arresting nine people from Sunday to Tuesday, including Mr Anwar’s political secretary Farhash Mubarak and several other party members.

These opposing statements came a day after 23 of the 64 members of the central leadership council chastised Mr Anwar for saying Mr Azmin should resign if it is confirmed that the minister was in the videos. Another five MPs also affirmed their joint statement.

Significantly, the signatories include 20 of the 27 who won their places in the party’s highest decision-making body at last November’s party polls, with the rest of the leadership later appointed by the president.

A top adviser to Mr Azmin, Datuk Khalid Jaafar, also called on Mr Anwar to retire from politics.

Mr Anwar said on Thursday that he accepted the views expressed in the Thursday joint statement and needed “to be magnanimous enough to accept the fact that I need to lead a coherent, united party”.

Mr Anwar has denied any link to the sex video scandal, saying insinuations that he is the mastermind behind the clips are “baseless”.

Perak PKR chief Farhash had also earlier denied circulating the clips which surfaced on June 11 and instead called on Mr Azmin to resign “if the evidence is overwhelmingly against him”.