KUCHING: The cracks in Sarawak PKR have appeared to be widening following its Sarawak Convention last weekend.
This came on the heels of a tussle between party factions in the state on whether the convention in Miri should be held at all.
Those backing PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali were adamant that the convention should not take place after the economic affairs minister was snubbed by the PKR Youth Congress scheduled on Dec 6.
The faction backing party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, believed the state convention should be held in line with the spirit of reformasi.
The convention was held in the end, but conspicuously missing was state PKR chief Baru Bian.
This somehow confirmed that the infighting involving Anwar and Azmin had reached Sarawak.
With the 12th Sarawak election just around the corner, the infighting in Sarawak PKR needs to be urgently addressed as it could undermine PKR and Pakatan Harapan’s ambition to dethrone Gabungan Parti Sarawak as the state government.
Political analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the absence of Bian as the state chief at the Sarawak PKR Convention in Miri last Saturday made the situation worse.
“This is the most inappropriate thing (his absence) he could have ever done. Since Anwar was there to launch the convention, it was no longer about the decision to organise or cancel the function. It all boils down to discipline.”
Although 32 out of the 46 state Leadership Council members led by Bian agreed to call off the convention, Anwar’s presence showed that he did not bow down to pressure.
The works minister and his camp might be risking their political future by boycotting the function which was agreed by the PKR Central Leadership Council, which determined the party’s policy and direction.
Awang said Bian, a strong Azmin supporter, should know that burning bridges with Anwar as well as the PKR central leadership was not a good move.
“If there’s no reconciliation, apology or any action taken to improve the internal crisis in the party, it will affect the state polls. This is because the party president will have the final say on the candidates,” he told the New Straits Times.
The 12th Sarawak election is due to be held by June 2021 at the latest, but it could be held as early as March next year.
“The people will observe, judge, vote and decide the future of both leaders as well as PKR, be it in the Sarawak election or the next general election,” said Awang.
On Nov 20, Bian, who is Selangau member of parliament, said state leaders were disappointed with national leaders who had dishonoured the agreement that Sarawak PKR and Sabah PKR would enjoy autonomy in both states’ political matters. Bian, however, could not be reached for comment on his absence.
Prior to the Anwar-Azmin spat, the reason cited to have caused the split in Sarawak PKR and Bian’s unhappiness was the rumoured move to appoint Julau PKR chief Larry Sng as the new state PKR chief.
Dismissing the rumours, Sng said: “Rumours are just rumours”.
Sng joined PKR after winning the Julau parliamentary seat in the 14th General Election last year as an independent candidate.
He claimed that more than 90 per cent of PKR members in Sarawak were united and strongly backed Anwar as the party president.
“Unfortunately, some people prefer to indulge in party intrigues,” he said, referring to Bian’s overture.
Awang said issues concerning Bian and Sng were nothing compared with the root problem involving Anwar and Azmin.
“It was played out in such a way because Bian wanted to go all out to support Azmin and it so happened that Sng backed Anwar.”
On whether Anwar would pick Sng as the new state PKR chief, Awang said it was unlikely.
“Anwar and Sng’s father are ‘old friends’, but it doesn’t mean Anwar will easily listen to or be affected by Sng.”
Sng is the son of Datuk Sng Chee Hua, a tycoon and veteran politician. He entered politics in 2001, having replaced his father as the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) candidate for Pelagus in the state polls. He won the seat and held it for two terms.
He was appointed an assistant minister by then chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2004.
In 2007, he was sacked by PRS for challenging its president, Tan Sri James Masing, and was unable to defend the Pelagus state seat in the 2011 state polls.
Sng made a comeback in 2013 by forming Sarawak Workers Party but withdrew from contesting in Bukit Goram during the 11th Sarawak election in 2013 due to lack of funds. He later resigned from the party.