MELAKA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is strategising his engagements with the media ever since allegations of sexual misconduct came knocking at his door again.
He was supposed to speak at Wowcomm 2019 Youth Empowerment and Digital Evolution at 3.30pm in Putrajaya yesterday but cancelled his attendance earlier in the morning.
The PKR president’s move is seen as an effort to prevent journalists from swarming him about the controversy, which could make it challenging for him to manage the media’s narrative.
Instead, he held a press conference on the issue at the Parliament building, a controlled environment that allows the participation of only accredited newsmen. Hooligans or hecklers have no access here.
He adhered to his script in denying the allegations made by former research officer Muhammed Yusoff Rawther.
This is not the first sexual allegations made by a former staffer: the one before this was by Mohammad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who was Anwar’s personal assistant,
Anwar’s private secretary, Shukri Saad, was instructed to lodge a report against Yusoff’s statutory declaration, as his name was also mentioned in Yusoff’s allegations.
But while Anwar brushed off the allegations as “petty”, he admitted that there was a plot to disrupt the running of the party’s national congress and the succession of the premiership, which involves him as a candidate for the post.
“To me, on a personal note, I thank the media for not going all out on this. (The party) congress is in two days, so you should anticipate all these things.
“I wouldn’t be surprised because the level of gutter politics has become a culture in this country and it is disgusting. I heard about this (allegation) a month ago. It is not (something) new. This action was aimed at bringing down my image ahead of PKR’s 14th National Congress and the transition of the nation’s leadership.”
Arguably, it is the first time that Anwar has linked an issue involving PKR to purported attempts to derail the premiership succession. And this is despite his claim of having heard the allegations a month ago.
Clearly, this controversy has agitated Anwar to the extent that it could affect his rise to the premiership.
“The timing of the alleged sex scandal is baffling. It can affect Anwar’s transition to the Prime Minister’s Office if not handled carefully. He needs the congress to support him,” said a source.
The congress, this time around, is important to Anwar. Prior to its commencement, he sat down with his deputy, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, to iron out issues between them, reiterated to the media that all was well in the party and toned down his jabs at dissidents.
Otherwise, he would be seen as weak for failing to reform his party lines following infighting whose cause, according to party leaders, remained convoluted and not necessarily stemming from the premiership succession issue.
The truce, which was reached on Wednesday to allow Azmin to resume his traditional task of opening the party wings’ congresses, remains fragile as it only appeased those from his camp.
A public endorsement from Anwar’s camp has yet to be heard.
It is no secret that Anwar had taken sides during the party polls last year, and it was not in Azmin’s favour. It had led to a divide, which is, ironically, detested by Anwar.
A party insider claimed Anwar had been surrounding himself with the “wrong advisers”, and had made decisions that led to PKR’s fractious image.
“Imagine if your father decides to treat you differently, despite all your hard work in the household. You will feel slighted.
“Anwar never wanted the party to be divided. But why is he allowing decisions that will result in infighting to be made? Obviously, he has been listening to the wrong advisers.”
And now, with the latest sexual misconduct allegations, Anwar will need support from his party, including detractors who threatened to seek a vote of no-confidence against him.
A solid grassroots support despite infighting plaguing the party would go a long way.
Out of 219 branch chiefs, 197 have declared their backing for Anwar as prime minister, but there are still pockets of dissidents.
Today’s congress is no longer just a platform to celebrate PKR's 20th anniversary or unite party members. It can become an opportunity for Anwar to consolidate support to rise to become the country’s next leader.