AZMIN ALI

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Day: December 1, 2013

[NEWS] PKR Stands At The Crossroads

Man in the middle: Azmin (centre) is all for Anwar (right) contesting the PKR president post that his wife Dr Wan Azizah has held since the party’s formation.

 

The recent call for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to go for the PKR presidency is loaded with political implications for the party election taking place in a few months’ time.

TIMING is so important in politics and the Selangor Mentri Besar’s timing has been way out. Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is still battling the political storm kicked up by the sensational jump in salaries for the Selangor assemblymen.

It could not have come at a worse time for him. Khalid’s own party leaders have publicly criticised his state budget over the last few weeks and there have even been furtive moves to replace him as Mentri Besar (MB).

The pay increase for some of the office-bearers is so huge that those on his team have been left struggling to justify it. Some of the main beneficiaries, instead of offering a rational argument, resorted to taking potshots about private jets and diamonds. It was the most unprofessional way to deflect calls for an explanation.

The one that took the cake was Khalid saying that the pay hike for the Sarawak representatives was much more. It was quite bizarre that Pakatan Rakyat, which has condemned everything about the Sarawak government, was now using it as a benchmark.

Khalid is on shaky ground and, this time, he has largely himself to blame. His party boss Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is said to have received lots of text messages asking him to step in and do something.

As the ketua umum or principal leader, Anwar has wide-ranging say on party matters. But he is unlikely to do anything radical with the PKR election just another three months’ away.

Besides, Anwar has problems of his own. The appeal on his sodomy case is coming up and he is under pressure to end his days as the ketua umum.

Last Sunday was the party’s special congress to amend the PKR constitution to enable it to function more effectively. But the buzz coming from the congress was not over the amendments but the surprise call by one of the speakers for Anwar to contest the presidency of PKR.

The person making the call was Batu Caves assemblyman Amirudin Shari who is a loyalist of deputy president Azmin Ali.

Azmin is also the Selangor PKR chairman and Gombak division chief. Amirudin, on the other hand, is the party secretary in Selangor and deputy Gombak chief. It was as good as Azmin himself saying it.

Anwar may or may not have seen that coming but it was the sitting president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who was caught blind-sided. It could not have been too comfortable for her to sit up there and listen to calls for her husband to take over from her.

As expected, he side-stepped the matter when he made his winding-up speech at the end of the congress.

It was classic Malay politics at play and was a masterful move. Azmin had cast one stone and struck four objectives.

The first objective was to do away with the ketua umum post. The chain of command in the party has become rather confusing with a ketua umum and a president up there who are husband and wife.

“We are never sure whether a decision comes from the president or ketua umum. When things go wrong, he says I am just the advisor but his advice is like an order. It was okay in the beginning but our party is growing and there is no place for a ketua umum in a democratic party. It’s time for Anwar to move up,” said a Youth wing leader from Johor.

The father, mother and daughter configuration has also become an issue.

“We cannot stand this papa and mama thing anymore. All roads lead to Anwar after passing through Kak Wan, and that causes problems,” said a Selangor leader.

The second objective was to signal to Dr Wan Azizah that it is time to move on, and what better way to say it than to suggest that her husband take over. Next year will be the 14th year with Kak Wan, as she is known to all, at the top and the Azmin faction thinks that it is timely for her to make way.

Many in the party were quite content to have her as president while her ketua umum husband called the shots. But everything changed when she also started flexing her muscles on major party matters. She has been accused of using her presidential clout to get Khalid reappointed as Selangor MB without going through the party process.

Kak Wan and Azmin have a civil relationship but it is very formal and does not extend beyond the party. They are not on a “I phone you, you phone me level”. But Azmin would be able to do that with Anwar because their ties go back a long way.

The third objective was to checkmate Nurul Izzah. If Anwar is the president, Nurul Izzah would have to stay put as vice-president. The party would become a laughing stock if papa is president and daughter is deputy president.

Nurul Izzah is very ambitious. She would have contested the deputy president post in the last party polls if her father had not put his foot down. Since then, she has been toying with the idea of going for the presidency. Her rivalry with Azmin goes down to a very personal level and she wants to stop him at all cost.

But most people in the party think that she is no match for him – yet. She is only 33 and her learning curve has not been as sharp as it should be. She defeated two big-guns from Umno in Lembah Pantai largely on the strength of her family name and personal charisma.

She is very popular in the party but even her fans admit that while her charisma is 10/10, her intellect and grasp of issues is only 6/10. She shines on the ceramah stage but has not impressed many in Parliament.

She still has some growing up to do because, as the above Johor Youth leader put it, “the future president is more than just being binti Anwar”.

“I’m in this party because I believe in something. I did not join to keep the family up there. We’re sending the wrong message to the public. We say we are the new politics but we put up with nepotism,” said the Youth leader.

The fourth objective was Azmin’s camp testing the waters to see if Anwar is interested in the presidency. If he is, then they will support him 100%. If he is not, they will push their man to go for it.

“I don’t know about camps but the party needs Anwar to be up there. The ketua umum post was a stop gap measure decided at the Seremban congress because the ROS (Registrar of Societies) did not let him contest for president. It’s time to reverse the Seremban decision,” said supreme council member Fariz Musa.

Azmin, despite his ambitions, is actually quite a cautious politician. But he has been pushed to the wall and he is fighting for survival.

He has used the special congress to spark off discussion about who should be the next president of PKR. He is challenging what used to be a taboo subject – questioning Dr Wan Azizah’s claim to the top post.

Nepotism

Shortly after the general election, he came out in the open on the “N word”, namely the awkward issue of nepotism in the party. He had mentioned it in the context of the way Dr Wan Azizah had endorsed Khalid for the MB post without consulting the Selangor PKR body.

He did not mention names but it was like he had unlocked a secret door and many of the younger members are now talking about it.

He is beginning to emerge from under the shadow of his mentor and starting to take political risks.

Azmin’s problem in recent years is that he has been unsure whether Anwar is still 100% with him. He felt that Anwar let him down over the MB appointment and he can see Anwar cultivating new faces in the party.

For instance, academic expert on Constitutional law Dr Aziz Bari was for a while seen as a potential MB candidate.

Anwar had wanted Dr Aziz to contest a state seat but he ran into some trouble with the Palace for his comments on a religious matter. Khalid tried but failed to bring him to meet the Sultan to resolve things and Dr Aziz eventually contested and lost in the Sabak Bernam parliamentary seat.

Anwar is always on the lookout for professional and moderate Malays to bring pulling power to the party and minimise the impact of DAP. A party insider said that the new Ijok assemblyman, Dr Idris Ahmad, is also a potential MB and that Azmin cannot take things for granted.

“It signals his desire to give PKR a different image, not just the one displayed by Azmin and gang,” said the insider.

But Anwar aside, very few can match Azmin in terms of grassroots support and organisation at this point in time. He has his people everywhere and they are real politicians in contrast to the wishy-washy NGO types who talk a lot and do little.

Selangor and Sabah are the two biggest states for PKR. They can make or break a candidate. But with the Sabah side in shambles, the leading state is now Selangor where Azmin is king of the hill.

Kota Raja in Selangor is also the biggest division or cabang in the entire country. It has more than 11,000 members, about half of whom comprise the Youth wing.

It is one of those king-maker divisions and most candidates want to be carried by Kota Raja. In the 2010 party polls, those vying for the top Youth post made a beeline for Kota Raja to seek the endorsement of its Youth chief Azmizam Zaman Huri who is also the Selangor Youth chief and a loyalist of Azmin.

The question from now until the party congress in March is whether Anwar will go for the presidency. It is his for the asking but some have suggested that he does not relish being tied down with presidential chores. Being ketua umum suited him beautifully – the post did not have much responsibility but carried lots of power.

“What we don’t want is a contest for the president post because it will be difficult for us on the ground,” said deputy secretary-general Steven Choong.

If Anwar declines, it will likely be a fight between Dr Wan Azizah and Azmin. One is his wife and the other is like his kid brother, and they have stood by him through his ups and downs. Life for the ketua umum is about to get more interesting than that of the Selangor MB.

 

BY JOCELINE TAN

[WAWANCARA] Dari anak angkat ke musuh Dr Mahathir

Suatu ketika dahulu hubungan Timbalan Presiden PKR Azmin Ali (gambar) dengan bekas perdana menteri Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad umpama  bapa dan anak malah dianggap sebagai “anak angkat”. Bagaimanapun semuanya berubah selepas kontroversi pemecatan Datuk Seri  Anwar Ibrahim pada tahun 1998.

Mengimbas kembali cerita hubungannya dengan Mahathir, perkenalan Azmin dengan pemimpin penting negara ketika itu bermula  ketika beliau menjadi pemimpin pelajar di Amerika Syarikat (AS) semasa melanjutkan pelajarannya di University of Minnesota.

“Saya kenal Dr Mahathir lama ketika saya menjadi pemimpin pelajar Malaysia di AS.

“Saya banyak berinteraksi dengan beliau sama ada dalam pertemuan di Amerika ketika lawatan kerja beliau ataupun ketika saya balik ke Malaysia semasa cuti musim panas,” kata Azmin dalam satu wawancara eksklusif bersama The Malaysian Insider.

Malah, Azmin juga mendedahkan Dr Mahathir turut pernah meminta bantuannya untuk meredakan tentangan para pelajar Malaysia yang belajar di Amerika ketika itu terhadap pentadbirannya.

“Dan ada satu ketika saya menghimpunkan pelajar-pelajar Malaysia dari Amerika yang balik semasa cuti musim panas untuk bertemu  dengan Dr Mahathir dalam satu dialog besar. Saya ingat hampir dua ribu pelajar.

“Ketika itu pelajar-pelajar Malaysia di Amerika memang menentang kerajaan, ada satu tempoh dalam tahun 80-an, dimana  pelajar Malaysia termasuk yang ditaja kerajaan menentang kuat kerajaan.

“Jadi Dr Mahathir meminta bantuan bagaimana saya boleh memainkan peranan untuk meredakan suasana ini dan supaya mereka memahami. Itu antara usaha yang saya buatlah,” kata Azmin ketika mengimbau hubungan baik antara beliau dengan Dr Mahathir ketika itu.

Hubungan beliau dengan Dr Mahathir sememangnya sangat rapat ketika itu sehinggakan tarikh perkahwinannya juga dipilih oleh bekas presiden Umno tersebut.

“Sehinggakan saya mendirikan rumah tangga pada 7 Ogos 1988, beliau merupakan tetamu kehormat dalam majlis perkahwinan itu.

“Malah tarikh pun dia (Dr Mahathir) yang bagi, sepatutnya diadakan 8 Ogos 1988 tapi ketika itu tarikh tersebut bertindih dengan  majlis perkahwinan anak Tan Sri Datuk Ahmad Razali, saudara kepada Tun Dr Siti Hasmah,” kata Azmin lagi.

Malahan Azmin juga mendedahkan penglibatan awal beliau dalam politik sekitar tahun 1987 juga bermula daripada peluang yang  diberikan sendiri oleh Dr Mahathir yang mahu beliau berada di sisi Anwar pada ketika itu.

“Apabila saya habis tamat buat Master dan pulang, dan dia (Dr Mahathir) kata kerjalah dengan Datuk Seri Anwar. Yalah ketika itu dia  baik. Jadi saya ikutlah arahan.

“Saya mula berkhidmat dengan Datuk Seri Anwar pada 1 Oktober 1987 iaitu sebaik sahaja pulang dari Amerika,” katanya.

Bagaimanapun, panas tidak berpanjangan apabila bibit hubungan suram dengan bapa angkatnya itu mula kelihatan pada tahun 1997 sebelum insiden pemecatan Anwar sebagai timbalan perdana menteri.

Azmin kini antara pemimpin politik yang disegani. Gambar The Malaysian Insider oleh Nazir Sufari.Azmin kini antara pemimpin politik yang disegani. Gambar The Malaysian Insider oleh Nazir Sufari.”Sebelum berlaku pemecatan 1998, saya masih ingat pada tahun 1997 ketika surat layang telah mula diedarkan tentang kononnya 50 Dalil ini. Saya telah bertemu dengan Dr Mahathir, kalau tidak silap saya pada 30 Ogos 1997 secara empat mata.

“Saya berjumpa dengan beliau untuk meminta nasihat mengenai cadangan saya untuk mengambil tindakan mahkamah terhadap dua  pegawai kanannya, pertama Tan Sri Megat Junid dan Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin.

“Kerana kedua-duanya adalah setiausaha politik kepada Dr Mahathir dan mereka terlibat secara langsung dalam penulisan surat  layang tersebut bersama adik saya Umi Hafilda dan beberapa tokoh lain. Saya beritahu kepada beliau saya nak bawa perkara  tersebut ke mahkamah,” kata Azmin lagi.

Menurut Azmin, bibit hubungan keruh dengan Dr Mahathir bermula ketika itu malah telah menghidu pemecatan bosnya lebih awal sebelum tahun 1998 lagi.

“Sebab itu kita tahu tentang pemecatan peristiwa pemecatan tahun 1998 agak awal kerana bila kita tengok sikap Dr Mahathir ketika itu boleh nampak perubahan yang berlaku,” katanya.

Akhirnya, khabar angin tersebut menjadi kenyataan selepas Anwar dipecat pada 2 September 1998, Azmin menyifatkan insiden tersebut adalah yang paling sukar dalam hidupnya apabila terpaksa memilih antara Mahathir ataupun Anwar.

“Jadi, bila berlaku pemecatan 2 September 1998, bukanlah mudah untuk saya buat keputusan sama ada nak bersama Dr Mahathir atau dengan Datuk Seri Anwar.

“Sebab you kena ingat, ini antara nombor satu dan nombor dua di dalam negara, bukan ketua cawangan ataupun menteri biasa. Dan untuk saya memilih, bukan satu perkara mudah,” katanya.

Azmin juga mendedahkan orang-orang kanan Anwar ketika itu yang banyak melarikan diri, antaranya setiausaha politik Ezam Mohd Noor yang sudah pun kembali ke pangkuan Umno pada tahun 2008 lalu.

“Termasuk Ezam sendiri dan beberapa orang kanan Datuk Seri Anwar, sebelum September mereka telah lari meninggalkan negara.

“Ezam lari ke Indonesia, setahun. Dan beberapa nama lain, saya boleh namakanlah yang meninggalkan negara,” katanya.

Berbeza dengan pemimpin lain yang sudah melarikan diri, Azmin tetap dengan kesetiaannya kepada Anwar dalam melawan kezaliman.

“Tapi saya mengambil keputusan untuk kekal dan beritahu Datuk Seri Anwar kalau saya tidak mempertahankan kebenaran dan menentang fitnah ini, siapa lagi.

“Sebab saya tahu lawatan beliau keluar dan dalam negara, saya bersama-sama dengan beliau. Jadi, saya rasa agak malang sekali kalau saya tidak menegakkan kebenaran,” katanya lagi.

Malah, Azmin juga menjadi orang pertama dipukul oleh pihak polis dan bukannya Anwar yang mendapat tumpuan umum selepas insiden mata lebam.

“Malah saya menjadi orang pertama ditangkap dan dipukul. Bukan Datuk Seri Anwar, sebab beliau dipukul 20 September 1998, saya ditangkap 16 September 1998.

“Tujuannya adalah untuk mendapatkan satu keterangan bertulis daripada saya selaku orang paling lama dengan Datuk Seri Anwar untuk mengiyakan fitnah ini, tentang isu liwatnya, skandal seksnya, isu rasuahnya.

“Tapi Alhamdulillah walaupun itu kali pertama dalah hidup saya digari, tapi Allah berikan kekuatan kepada saya tidak menandatangani surat pengakuan palsu yang dibuat oleh pihak polis ketika itu,” cerita Azmin ketika kali pertama ditahan selama 8 hari di Balai Polis Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

Walaupun berdepan dengan pelbagai cabaran dan halangan semasa awal reformasi pada tahun 1998, Azmin berkata berbangga dengan apa yang dikecapi oleh PKR selepas 15 tahun bergelut dengan pahit dan manis menentang kezaliman pemerintah.

“Sekarang Keadilan tidak lagi seperti 1998. Saya masih ingat cabaran Dr Mahathir ketika itu bahawa Keadilan akan terkubur dalam tempoh 6 bulan.

“Itulah tajuk utama akhbar tapi sekarang bukan lagi enam bulan tapi sudah 15 tahun kita jadi parti yang cukup kuat dan berpengaruh,” katanya.

Apabila ditanya tentang kesediaannya untuk berjumpa dengan Dr Mahathir, pemimpin PKR tersebut menyatakan kesudiannya tetapi dengan syarat fitnah selama ini yang dilontarkan kepada beliau dan Anwar mestilah dihentikan.

“Saya bersedia jumpa Dr Mahathir sebagai pemimpin dan sebagai seorang ayah dengan syarat fitnah ini mesti dihentikan,” katanya.

Azmin juga berterima kasih kepada Dr Mahathir kerana sepanjang menjadi setiausaha sulit Anwar, beliau tidak pernah terfikir untuk bergiat secara aktif dalam politik malahan tidak pernah memegang jawatan dalam Umno sehinggalah kezaliman menimpa bosnya tersebut.

“Sebab itu saya kena berterima kasih kepada Tun Dr Mahathir kerana beliau buat saya masuk politik kalau tidak saya tidak pernah jadi seorang ahli politik.

“Kerana kezaliman beliaulah (Dr Mahathir) menyebabkan saya terpanggil untuk membentuk Keadilan lawan Dr Mahathir dan Umno.”

Azmin kini memegang jawatan sebagai timbalan presiden PKR, serta merupakan Ahli Parlimen Gombak dan Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri Bukit Antarabangsa.

Azmin Ali lahir pada 25 Ogos 1964 dan merupakan abang kepada pengacara televisyen Azwan Ali.

Beliau mendapat pendidikan awal di Sekolah Gurney Road (2), Kuala Lumpur dari 1971 hingga 1976.

Kemudian beliau bersekolah menengah di Sekolah Tinggi Setapak, Kuala Lumpur (1977 – 1979) dan Institut Teknikal, Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur (1980 – 1981).

Beliau menyambung pelajaran di University of Minnesota, AS. – 1 Disember, 2013.

 

OLEH MD IZWAN
DECEMBER 01, 2013