Reports by RAZAK AHMAD, SIRA HABIBU, ZAKIAH KOYA, AIDA AHMAD, M. KUMAR, HANIS ZAINAL, MEI MEI CHU and ASHLEY TANG
PETALING JAYA: Top PKR leaders, including 15 MPs as well as 21 members of its central leadership council, did not show up at a party retreat that was meant to mend the rift between certain factions and also iron out problems brewing within the party.
PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali leads the list as the most senior leader who did not and will not attend the retreat.
The two-and-a-half days retreat for all levels of leaders, right from the grassroots to the top, is being held at a five-star hotel in Port Dickson, the parliamentary constituency of PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad attended the opening night of the retreat at Anwar’s invitation.
Other leaders who did not attend were those deemed to be Azmin allies, among them vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin, women’s wing chief Haniza Talha, and youth wing deputy chief Muhammad Hilman Idham.
While some said they had to attend to other matters in their ministerial capacity, MPs claimed that they had already planned to return to their constituencies.
A few others said they did not think that the retreat comprising all PKR leaders would be focused enough to craft solutions for the party’s current problems.
In recent days, the gap has widened between the Anwar and Azmin camps after the former said that the latter should resign from the Cabinet if it was proven he was indeed the man in a viral sex video.
Azmin rebuked Anwar by stating that his party president “should look into the mirror”.
A group of 24 central leadership council members then signed a statement on Thursday to rebuke Anwar for telling Azmin to resign, while six of 14 state party chiefs signed another statement yesterday in support of their president.
Foreign Minister and leadership council member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who was part of the group that rebuked Anwar, said he was meeting his counterpart in Jakarta last night and had a packed schedule.
Party vice-president Tian Chua said he did not go last night but would attend the retreat today.
“Some of us will attend partially – there is no concerted effort to not to attend the retreat,” he said.
Chua said the idea of the retreat was mooted about three months ago by the top leaders to resolve differences within the party.
The PKR elections late last year that went on for three months saw much mudslinging between the camps of former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, allegedly under the auspices of Anwar, and Azmin.
Rafizi lost the elections but was later appointed a vice-president.
Fellow vice-president Zuraida said she could not attend the retreat because she needed to attend the World Firefighters’ Day at Dataran Merdeka today and that she would be flying to Surabaya tomorrow.
“I have other things to do. I have firefighting of a different kind.
“People can make insinuations as to why I did not go.
“I received the invitation more than a month ago,” said Zuraida, who is also Housing and Local Government Minister.
As for Haniza, she could not attend the PKR retreat but said she had tried “to free her schedule”.
“As usual, many programmes happen during the weekend and I have to settle things before leaving for Surabaya on Sunday,” said Haniza, who is Lembah Jaya assemblyman in Selangor.
Haniza said she would be with Zuraida in Surabaya to visit a successful public housing programme.
“The PKR retreat is not actually a retreat because all the branch leaders from all states will be present as well,” she said.
A PKR central leadership council member who is also an MP said he was staying away to send a strong message to the prime minister-in-waiting, Anwar.
“When issues are especially critical within PKR and there is a need for an intense discussion with focus groups comprising the top leadership of the party, he holds a retreat calling everyone – a mixture of legislators and grassroots leaders from all levels,” said the MP who declined to be named.
He said such a gathering with no focus groups would offer no solutions for the party even if everyone were to be holed up for a week.