WILL the Pakatan Harapan government propose the appointment of three Deputy Prime Ministers so that Sabah and Sarawak can get a chance to contribute to the government?”
It was a question from the floor at Hakka Hall in Kota Kinabalu. It was directed at PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, who together with his Team Reformasi 20 Years, was in the Sabah capital last week to campaign for the party polls.
Sabah, Rafizi said, should be given the same attention as Peninsula Malaysia especially regarding development. This, he said, was because Sabah was one of the three that formed Malaysia.
“Sabah is not a state but one of the three,” he said.
Rafizi forgot to mention that it was four countries – Malaya, North Borneo (which Sabah was formerly known), Sarawak and Singapore – and not three, that formed Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
Still, the dinner crowd – mostly Sabah PKR leaders and members – roared at his recognition of the state’s role in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.
“It is hoped that after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (who won PKR president post uncontested) is appointed as prime minister, he would immediately act to return to Sabah their rights,” he said.
Six days after the August 4 nomination day for the party polls, Rafizi launched his team’s nationwide roadshow. It started in Johor and Team Rafizi travelled to Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Sabah (Tawau, Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu). The events, the main theme of which seemed to be that Team Rafizi will 100% make sure Anwar become the next PM, were also uploaded live on Facebook.
Rafizi is gunning for the PKR deputy president post, which Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali has held for two terms.
Most of his cai dan (menu) were in the Kota Kinabalu dinner.
Present were Sungai Petani MP Datuk Johari Abdul, Selayang MP William Leong and Sungai Siput MP S. Kesavan, who were going for the four vice-president posts; Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, who was competing for Wanita chief; and Johor Baru MP Akmal Nasir, who was vying for Youth chief.
Not present from Team Rafizi was Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah, Anwar’s daughter, who is defending her vice-president post.
One of the guests of honour was Sabah deputy Chief Minister and Sabah PKR chief Christina Liew.
“I could see that he talked with enthusiasm that he wants to go for the deputy president post for the sole purpose for Anwar to become PM. That’s his slogan apparently. The PKR supporters gave a big applause to that slogan,” said the Api Api assemblyman and Tawau MP.
When asked about the campaign style of the two PKR deputy president candidates, the influential Liew said Rafizi was very straightforward about what he wants to do if elected. But for Azmin, she couldn’t make an assessment as she has yet to hear him talk.
The Economic Affairs Minister has not visited Sabah since the party’s nomination day.
So far, the only senior leader from Team Azmin who has visited Sabah is Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin. The minister boosted her team’s strength in the state when she appointed three division chiefs, aligned to Azmin, as her special liaison officers.
Sabah is a key state in the PKR polls. About 17% of party members are from the state. There was an increase of about 50,000 new members after GE14.
Contrary to popular belief, Liew did not think Rafizi was responsible for attracting most of the new Sabah members.
“How is he responsible? He is in Kuala Lumpur. The big jump is because people from Umno and PBS left their party to join us,” she said.
Azmin, according to political analyst Prof Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, didn’t need a roadshow. Keep on watching Azmin and what he does in the next few weeks before party elections, he said.
“Why? Then we will know his quiet strategy. He has a silent achiever approach. He doesn’t make too much noise. He knows he is in a winning position, why must he make noise?” he said.
Rafizi, on the other hand, survived on noise, said Shamsul Amri. “He has to. Dia gendang kuat (he drums loudly) - teng, teng, teng, teng, teng, teng - you know in Chinese funeral, they have that music. That’s Rafizi’s politics.”
Azmin didn’t need to play an instrument, said the political analyst who has been following the PKR deputy president’s career.
“He really follows Anwar’s political style. No noise and Ghafar Baba was gone. Swift kill. No question asked. We didn’t even know that Ghafar was almost (politically) naked,” he said, referring to the Prime Minister-designate’s move in 1993 to oust Tun Ghafar Baba as deputy Umno president and Deputy Prime Minister.
Azmin learnt politics from Umno when he was a personal aide to Anwar, the Umno deputy president in the 1990s. He knows the power of patronage, Shamsul Amri pointed out. He was a Mentri Besar and now a Federal minister.
“Azmin’s network and method could only be consolidated and strengthened. He has the funds to ensure his system works top-bottom and bottom-top. Even his speeches are delivered often in a more measured way and less fiery. All in all, Azmin is more experienced, relatively a more complete and consummate leader (candidate),” he said.
Whereas, Rafizi has no experience being in any part of any administrative position, not even as a Selangor exco member. He only has party positions such as PKR secretary-general and vice-president.
However, Shamsul Amri noted that Rafizi has a wider public appeal because of his propensity for exposès, including the latest Amanah case. “He has a wider populist appeal for ‘korek lubang cacing’ (digging the wormhole) for his exposès,” he said.
Rafizi, he noted is fiercely dedicated and focused in this sense.
“But his academic brilliance doesn’t translate into political activism. The Kajang Move was a huge disaster and made his academic brilliance almost meaningless,” he said.
“He has no rich sugar daddy funding him, hence, he resorted to crowdfunding. He has to resort to ‘lorry campaign’ (the Invoke truck). But many are suspicious of the way he spent the money, rather not transparently, though he is fiercely so in investigating other cases (of public expenditure).”
Compared to Azmin, Rafizi is still far behind in terms of experience, availability of funds and grassroots network, said Shamsul Amri.
Some will disagree with Shamsul Amri’s assertion that Rafizi doesn’t have grassroots network. In Sabah, according to PKR insiders in the state, the PKR vice-president has a machai (minion) going from division to division to gather support for him.
Rafizi’s ability to make noise to a large crowd, like at his Kota Kinabalu dinner event, might have been curtailed. PKR has barred candidates from organising ceramah or events attended by more than 100 people.
Universiti Utara Malaysia political lecturer Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani disagreed. His campaign will not be paralysed (as Rafizi claimed), Dr Mohd Azizuddin said, as the former Pandan MP has many ways to campaign.
“People in the grassroots just want to know what both Rafizi and Azmin will bring to the party if they are elected as deputy president. Policy agenda is more essential than other things. There should be less politicking,” he said.
Noise versus silence, which strategy will win the PKR deputy president post?