Malaysianinsider By Baradan Kuppusamy
KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has made sweeping changes to PKR as Pakatan Rakyat (PR) prepares to face off with the resurgent Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
PKR insiders say there is an urgent need to hunker down for a long, tough battle with a Umno united under Najib and Anwar’s old nemesis Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Najib has been working simultaneously on several fronts — economic, financial and political — to consolidate his power base, mow down his political enemies and recoup the losses suffered by BN in the 2008 general elections.
“PKR is the main target as PKR is the glue that holds the Pakatan Rakyat together and it is we who will take the full brunt,” a PKR insider said of Najib’s strategy.
Anwar’s decision to give a bigger role as party spokesperson to Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail is significant because it was she, as the aggrieved wife and symbol of resistance, who had held the PKR together during the six-long years when Anwar was in prison.
Dr Azizah stepped back after Anwar’s 2004 release but remained as nominal party president.
She gave up her Permatang Pauh seat for Anwar in July 2008 at a time of great stress for Anwar and the PKR, with her husband again accused of committing sodomy with his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
Anwar’s sterling victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election and his subsequent appointment as opposition leader in parliament helped considerably to overshadow the public fallout from the sodomy allegations.
The allegations however are set to reappear again and dominate the headlines with the opening of the sodomy trial soon and naturally the PKR is concerned about the political fallout of another trial.
It is felt that neither deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali nor the senior vice-presidents of PKR are able to handle a major crisis as well as Dr Wan Azizah who is experienced and enjoys a unique public appeal of her own unlike other PKR leaders.
Besides, she is also well known to and has developed a network of sympathetic editors and senior writers among the international media during the years in the political wilderness.
Such a network can be a powerful positive factor in times of crisis.
Considering the circumstances Dr Azizah is expected to play a prominent public role again as PKR leader even as Anwar battles his political enemies in court and in parliament — a role that only she can carry as the symbol of resistance.
Other changes involve the ever resolute vice-president Azmin Ali who has been taken-off as election campaign director and is expected to be given a major role in the PKR in a second round of changes the PKR is expected to undertake soon.
Azmin is expected to head a key state where PKR presence is dominant.
Another key PKR leader and Anwar-ally — the information chief Tian Chua has been made strategic director and his post given to human rights lawyer Latheefa Koya.
PKR sources said she is more “level headed” then Tian Chua who had several time angered top PKR leaders with his “theatrics” and “rash” media statements.
Like Tian Chua and troubled PKR lawmaker Elizabeth Wong, Latheefa is a well known human rights activist and a fixture in numerous demonstrations for justice.
Azmin is replaced as election director by Saiffudin Nasution, a former Umno youth leader who has shown his skills and organisational abilities in recent by-election battles.
“Saifuddin’s star is shining in the PKR…he is also close to PAS and well liked by the DAP,” PKR sources said.