Having drilled down the message that this will be last congress before general election, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim while capping off the Johor event, warned delegates of enemies within.
Recalling previous defections, Anwar called on delegates to not only sniff out “potential turncoats and kick them out” as the party pulls up its socks to face what he paints as the “defining battle” of Malaysian political history.
Citing a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad, Anwar said even the prophet had no forgiveness for those who betrayed the cause. Apologising for choosing either “under-qualified” or simply the wrong people as candidates in 2008, Anwar echoed party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail's policy speech in saying that this time, the party vows to get it right.
Warnings also abound for incumbent representatives, telling them not to expect a coveted “creed” from the president if they have underperformed, abused their power, or left “people waiting for hours in their office”.
“Three years and not a word in Parliament other than blasting others,” he said, dropping hints of who among PKR parliamentarians may need to start looking for another job.
After all, Anwar admits, the stakes are higher this time; and correspondingly, so is PKR's strength. “Faced with corruption in and rigging, (Pakatan Rakyat) won over five states and Kuala Lumpur and now we are twice as strong compared to in 2008. “Believe me, our preparations this time are far better than in 2008,” he said to a a full house, despite two long days of congress.
Betrayal, observed PKR secretary general Saifuddin Nasution (left) meanwhile, comes not only from those who have defected but also those elected due to the hard work of the party workers, but were absent from the congress.
“Could they not have spared three days of 365 days in a year to attend the congress? Rubber tappers from Padang Terap are here...what are (the absentees') excuse?
“No one becomes a YB, or an exco without the help of the party...we will not tolerate these opportunists,” he said in his cutting winding up speech, to hoots.
The election focus was obvious throughout the congress, with Saifuddin often repeating that the host state was chosen because PKR is confident they can break into the Umno bastion.
'We can clean up Johor in two years'
Recalling a ceramah he gave to 30 people in Muar six years ago, Saifuddin said that the fact that hundreds filled the streets all over Johor to hear Anwar speak over the past few days is more than encouraging.
While delegates lapped up the talk of turning an Umno stronghold (kubu) into its grave (kubur), there was little said over how a Pakatan government can be different to BN in the state of Johor.
The only speakers who touched on Johor specific issues were Johor chief Dr Chua Jui Meng and Selangor MB Abdul Khalid Ibrahim. Abdul Khalid (right), ever popular with delegates and a much improved orator since contesting the Ijok seat, joined the bandwagon to promote his government's policies in his winding up speech.
“We can go to Johor and tell the people that the reform will be continued there. Governance in Selangor far exceeds that in Johor.
“In Johor, they cannot even calculate the price of water that we have to help. I checked this, they do not audit their water assets,” he said.
He added that using Pakatan state governance model, the Johor administration can be “cleaned up” within two years.
Bullish on winning Johor, PKR however refused to answer any queries on potential Menteri Besar candidates, toeing the line just as DAP state chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau in a press statement warns against “counting chickens before they hatch”.
Filling the gap in the Johor focus was much talk about the road to Putrajaya, with debates focusing on policies for education, good governance and the civil service.
'Cheating needed for only 3% of votes'
Nitty gritties of winning an election were also discussed at length by former elections director and now vice president Fuziah Salleh who warned that all BN needs is a three percent swing to wrest Pakatan-held seats.
“Elections is not about emotions or rhetoric or how angry people are with BN. It is about numbers,” she said in her sobering winding up speech.
“They only need to cheat on three percent of the votes. A little in postal votes, a little from foreigners, move some voters to different districts.
“Set up a committee to go through the roll, set up an IT team, and when you find discrepancies, set up a media team and expose it.”
But is all the talk of winning Putrajaya merely to put Anwar in the Prime Minister seat? Twelve years after its founding, adoration for Anwar by PKR members is only slightly short of idolatry, with deputy president Azmin Ali declaring him an “institution” and “saviour” of the people.
All the same, lengthy stirring winding up speeches about the sacrifices of ordinary members and supporters appear to be an attempt to redirect focus and to show that PKR is not a party for one man.
From the old woman who planted RM1 into Wan Azizah's hand as a donation to the party, to delegate Zaiton Samad who regaled the congress with her tales of bravery in defending her land from the authorities, delegates went home believing in a cause that went beyond taking over power.
As chief of strategy Rafizi Ramli (left) put it: “We are on the cusp of history. There has never been a political coalition at the brink of change. Don't waste the prayers, hopes of the rakyat.
“Believe in fate - if it is to happen, it will. The place of PKR in Malaysia is to be the political party to end Umno-BN's rule. Trust that this is our place in history.”
Whether this sense of calling is enough motivation for the machinery to focus less on Umno-bashing and more on laying the groundwork for the next election, will only be seen after the 13th general election is called.
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