THE past week has been quite an aggravating affair for the top circles of the PKR leadership.
This is over its vice-president Rafizi Ramli’s open rebuke against Pas. Head honchos of the party, especially deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, are said to be fuming at the former accountant, moments after news broke online, sending journalists scurrying for reactions that could seal the fate of already strained Pas-PKR ties.
“He gritted his teeth upon reading Rafizi’s furore,” said an aide to Azmin. “He is angry. You won’t like him if he is angry. Especially now.”
Azmin, however, decided to keep mum to maintain balance of interests holding the tripartite government in Selangor.
Moreover, he is on cloud nine ever since the Sultan of Selangor appeared receptive to the administration’s healthcare policies, as conveyed at the opening of the state assembly last month.
There is no way Azmin would let the political jousting by Rafizi, whom he has bad blood with, take away the shine from Selangor; that and the fact that it is PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s instruction and political strategy to be consistently on good terms with Pas.
The side pact formed by the two parties had proven to be the chief factor in stabilising Azmin’s government, especially after the Pakatan Rakyat pact failed to survive the bitter enmity between Pas and DAP.
However, Rafizi’s recent stirring of the hornet’s nest has been regarded as a serious attempt to goad Pas into breaking away from Azmin’s administration, effectively rendering support for his position as menteri besar wobbling on the tip of the buffalo horn.
“Rafizi is breaking ranks by attacking Hadi and Pas, despite open efforts by Azmin and other party leaders, including (PKR vice-president) Tian Chua to mitigate any losses on the strained ties with Pas,” a Selangor PKR leader said.
A similar suspicion has also been expressed by Pas vice-president and Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah, who has been on the front line offering his take on the ebbing ties between the two parties.
“It is like he is making sure that Pas and PKR will split, in order to oust Azmin and his men.
“Pas-PKR ties have always been good, because there are people like Azmin (working to preserve the relationship). But Rafizi’s action is seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between Pas and PKR.”
Rafizi is known to be a young politician with a penchant to make a name for himself by dropping bombshells of allegations and creating impact craters.
But, unfortunately, this has been met with legal suits that saw him stuck in court battles. Last year, he was ordered by the High Court to pay National Feedlot Corp Sdn Bhd RM200,000 in damages over a statement in relation to a loan to buy KL Eco City property.
The Pandan member of parliament is also embroiled in another proceeding over claims that the prime minister’s wife had used fuel subsidies to buy a ring. Rafizi defended his statement as “merely a joke”, but the plaintiff would hear nothing of it.
Rafizi did not even spare Azmin’s government when last year, through a WhatsApp message leak, claimed that he had received complaints about “money and women” being requested during negotiations with unnamed persons working with the state government.
Azmin, in response, labelled Rafizi as “malicious and irresponsible”, apart from categorising the claim as a smear campaign against his government.
PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail had, during an interview, revealed Rafizi’s abhorrence towards Azmin. This was during an episode when the latter was said to be taking potshots at party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s style of leadership.
“Rafizi had sent a long email to Azmin on the matter. He could not stand Azmin,” Saifuddin said.
Correspondingly, given the significance of Pas to PKR in Selangor, Rafizi’s latest allegations against the Islamic party and its former party leader Datuk Dr Nasharudin Mat Isa over purported illegal funding from SRC International Sdn Bhd, are seen by observers as more than just “shooting blanks” or driven by altruism.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian agreed with the likelihood of Rafizi baying for Azmin’s blood, through a gambit revealed by the present spat between Pas and PKR.
“We have seen the clash of personalities between Azmin and Rafizi before. What is happening now could be a continuation of a prolonged rivalry.
“Rafizi is from a different camp, while Azmin is leading his own. You can see what happened during the Kajang Move and the last party election. And now, when Azmin is working to preserve ties with Pas, Rafizi is working to destroy it by breaking ranks.”
The Pas-PKR relationship is at its lowest point since 2015, with the crossing of swords prominently taking place at the grassroots level in Sarawak during the run-up to the 11th state election last year and recently in Penang, where all 13 Pas divisions unanimously called for the ties to be severed.
Lately, protests over Pas-PKR cooperation in Selangor by DAP and Pas’s offshoot Parti Amanah Negara — both of which are members in the new Pakatan Harapan pact — are also showing a likelihood of an end to the partnership.
PKR leaders and a few from Pas have been trying to salvage their pact in Selangor. Nevertheless, Rafizi has taken the fight to another level.
The writer, Syed Umar Ariff, an avid coffee drinker, is NST’s political desk specialist writer. He also has a penchant for pointing out the obvious. He can be reached via email@example.com