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Friday, December 26, 2008

> Anwar, East Malaysia liaison chairman

While his allies argue over hudud laws and fret over the wobbling economy in their five states, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has taken over as liaison chairman for both Sabah and Sarawak in Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) efforts widen its base and capture the Borneo states.

The opposition leader, who made a triumphant parliamentary comeback in August, is initially eyeing Sarawak in the next state elections due by 2011 as chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud faces increased opposition to his 27 years in power.

Sabah is a different proposition as the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition is dominant with 57 of the 60 seats in the state assembly.

But consumed with garnering more support from both states, Anwar has been conspicuously silent about the controversy over implementing Islamic criminal Hudud laws that flared up again this week between Pas and DAP, and Pakatan Rakyat state governments’ efforts to mitigate the fallout from a growing global recession.

“Some things are out of his hand. Anwar will quietly handle Pas and DAP behind the scenes but the economy will take some work,” a Pakatan Rakyat source told The Malaysian Insider, adding the electoral pact had made suggestions in the budget debate.

The PKR supreme council met late Monday night but party president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife, only announcement was that Anwar has taken over as liaison chairman for Sabah and Sarawak, citing the appointment as proof of the party's focus to struggle for the people from Perlis to Sarawak.

“The agenda to bring change in Sabah and Sarawak needs the support from all levels of society. Sarawak will have its state elections soon and Datuk Seri Anwar’s appointment as state liaison chairman for both states justify our concern for problems there and is significant in Pakatan Rakyat’s power transition to Putrajaya,” she said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The Pakatan Rakyat electoral pact, which groups PKR, Pas and DAP, has 81 out of the 222 seats in the federal parliament. BN has 137 seats while the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), which pulled out of BN in September, has two seats and one to Independent Datuk Ibrahim Ali. The Kuala Terengganu seat is vacant with the by-election on Jan 17.

PKR’s focus for the Borneo states has been apparent when Anwar predicted he could form capture Putrajaya by Malaysia Day with help from 30 federal lawmakers after Pakatan Rakyat made a historic upset in the March 8 General Elections where BN lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and four more states to the opposition.

Since then, only SAPP has pulled out of the 14-member BN coalition but has chosen to remain independent in Parliament although its president Datuk Yong Teck Lee is close to the sacked deputy prime minister, who has yet to fulfil his prediction to unseat BN from power.

Anwar, in a posting at his weblog today, called the changes routine and said the state leadership in the party are merely coordinators in an effort to dispel notions of consolidating power for himself as “experienced leaders will be act as advisors at the national level while the new leadership will get exposure apart from introducing new approaches to attract new members”.

“Personally, I am not inclined to coordinate activities in Sabah and Sarawak. In fact, even Wilayah Persekutuan asked me to help but I feel that Tan Sri Khalid as Selangor Menteri Besar, is better there,” Anwar said, adding the appointments will be reviewed regularly.

He also said his offer to help both PKR state liaison committees has been announced before and he hoped to get support from all quarters in both states.

Apart from Anwar heading both Sabah and Sarawak, and Khalid leading Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan, the other state leaders are Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman (Pahang), Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim (Penang), Datuk Kamarul Baharin Abbas (Negri Sembilan), Ahmad Kassim (Kedah), Abdul Aziz Abdul Kadir (Kelantan), Johari Shafie (Perlis), Khalid Jaafar (Malacca), Dr Zaliha Mustaffa (Johor), Osman Abdul Rahman (Perak) and Wan Rahim Wan Hamzah (Terengganu) - The Malaysian Insider.