KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — Despite misgivings, PKR kept Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor mentri besar a second term after PAS refused to endorse Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) prime minister candidate, Rafizi Ramli shared, lifting the lid on the leadership crisis hobbling the pact a year after Election 2013.
With little political baggage, Khalid was the least objectionable choice to PAS, PKR or DAP with their patchy political cooperation before Election 2008, Rafizi said
He added that PAS’s refusal to back Anwar underlined the division within the fledgling pact with none of the three component parties able to reach a consensus on candidates for key leadership positions.
“PAS did not agree with Anwar becoming the prime minister,” the PKR strategy director told a public forum last night on the Selangor crisis that could cleave apart the federal opposition alliance after seven short years.
Instead, Rafizi said a PAS delegation consisting of its president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Mohamad Sabu and the Islamist party’s influential cleric Datuk Haron Din met with Anwar and told the de facto PR leader they wanted Umno’s Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to be prime minister if PR succeeded in taking Putrajaya.
Rafizi made the disclosure after the 100-strong audience pressed the Pandan MP, one of the chief engineers behind the ‘Kajang Move’, to explain why PKR pushed the initiative only in January when party leaders held misgivings about Khalid’s leadership from the latter’s first term in office particularly after the former corporate captain’s questionable RM70 million loan.
PAS Sepang MP, Hanipa Maidin, who was also present at the forum, said he could not confirm the matter.
“But if it was true, then I say it is most unethical,” the lawyer added.
Top leaders from the three PR parties will meet Sunday to discuss the mentri besar crisis but Rafizi cast doubt last night that the dispute will be resolved amicably or soon.
“If the issue of the prime minister can’t even be sorted for six years, how can we sort this out?” the PKR strategist said.
Yesterday PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution claimed Khalid’s compromised integrity was a key reason behind the party’s decision to seek a replacement, hours after slapping the former Selangor PKR chief with a show-cause letter for refusing to step down from office.
A report titled “The Decision to Replace the Selangor Mentri Besar” penned by Saifuddin that was sighted by Malay Mail Online cited Khalid’s out-of-court settlement with Bank Islam over his RM70 million debt to the bank as the top reason for his ouster, saying the circumstances surrounding the deal had placed his integrity under suspicion.
The report noted that in March, a month after Bank Islam dropped its loan settlement suit against Khalid, two business deals worth hundreds of millions of ringgit were signed between the Selangor government and Eco World Berhad, a company controlled by Tan Sri Rashid Manaf, whom PKR said was an ex-lawyer of former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin.
Rafizi told last night’s forum his party colleagues suspected the out-of-court settlement was a crucial factor that facilitated the deal.
He also said PKR leaders also had suspicions about Khalid’s business dealings since last year.
But the party initiated the Kajang Move only after receiving word just before the end of last year that the incumbent Selangor MB had tried to broker a deal with the bank through a middle-man.
“And that middle person is none other than Tan Sri Manaf,” Rafizi said, adding that the party then decided that Khalid’s financial problems could be used to hold the party hostage to its political rivals.
The Kajang Move saw PKR’s Lee Chin Cheh resign as Kajang representative less than a year after winning the state seat in Election 2013, paving the way for a by-election meant to gain Anwar entry into Selangor’s law-making house and eventual takeover as mentri besar.
The plan was thwarted when the Appeals Court convicted the opposition leader of sodomising a former male aide, a ruling Anwar claimed was engineered to prevent him from leading Selangor.
The Kajang move drew criticism from many Selangor voters who called it overt politicking and unnecessary as Khalid had performed well as mentri besar.
Rafizi admitted at the forum that he took brickbats for engineering the move but insisted it was necessary to sustain support for the PR administration in the state.
“It was something that I had to do and I won’t be apologetic about it,” he said.