KOTA KINABALU, Oct 28 — It is not Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak’s past reputation as a staunch Umno supporter but his commitment to PKR’s reform struggle that will be the deciding factor in his membership application, party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.
Explaining that Salleh’s membership status is still pending, Anwar said he is aware of the former minister’s track record as an Umno stalwart but said that he was also as committed to the Malay-dominant party previously.
“He was a stalwart in defence of Najib in the past, but if he says he is committed to the party struggle, we just have to consider. I was also a committed member of Umno in the past.
“To me, what is non-negotiable, that we cannot compromise on, is that one must adhere to our reform agenda,” he said, adding that he will need some time to think before reaching a decision.
Anwar was speaking to reporters after attending the Sabah PKR Convention in Penampang here.
Denying that Salleh’s membership has been accepted as reported by a news portal yesterday, Anwar said it is still pending his decision.
“No, he is not a confirmed member, but you must understand the process,” he said.
“Any citizen can become a member if you go online to register, but if the names are known names, then we will go back to the division and the state to give us advice. So that is a process. It is not that we are withdrawing, no.”
Anwar said he has spoken to Salleh and told him that the party does not have a problem with his application in principle, but that it has to take into account the sentiments of grassroots members, especially in Sabah.
“So that process is ongoing, which I foresee not to have problems,” he said.
Anwar said that there is no rush to make a decision, but some are asking why Salleh has been an exception when other former Umno members were accepted without encountering similar problems.
“We’ve accepted many ex-Umno members into the party. The party embraces every single citizen of the country, but if they are prominent names in the past, we have to take that into consideration, so give us a bit more time,” he said.
Previously, the state chapter’s deputy chairman Mustapha Sakmud publicly objected to Salleh’s admission, describing the latter as a liability to PKR due to his reputation as a staunch supporter of former prime minister Najib.
However, other leaders have expressed their support.
Analysts have said that Salleh, a Bajau leader from Kota Belud who failed to secure the parliamentary seat in the previous general election, may be able to bring some influence to the party, but will more likely shake up the state leadership, already rife with internal factions.
Salleh, who left Umno last December along with other party members, said he chose to join PKR because of its multiracial policies.