PETALING JAYA: Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim thumbed his nose at his Pakatan Rakyat critics by attending an Umno Selangor function on Thursday and won praise from another of the guests—Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
PKR sources said Khalid was signalling to his critics that he has powerful and influential protectors.
“He is saying he can lean on them for support in the event Pakatan Rakyat state assemblymen table a motion of no confidence in him,” one source said.
He said this was one way for Khalid to fend off critics who have been demanding his resignation and painting various scenarios of how he might be booted out, such as through a vote no confidence passed in the state assembly.
“What better way to signal his critics than by attending the enemy’s function—in this case an Umno buka puasa do—and to rub shoulders with top Umno leaders,” he said.
“He must be feeling lost and isolated. Otherwise, why attend an Umno-organised function and sit at the same table with Umno leaders?”
The sources see some significance in Najib’s move to praise Khalid at a time when his Pakatan colleagues are stridently critical of him.
Najib said Khalid’s attendance at the function was a positive sign and that he could work with Khalid despite their political differences.
Later, at another function, he denied a suggestion that he had invited Khalid to join Umno.
“Yes, he and I met,” news reports quoted Najib as saying. “He respects me as leader of the federal government and I respect him as the leader of the state government.
I did not, however, invite him to join Umno.
“Although we have political differences, there are many issues on which we can cooperate.”
At the Thursday function, Khalid said every leader in Pakatan Rakyat must show maturity in making public statements, an oblique reference to members of the opposition coalition who have been attacking him in recent weeks.
Khalid began to be the target of criticism from many Pakatan leaders soon after he cut a deal with Bank Islam on payments for a loan he took years ago to buy shares in Guthrie Malaysia, of which he was once chairman.
Bank Islam had sued him to recover some RM70 million. After several years of litigation, the matter was settled amicably out of court early this year.
Neither Khalid nor the lawyers and other people who cut the deal are talking about it.
Around the same time, Khalid signed several deals with the federal government on Selangor water restructuring after nearly five years of opposing them.
What started as a trickle of criticism has since turned into a storm, with mid-level leaders of all three Pakatan parties training their guns on Khalid.
His support for the proposed Kidex highway has infuriated them as well.
It is unthinkable that his critics would raise the cudgels against him without the blessings of the top leaders, including Anwar Ibrahim, who was initially at the centre of the so-called Kajang Move. The plan was to replace the Kajang state assemblyman with Anwar and then for him to displace Khalid as Menteri Besar.
When that move failed due to his sodomy conviction at the Court of Appeal, Anwar turned to his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, who rose to the challenge, contesting and winning in Kajang.
It is widely speculated that she or Ijok assemblyman Idris Ahmad is slated to fill the post when Khalid vacates it or is ousted.
The Selangor Palace, however, will have a say in the matter.
With Umno and the Palace backing Khalid, the sources said, it would be difficult to remove him.
“If push comes to shove, we don’t know what Khalid is capable of,” said a source, adding that he could rely on Umno assemblymen for support to bring down Pakatan Rakyat or reveal its machinations.