Kuala Lumpur, 7 April — An explosive audio recording of a telephone conversation between the presidents of PKR and Umno has offered the clearest proof yet that the two leaders had planned to set the tone of the recent Umno general assembly, as revealed by Malaysia’s latest online portal, MalaysiaNow.
Several audio files from parts of the phone call are already making the rounds on social media and messaging apps, in which the two are heard exchanging pleasantries over the way the Umno delegates had accepted Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s proposal to cut ties with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.
“After 22 years, only now I am following the Umno general assembly,” Anwar Ibrahim said as he broke into laughter when greeting Zahid at the start of the phone call.
“Don’t worry, that is only tactical, OK,” Zahid replied.
“No, no, OK, OK, I think your speech was good, and you did mention about MT (Supreme Council), and of course we want to finish the game, but if you’re thinking about mandate, that’s OK, only that there’s some work to do with the MT,” Anwar replied.
They were believed to be referring to Zahid’s speech earlier, where the Umno president said he was committed to the party Supreme Council’s “No DAP, No Anwar” principle in forming any future political alliance.
MalaysiaNow, stating that it obtained the high-quality recording through a reliable source, has been able to verify the voices as those belonging to the two men.
The four-minute phone call is believed to have taken place hours after Zahid’s closing speech at the Umno general assembly, where he sought a mandate for the decision to cut ties with PN and Bersatu.
In the conversation, Anwar congratulated Zahid on his speech and Zahid returned the gesture.
Zahid: You do know who my teacher is, right?
Anwar: Good lah, good. I’m proud of you.
Zahid: Thank you, thank you. My teacher who [inaudible] is the same person I’m talking to now.
In his closing speech at the Umno general assembly, Zahid had asked delegates to stand up to show their support for his proposal to cut ties with PN.
He later declared that the motion had been unanimously accepted.
At one point during his phone conversation with Anwar, Zahid touched on a speech by Perlis Umno chief Shahidan Kassim who had opposed the proposal.
MalaysiaNow iterates that the speech was not streamed live, unlike the other speeches in support of Zahid.
Zahid: Shahidan, when he went against the motion, he was booed five or six times.
Anwar: Correct. Only if we could get one minister to resign… but not one has the courage.
Zahid: (They are) cowards.
Anwar: Only, what’s his name, Shamsul, who said he would resign…
Zahid: Yes, correct.
Anwar: If he could, then in one or two days, if he says, ‘I respect the mood of the general assembly, I’m an Umno man, I will abide’, then there it is. Never mind, we shall see. But good lah, thank you, congratulations.
Zahid: Thank you for your concern, thank you for your moral support.
“Shamsul” refers to Energy and Natural Resources Minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, who had said that he would quit his Cabinet position if the party wanted him to.
In their conversation, Anwar reminded Zahid that they would meet on Tuesday night before saying there was still work to be done.
Anwar: It’s not over yet. We have a little more to do. Because, let’s say you get to [inaudible], then you have to call for an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council.
Zahid: Never mind, I can do it, I can do it.
Anwar: Because when you have the audience, you cannot [inaudible].
Anwar again thanked Zahid and jokingly asked him to tell his wife Hamidah Khamis that her husband had made him proud.
“Alhamdulillah, tell Midah, this is the first time that Anwar is proud,” Anwar said before they hung up.
Zahid was Anwar’s key ally during their time in Umno when it was headed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s. Anwar at that time was seen as the successor to the top post before Mahathir sacked him from both party and government in 1998.
Zahid was among Anwar’s associates who were arrested under the Internal Security Act following Anwar’s dramatic removal. He later pledged loyalty to Mahathir and climbed up the political ladder while Anwar served time in prison.