December 10, 2010
Anwar’s Adventures in Irony
by Azmi Anshar @http://www.nst.com.my
IRONY is a fitting suit perfectly cut for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to wear and show off on the political catwalk, never mind that each adventure in irony gets to be more bizarre than the next, a feat Anwar has consistently demonstrated since his fall from grace in 1998. Call him Mr Paradox if you will. From the beginning of his career as social activist to UMNO’s anointed one to opposition leader, Anwar’s demonstrated behaviour in irony is stark.
As student organiser and avid demonstrator during his anti-government student days in the 1970s, Anwar was the perfect foil to lead the opposition, until he was reeled in as UMNO’s prized catch in 1982, where he quickly ascended to real power to the party deputy presidency and with it the deputy premiership.
It was as if the Red Sea was parted for him to walk through unmolested, thanks to the then prime minister’s intervention and wishes, despite the protestations of many senior UMNO leaders. Then, at the height of his deputy premiership, Karpal Singh, a boisterous if not incredulous critic, told a startled crowd at a DAP convention in 1998 that he had proof of Anwar’s misdeeds, blaring sensationally lurid accusations months prior to Anwar’s fall from grace while challenging the then prime minister to act against his deputy.
Politics being that there are no permanent friends as there are no permanent enemies, Anwar shrugged off Karpal’s harsh vilification and elected to accept the Tiger of Jelutong’s offer to act as lead defence counsel in the second sodomy trial. You could say that both acted professionally. However being the consummate politician that he is, Anwar still accepted Karpal as his lawyer, even after the MP for Jelutong lashed out in an amazing press conference that his client was unfit to be Pakatan Rakyat leader for promoting party hopping.
Anwar must have revered Karpal’s legal competence too much to ignore this unflattering remark the lawyer spewed: “Anwar Ibrahim must repent for his action, and Pakatan Rakyat should look for a new leader and not one that promotes party hopping.” Anwar’s temperament in being able to dismiss criticisms from strident critics is too easy: collate all of Anwar’s pointed statements and recriminations against PAS and the DAP in the years between 1982 and 1998 and you can turn them into a solid guidebook on how to wallop your opponents.
Nonetheless what did Anwar do post-1998? Vile criticisms he endured in the 16 years he was in UMNO was converted into the glue that brought together the sorely disparate characters of PAS and DAP into a cohesive force that enabled them to win huge gains in the 2008 general election. Anwar went on with his behaviour of ironic disposition, unsettling the Malay intelligentsia when he demanded the dismantling of Ketuanan Melayu, replaced with Ketuanan Rakyat, never mind that when he was deputy prime minister, he advocated the very thing he now wants banished.
The intellectual shortchanging continues: Anwar strongly asserted democratic practices and values but somehow, his sermon did not commensurate with his party’s practices, which inadvertently or otherwise, voted in a family dynasty — Anwar as de facto leader, his wife Datin Seri Wan Azizah as president and daughter Nurul Izzah, as vice-president.
It was only last month that the PKR went into a tailspin of electoral fraud with Anwar at the centre of the controversy: his promise of an inclusive democratic balloting was left in tatters and raised doubts of his ability to administer his party.
And now, the latest twist of irony only Anwar can conjure is perhaps the most bizarre: parading independent Australian MP, Senator Nick Xenophon, from Southern Australia as an observer at his sodomy trial. But before he could do that, Anwar proudly showed off Xenophon to the media at Parliament: it was obvious that the Australian was going to be a weapon in Anwar’s battle to beat the sodomy charges.
Here’s why: last February, Xenophon was among 50 Australian lawmakers demanding that the sodomy charge be dropped. That’s fine, since Xenophon is among the many foreign politicians and activists won over by Anwar in his full-frontal public relations assault against the Malaysian government.
But back home in Australia, Xenophon backs the Australian Greens-initiated legislation in the Senate to clear the way for same-sex marriage. Xenophon was also clear in his support for civil unions for same-sex couples and supported calls for a debate on the issue.
What does this imply in his support for Anwar? Anwar may not realise it but picking Xenophon as an ally and partisan observer to his trial opens up delicate inquiries:
– Was it appropriate for Anwar to parade Xenophon in the parliament lobby, only as a matter of sub-judicial counterpoint?
– In facing the sodomy trial, Anwar turns to an Australian politician who endorses same-sex marriage.
But then, it is consistent with Anwar’s political travails as the manipulator of irony.