Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail


January 12, 2017

Malaysia’s Political Gridlock and Why Najib is not going to Jail

by Ooi Kok Hin

Despite protests, political realities will keep the prime minister’s coalition in power through 2017 – and beyond.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/why-malaysias-najib-razak-isnt-going-anywhere/

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

On November 19, tens of thousands of Malaysians assembled in the capital to demand for a free and fair election and the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is implicated in a massive financial scandal. Yet, Najib’s ruling coalition looks set to prevail in the next general election, rumored to be held this year.

Why is this so? I argue Malaysia’s political gridlock is prolonged largely by four factors: electoral malpractices, institutional failures, political fragmentation, and societal fault lines. Until and unless these are changed, reforms will be flimsy at best, and cosmetic at worst.

Electoral Malpractices: Keeping the Incumbent in Their Seats

In the previous general election, the ruling coalition won 47 percent of the popular vote but nearly 60 percent of the parliamentary seats. The opposition coalition won 51 percent of the votes but only 40 percent of the seats (the remaining 2 percent of the vote was split among marginal parties). The discrepancy is caused by the uneven weighting of popular representation. A constitutional clause grants over-representation for rural voters either spanning a large landmass or difficult to reach areas. However, even after taking this clause into account, electoral malpractices are severe.

In a study I co-wrote with fellow analysts from the Penang Institute, we found that at least 68 parliamentary seats and 162 state seats are either excessively under-represented or excessively over-represented under the latest redelineation proposed by the Election Commission. If the proposal comes into effect during the next general election, the outcome is effectively a forgone conclusion because of severe malapportionment and gerrymandering.

Malapportionment isthe disparity of constituency size caused by redelineation. It results in inequitable representation because it provides unequal vote value. For example, one voter in Putrajaya has a value equivalent to one voters in Kapar, as both constituencies have one seat each — even though Putrajaya has roughly 15,991 voters and Kapar has 144,159.

Even within the same state, the disparity of constituency size is striking. In the state of Selangor, Damansara is four times the size of Sabak Bernam. Any of the three excessively under-represented parliamentary constituencies in Selangor are bigger than the three small constituencies combined.

This is not a purely mathematical disparity of constituency size. It is a deliberate packing of opposition supporters into a mega-size constituency, diluting their ability to win other seats and making the neighboring marginal seats more winnable for the ruling coalition. Not surprisingly, Damansara is held by the opposition and Sabak Bernam is held by the ruling party.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

Gerrymandering, meanwhile, is the practice of deliberately drawing constituency boundaries based on the voting pattern of constituents so that a party may benefit. Malaysia’s redelineation does this in three ways: the creation of constituencies spanning multiple local authorities, the arbitrary combination of communities without common interests, and the partition of local communities and neighborhoods. Voters living on the same street find themselves in different electoral constituencies. The confusion is compounded by the lack of information and publicity about the changes made to constituency boundaries and, crucially, voting districts.

Political Fragmentation: Weaker and Disunited Opposition

Given the steep electoral obstacles which the opposition has to overcome, it is no surprise that the National Front (Barisan Nasional, BN) is one of the longest ruling coalitions in the world. The then fully united opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, failed to unseat BN in the 2013 general election. The erstwhile alliance brought together three major opposition parties: the People’s Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Any hope of taking advantage of Najib’s crisis has been dampened by the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat due to a quarrel over a chief minister’s position and the Islamist party’s insistence on the implementation of Sharia laws.

Amidst the open animosity between the opposition parties, pragmatist PKR is negotiating a miracle. They are appealing for a one-on-one fight; a scenario which even the most hardcore opposition supporter would find unlikely.

Image result for Bersih 5.O November 19, 2016

The Fractured Opposition

Hostility is mutual between PAS and DAP/Amanah. Bersatu, the new party setup by ousted Deputy Prime Minister Muhyddin Yassin and former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is beset with internal issues and looks the least of a threat to Najib’s UMNO. A united opposition is anywhere but visible in Sabah and Sarawak, the two states which won the election for Najib, whose coalition took 47 out of 56 seats.

If PAS explicitly teamed up with UMNO, there is some hope that their grassroots and longtime supporters (who view UMNO as a nemesis) may vote for the opposition coalition as a protest against their leadership. Tacit cooperation is more likely, however, and in three-cornered fights, the ruling party will sweep all the marginal seats.

Institutional Failures: Culture of Unaccountability, Graft, and State Repression

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Institutional failures have doomed any formal case again Najib for the financial scandal centered on 1MDB. Former Attorney General Gani Patail was terminated just as he was allegedly drafting a charge sheet against Najib. The chief of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was replaced, its senior officers transferred out, and one investigating officer’s home was raided by the police. Three out of four figureheads of the special taskforce setup to investigate 1MDB were replaced within months.

The various institutions that were supposed to hold the government accountable have all faltered in one way or another. A concentration of power has enable the state leviathan to dismiss any institution that could actually hold it accountable.

Ideally, legislative institutions should uphold the principles of democracy and justice enshrined in the Constitution. But under the forceful thumb of the executive, they continue to either pass or fail to repeal draconian laws stretching from the colonial era. The Sedition Act, which criminalizes any speech deemed hateful or contemptuous towards the ruler or government, is routinely abused due to its vague clauses. The notorious detention without trial, another colonial legacy, gave powers to the executive to imprison political opponents for lengthy periods without a day in the courtroom. Most recently, the leader of a civil rights movement calling for free and fair elections, Maria Chin Abdullah, was detained under one such law.

The list of institutional failures includes that of the media. Some outlets fought and went down, like The Malaysian Insider. The mainstream press is owned directly by political parties or businessmen friendly to the establishment. Periodic license renewals keep them on their toes. Newspapers editors who did report on 1MDB were called in for police investigation.

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Malaysia’s Infamous Auditor-General

Institutional failure and lack of accountability are not limited to 1MDB. Year after year, the Auditor General has revealed staggering cases of mismanaged public funds. Government bodies bought wall clocks at RM 3,810 a piece (the market price is easily below RM 100) and scanners for RM 14,670 (market price: RM 200). The “normalization of corruption” is deeply embedded in the existing hierarchy, from the top to the bottom. In the newly released report, the auditors found that the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) lost hundreds of millions due to multiple transactions without proper authorization, dubious planning and execution, and complete mismanagement. It made news for two to three days before disappearing, like pretty much every other scandal. Corrupt acts are committed and revealed, followed by public outrage. But with no institution to exercise accountability, the news eventually disappears. It has become a normal cycle.

Late last year, the National Security Council Act was passed to enable the prime minister to declare an area of emergency as he deems necessary, without the approval of any other institution. Which raises the question: Are there any institutional safeguards to guarantee a peaceful transition of power even if the government fails to recapture popular support in the election?

Societal Fault Lines: One Cleavage Too Many

The fault lines of Malaysian society are too many and too deep, with groups frequently divided along ethnic and religious lines. Due to this, Najib can easily turn a once-unified opposition against one another.

Dr Jamil Khir Baharom, a minister in charge of religious affairs under Najib’s cabinet, paraded a bill amendment to increase the power of the Shariah court. PAS’s dream is to establish an Islamic state by implementing Islamic law, which cannot be fully enforced given the current restrictions on the maximum punishments the Shariah court can spell out. Under the revised version of the proposed amendment, the Shariah court will be strengthened by raising the punishment ceiling to 30 years in prison, a RM 100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of caning.

Image result for Najib and Hadi

Playing with the Islamic Fire

Najib’s olive branch to PAS is working, enticing the party away from cooperation with the opposition and thus sapping the opposition’s strength among the all-important Malay and rural areas.

In Malaysia ,where nearly everything is seen through the lens of race and religion, the push for Islamic law will effectively split society. Since all Malays are Muslims in this country (one’s professed religion is one of the constitutional definitions of being an ethnic Malay), debates on the bill can dangerously be turned into a sectarian conflict.

In the run-up to the November 19 rally, thugs dressed in red threatened the Bersih convoy. The Red Shirts, as they came to be known, are all ethnic Malays led by an UMNO division chief. Threats of violence aside, the racial rhetoric has become too discomforting. Last year, what was a typical robber and shopkeeper brawl turned into dangerous racial gatherings as the two groups called their friends, resulting in a mini-riot that night. In the aftermath of the previous election, the prime minister and the party’s de facto mouthpiece, Utusan Malaysia, denounced the Chinese as a scapegoat of opposition agents. All these societal fault lines testify to the enormity of the task to to unseat Najib.

The by-elections last year might provide some hint as to how the general elections will turn out. Najib’s coalition won both of them. I was in the suburban areas when opposition parties held a town hall panel session, inevitably speaking in English, touching on issues such as the removal of the Attorney-General. While these are big, national issues, it felt out of place. There is a visible gap between the politicians, the city folks, the demonstrators who so urgently and desperately want reforms, and the voters outside the cities, who voted for candidates affiliated to Najib’s party.

To speak plainly, people don’t mind the status quo as long as they are not affected at the most immediate and personal level. The whole 1MDB scandal has been too complicated to be explained to non-English literate voters with no understanding of the complex technical terms, in a five-minute rally. Financial scandals grow more complicated and people just lose interest. Maybe they underestimate the cost of it all, maybe they don’t care enough or just don’t lose enough; either way they are not angry enough to want to change the status quo.

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The partnership that can rattle the beleaguered Al-Kebas aka Malaysian Official 1–Najib Razak

What’s next? Even the unholy alliance between Anwar and Mahathir won’t be able to fight off the structural inequality of power and institutional failures. If political change is not sufficient, will it take an economic downturn to bring change in Malaysia, like Indonesia? In 1998, a combined factor of internal dissidents and economic instability brought the dictatorial Suharto era to an end and ushered in the Reformasi period. If neighboring Indonesia can live embedded in a dictatorship for 40 years and then undergo rapid democratization in so short a time, we can’t and shouldn’t rule anything out yet in Malaysia. But it will take a miracle.

Ooi Kok Hin is an analyst with the Penang Institute. He writes on political and social developments and Southeast Asian affairs.

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PKR show some Respect –Women can be Leaders not Seat Warmers


December 29, 2016

PKR show some Respect –Women can be Leaders not Seat Warmers

by Dr Kua Kia Soong@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is a living example of a Woman in Power

From the first time that she entered the political arena as the candidate for the Parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh after her husband’s incarceration, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Kak Wan) has been treated as the seat warmer for Anwar Ibrahim until whenever he is released and available to contest in the election. The latest such gambit is the suggestion by Lim Kit Siang that she should be made interim prime minister if the opposition wins the next general election.

Image result for Maggie Thatcher Quotes

Yes, Maggie, but you were never an Interim Prime Minister of Great Britain

Is that paying equal respect to women as candidates in the political process? Is that paying equal respect to Kak Wan? Does that suggestion accurately reflect the position that the opposition coalition has on women as political candidates? And overall, what are opposition supporters to conclude about the standing of women within the opposition?

These are not of course not the only times that Kak Wan has been suggested to be the seat warmer for Anwar. During the hare-brained “Kajang Move” in 2014, Kak Wan was supposed to have been the “interim menteri besar” for Selangor except that the plans went awry and Azmin Ali ended up as the MB instead. The consequences of this ill-thought-out political scheme had even more serious consequences for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition when PAS was ejected from the coalition.

Women are NOT seat warmers for their husbands

Image result for Wan Azizah and Anwar

In 2008, Kak Wan had to resign her seat to make way for her husband to retake the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election even though either the Chief Minister of Penang or the MB of Selangor could have relinquished their seats for Anwar since they already had enough on their plates in looking after their own respective states. Nonetheless, as far as I know, no feminist at that time raised any objections even though Kak Wan was already an elected Member of Parliament in her own right.

Considering that she is now being considered to be the candidate for “interim prime minister”, isn’t it strange that in 2008, none of the men in Pakatan Rakyat thought that Kak Wan deserved to keep her parliamentary seat while alternative arrangements could have been made to accommodate Anwar such as I have suggested above? This is a basic feminist demand.

However, during the so-called Kajang Move, “feminist” arguments were suddenly proffered to justify Kak Wan being the “interim menteri besar of Selangor” when it was evident that the choice of Kak Wan or Azmin Ali was the bone of contention between DAP, PKR and PAS. Concerned Malaysians should note that this was the real cause of the ejection of PAS from the opposition coalition and not the hudud issue as it is often made out to be. After all, hudud has been part and parcel of PAS ideology since the Islamic party started decades ago.

Should the MB for Selangor be decided on merit or can feminist arguments be used to justify Kak Wan as the “interim” MB? Note that it is not clear if the argument is for Kak Wan to be MB in her own right, on her own strengths, or whether this is an argument for why she cannot be the “interim” MB.

Is there hope for an eternal “interim” coalition?

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Interim Opposition Coalition Prime Minister–Dr. Mahathir Mohamad?

So long as the opposition coalition cannot envision a leadership without Anwar, it will be continually thinking in “interim” circles while excuses will continue to be shovelled out for why there cannot be a shadow cabinet at this stage. As for policies, their differentia specifica visavis Barisan Nasional is not clear. This is the core weakness of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, not anything else. Real feminist issues like that of ensuring a greater representation of women will be relegated to such tokenistic concessions as being the “interim prime minister” or whatever.

Is the lady for turning?

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This is my New Year’s Message to the Young Women and Men in my country, Malaysia. Never allow our corrupt and incompetent leaders to lead you by your noses like Kerbaus (Buffaloes) and Lembus ( Cows). Stand Up and Be Counted because we can individually and collectively make a difference. If we cannot do that after 60 years of Independence, something is seriously wrong with all of us as a people. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.–Din Merican

“The lady’s not for turning” was the statement made famous by Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister in 1980 when she stood her ground against the men in her party. Although we do not agree with her policies, this turn of phrase shows that she was a woman with a mind of her own… and she was not about to be any man’s “interim whatever”!

It is this principle that needs to be seen to be rigorously upheld if women’s political participation is to be taken seriously and given the equal respect it deserves, by both the opposition party leaders and their supporters.

Kua Kia Soong is adviser to Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

Malaysia: Why Democratic Change Has Not Been Possible


December 16,2016

Malaysia: Why Democratic Change Has Not Been Possible

Anwar Ibrahim’s Quest for Freedom denied by Federal Court


December 14, 2016

Anwar Ibrahim’s Quest for Freedom denied by Federal Court

by Hafidz Yatim

http://www.malaysiakini.com

This outcome is not unexpected because our Judiciary is not independent.  Out of the window goes our system of checks and balances when the Executive Branch overpowers our Judiciary and Parliament (the Legislative branch), and the Rule of Law is absent.

As my friend  Stanford University’s Dr. David Cohen said at a seminar at The University of Cambodia Human Rights Forum a few days ago that without the Rule of Law a citizen is denied Justice. “The Rule of Law is the foundation of Human Rights and good governance is an essential element of the Rule of Law.”–Din Merican

The Federal  Court today dismissed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s review of the Sodomy II conviction and sentence. With this, Anwar, formerly Malaysia’s opposition leader, is expected to remain in jail until mid-2018.

Image result for Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin

Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin

The Five-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin ruled there was no bias or procedural unfairnes in the decision of the previous Federal Court panel.

On the issue of the premature and swift response from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Sodomy II verdict on February 10 last year, Justice Zulkefli said while the statement, as argued by the appellant, had given the public the impression that Anwar did not receive a fair and independent hearing, the court took the view it was not within the control of the court to stop the issuance of the statement.

“As a separate branch of the government, the Judiciary and the courts operate independently in their decision-making process, with no interference from other branches of government.There has to exist a clear separation of powers between the judiciary and the other two arms of the government in order to uphold the rule of law,” he said.

Ruling further that there was no merit in the allegation that the statement was issued prematurely, he added this did not fall under the ambit of Rule 137 (that allowed a review).

“There is no evidence to show that there was any communication whatsoever between the PMO and the Federal Court, either prior or subsequent to the decision on the case,” Justice Zulkefli said in the unanimous decision.

The other judges were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum, along with Federal court judges Hasan Lah, Abu Samah Nordin and Zaharah Ibrahim.

However Justice Malanjum was not on the bench today as he had to attend the funeral of a relative who had passed away.

Shafee’s conduct no bearing on outcome

The Federal Court also dismissed the questioning of the conduct of senior lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who led the prosecution team in the Sodomy II appeals in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court, by Anwar’s lawyers.

Image result for Shafee Abdullah

Justice Zulkefli said while the appellant contended that Shafee’s speech at a roadshow had tainted the prosecutor’s office in conducting the trial fairly, the court was of the view that the alleged misconduct, if any, had no bearing on the outcome of the decision of the Federal Court.

“We noted there is no evidence furnished or averment of any sort made by the applicant to suggest that this alleged misconduct of the lead prosecutor had influenced the decision of the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015,” he said. The judge further cited Shafee’s appointment as prosecutor by the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

On the earlier Federal Court’s judgment by Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria, which made mention of previous sodomy incidents that had been ruled as expunged by the High Court, Justice Zulkefli said this issue of misevaluation of evidence, improper direction and non-direction of the trial judge were not within the permitted circumstances that the court could exercise its inherent jurisdiction to review.

“We would like to state on this issue now raised before us that we found that it was not raised before the Federal Court. It is for this reason that we think the Federal Court did not address this point at all and hence no reason was given on the issue of the admission or rejection of the alleged inadmissible evidence,” he said.

On the issue of complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan not bringing the lubricant KY Jelly, the Federal Court said according to the record of proceedings in the High Court, it was dealt with extensively by both the defence and the prosecution.

Justice Zulkefli said the earlier judgment by the Federal Court court held there was no conclusive proof that KY Jelly had spilled on the carpet and it was of the view that the carpet was not a critical piece of evidence to the prosecution’s case. “It is therefore our judgment that this issue of KY Jelly raised by the applicant is a non-issue and it had not caused injustice to the applicant,” he said.

While Anwar’s defence team maintained the integrity of the crime scene was compromised as Saiful had claimed the incident took place on the carpet in Unit 11-5-1, whereas the carpet was found in Unit 11-5-2, the court held that it could not accept the argument as the earlier panel ruled the issue of how the carpet was moved was not critical to the prosecution’s case.

“We do not think that we should look into what that other compelling evidence was as found by the Federal Court,” Justice Zulkefli said.

The court also ruled there was no merit to Anwar’s defence contention that there was a break in the chain of evidence, saying there was no serious injustice in the chain of custody of the exhibits.

“For the above reasons, we find there is no merit in the application and this is not a fit and proper case for the court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to make any order for the case to be reviewed,” Justice Zulkefli said.

Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC


September 20, 2016

Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC

 by FMT Reporters

Opposition leader stresses the present, not past, is his main concern following daughter’s push for apology from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar-Mahathir

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his former mentor-turned-nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad have issued a joint statement against the National Security Council (NSC) Act.

The statement, which was confirmed by Anwar himself, voices concern that the NSC is a threat to democracy in the country. “We notice that almost all institutions in the country, such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Attorney-General and Bank Negara are fully under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s control.”

The two former UMNO leaders said that the NSC denies the right of slain officers or civilians to a post-mortem to determine their cause of death, adding this will lead to higher chances of wrongdoing.

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“This act has cast aside the role and powers of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Council of Malay Rulers in the realm of public safety and freedom.”

Thus, Anwar and Mahathir said they were united with the people to fight the NSC, and to bring change and reform to protect the rights and freedoms of Malaysians and to bring progress to Malaysia once more.

Anwar told reporters when met at the High Court here today (September 19) that the joint statement is a good initiative. He also responded to questions regarding his daughter, Nurul Nuha Anwar, asking Mahathir to apologise for the latter’s transgressions against him in the past.

“The problem is that all of this happened so sudden. I had no opportunity to speak to my children.I  have explained it to my children. It is enough. We have suffered immensely.”

Last week, Nurul Nuha had urged Mahathir to own up for his accusations and other actions that led to her father’s arrest and conviction for sodomy and corruption in 1998.

Anwar said his concern now was the present, and that he was appreciative of Mahathir’s support against the NSC, adding that “reformasi” is still important. When asked whether he had forgiven Mahathir, Anwar responded by saying that he had forgiven a lot of people.

On September 5, Mahathir turned up at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to show his support for Anwar’s suit against the government over the NSC. It was the first time in 18 years that the two adversaries had met.

The Handshake that can rattle the beleaguered Al-Kebas aka Malaysian Official 1


September 6, 2016

The Handshake that can rattle the beleaguered Al-Kebas aka Malaysian Official 1

by Abdar Rahman Koya

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

A reconciliation between Anwar and Mahathir can ignite the spark needed to address the opposition’s biggest weakness: political lethargy and incoherence.

Image result for Anwar meets Mahathir

For those of us whose exposure to Malaysian politics began in 1998, yesterday’s handshake between Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim was surreal and, of course, historic.

Eighteen years ago, the forty-something among us today had just graduated into a volatile economy, only to find ourselves thrust into the streets every Saturday afternoon punching the air and shouting slogans demanding Mahathir’s resignation.

Young adults of that era would have moved on today, getting busy with bread and butter issues and probably having to deal with protests by their young ones that would now and then flare up at home.

Yet, most will agree that the 1998-1999 period was the best of times and the worst of times for Malaysia.

It was during this period that Kuala Lumpur witnessed some of the largest anti-government rallies in its history, and they came at a time when it was taboo to even mention the idea of toppling Mahathir, someone who had given himself the image of the Great Leader.

A rare explosion of opposition rallied under one leader armed with his charisma and singled out another leader as the source of all of the country’s ills. It struck a chord that has kept playing for 18 years, during which time Anwar and Mahathir proved themselves to be the two toughest nuts in Malaysian politics.

Giving credit where it’s due, Anwar with his countless charges and court appearances, and now serving a second imprisonment, has remained committed to his cause. And it doesn’t matter that he has a personal ambition to be prime minister or that he has shown incorrigible optimism in an opposition force that has repeatedly proven to be dysfunctional if not in disarray.

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Mahathir, on the other hand, has come up from being a symbol of hatred among the Malays for his treatment of Anwar to someone who left office retaining much of the goodwill he gained during Malaysia’s rise as an economic powerhouse in the mid-nineties, when mega structures gave tell-tale signs of an economic bubble waiting to burst.

The institutionalisation of Mahathir in Malaysian politics means that no matter what he does or says, his legacy will be hard to erase.

The present administration knows this too well. It is after all saddled with his legacies, which have become national symbols, whether or not they are failures or successes, Proton being one example and Putrajaya another.

The truth is that Mahathir is not going away easily from the Malaysian conscience. His is a legacy solidly kept within concrete walls, not unlike the time capsule he cleverly planted behind a plaque with his name on it at the Kuala Lumpur Tower. And then there are the many other mega structures that so characterised his rule, all probably containing messages he wrote that a future prime minister may be forced to read out long after his demise.

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Now that the two greatest political animals have met and made amends, the question to be asked is: At what price? It is true both are driven by a sense of desperation, but remember that in politics, desperation can be a necessity.

Will the Anwar-Mahathir handshake lead to an explosion of nostalgia from that large segment of the population that is composed of those who have lived much of their lives under their leadership?

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If there is this nostalgia and if a Anwar-Mahathir rapprochement succeeds in exploiting it, it is time for the other camp to be worried and not simply dismiss the two as political has-beens trying to jump start an engine which has rusted.

Nostalgia has worked wonders before, sometimes with dire consequences, of course. Many political movements all over the world have been fueled by remembrances of glorious pasts. For example, the Taliban’s longing for medieval times once took Afghanistan by storm, and Hitler’s drum beating of a great race led to his meteoric rise.

Nostalgia today is replayed again in Europe. Indeed, nowhere was its potential more mistakenly dismissed than when Britons voted in droves to get out of the European Union last June.

It is this type of nostalgia that the Najib administration should be worried about, now that the 91-year-old Mahathir has taken the trouble to see his nemesis.

This is not merely the coming together of two leaders who have fought from opposite poles and stood the test of time, but potentially the ignition of the spark needed to address the opposition’s biggest weakness: political lethargy.

If Najib dismisses the handshake as anything less than it was, it will be to his own peril.