Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas

March 21, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim: The Rainmaker of Ideas–In celebration of his imminent release from Prison

By Pan Jin Ming

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimAnwar Ibrahim–The Charismatic Ketua Umum, Parti KeADILan Rakyat


“God does not play dice,” Albert Einstein is known to have once said. He was referring to the symmetry and completeness of the universe. Even if the universe, as some physicists believe, continues to expand, its expansion is derived from clear mathematical formula.

But the vastness of the universe—-if one insists multiverse—-makes one prone to a state of forgetfulness. Invariably, “insan,” a Quranic description of humankind, that who is inclined to forget, is a key concept in Islamic hermeneutics. The latter may seem like a big word. But it means human interpretation of the revealed scripture.

One of the first Malaysian scholars to unpack the meaning of “insan,” was Professor Syed Naquib Al Attas, the original founder of the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) whose existence under International Islamic University (IIU) was discontinued; though there are discordant voices to restore it.

Professor Naquib Al Attas explained in “Faces of Islam,” one of the first Islamic programs in TV3 back in the mid 1980s, that it was precisely due to the forgetful nature of humankind, that God has to manifest Himself in the form of readable and recitable words that is the Quran.

Anwar Ibrahim, then in his mid 30s, appeared as one of the speakers of “Faces of Islam” too. Being a former student of Syed Naquib Alattas, Anwar Ibrahim naturally carried the flair of his grandmaster. But, through out the hour long interview by Dr Ziauddin Sardar, the host of the “Faces of Islam,” Anwar Ibrahim spoke time and again on the meaning of ‘Tawhid,’ or, the Unity of God.

In other words, while all of us may be different by the intentional designs of God, He nonetheless has a teleological view of how all of us should co-exist. In the mind of God, the best of the humankind were those who spoke “truths to power.”

Between 1980s and 2018, whether Anwar Ibrahim is in or out of incarceration due to trumped up charges, he has always been consistent in telling the truths.

He warned, for example, that 1MDB would explode into a financial disaster. Sadly, events have proved him right. Anwar Ibrahim, in his Malay book, “Menangani Perubahan,” literally to handle change in a deliberate manner, further attests to the importance of civil society existing side by side with the state.

Again, the proliferation of Bersih, Tindak, C4, and Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), even Sisters in Islam, have proven themselves vital and necessary to the creation of a just society, one governed by the Rule of Law.

In his heydays of UMNO, when Anwar Ibrahim was the Deputy President of the party, he was intent on giving due emphasis on Islam Madani, or, civil Islam. Such an Islamic concept would have served as a mirror to reflect on the flaws and failings of the state.

Image result for Din Merican on Anwar IbrahimThe Loneliness of a Long Distance Political Runner


In this sense, Anwar Ibrahim has always tried to don the role of a rain maker, albeit of the intellectual kind. When ideas and concepts were lacking in the dreary landscape of Malaysia, he was one of the first to introduce the works of Ismail Al Faruqi, Parvez Manzor, Usman Awang, A. Samad Said, indeed, Malik Ben Nabi and Sheikh Qaradawi.

Elsewhere, Anwar Ibrahim also encouraged more Malaysians to read the works of Allan Bloom, author of “The Closing of the American Mind,” or, Gai Eaton, or, even Professor Toshiko Izutsu and Professor Tu Wei Ming.

Image result for The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was a best seller when it was released in 1987 (Hardcover)

The generation of thinkers who had worked with Anwar Ibrahim gained amply from such a long and sophisticated reading list. The likes of Dr Mohammad Al Manuty, at one stage the president of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia or ABIM, had served him in good stead. Manuty, came away, well read and perpetually curious; while others like Kamaruddin Jaffar, another confidante of Anwar Ibrahim, too, did not abandon his scholastic leanings.

In fact, the current campus of the International Islamic University has Anwar Ibrahim to thank. It was during Anwar Ibrahim’s tenure as the Minister of Finance in the mid 1990s that the actual size of the International Islamic University was allowed to grow manifold in the Gombak campus.

In the eyes of many, Anwar Ibrahim may be the perennial political fighter. After all, his creed, “Lawan Tetap Lawan,” or, The Fight Must Go On, has always been his talismanic call in any general election.

But the truth is, Anwar Ibrahim is not so much what the contemporary parlance would call a ‘realist,’ as he is either a ‘magical realist,’ in the mould of Gabriella Marquez, a Noble playwright, or, a ‘constructivist.’

As a ‘magical realist,’ all things can happen. Like “The Count of Monte Cristo,” who was wrongly imprisoned, French author Victor Hugo wrote of a character who escaped his dreadful imprisonment to wreak revenge on those who sent him to the gallows.

Anwar Ibrahim, as Tun Dr Mahathir may attest, does not want his wife or his daughter, to hold a permanent grudge against Tun Dr Mahathir. The goal in life was to forgive, with a vision to move on, and up.

Anwar Ibrahim is not an enigmatic figure by virtue of his exotic reading habits. Rather, the strength of Anwar Ibrahim comes from his ability to challenge his readers to a serious read and new potential. The moment a person begins to keep up with his readings, and writings, that’s when s/he can grow exponentially.

Image result for The Asian Renaissance by Anwar Ibrahim

When the political tsunami in Malaysia comes right on time by the 14th general election, Anwar Ibrahim’s true power may rest in his ability to inspire the nation to devour their books once again, even if they may be in the form of surfing through Kindle or Good Reads.

In this sense, the upcoming tsunami of Malaysia, as preferred by Anwar Ibrahim, would be intellectual first, although having lost so much time, due to unfair imprisonment, Anwar Ibrahim may concurrently instigate people to read and do.

The role of a rainmaker is to fill up the lakes and dams. Only when the right policy knowledge is all dammed up, would Malaysia be ready for serious restructuring of the political economy of Malaysia.

The latter has now become a truculent version of its old self, devouring nothing else but the disposal income of the average citizens.

For a tsunami to wipe the slate of Malaysia clean, the place to begin is to read deeply and widely. Once this is done, academic knowledge imbued with democracy and respectful spirit of listening, would form the crucible of an actual policy or intellectual discourse.

When Malaysians of all colors and creeds can remind each other of the flaws faced by the country, than piecemeal solutions can be found.

Just like the ice cap mountains whose melted water can turn into a torrent, Anwar Ibrahim has the effect of triggering a tsunami in rural and urban areas that are thirsting for books, papers, magazines, and alternative media—-none of which are sheer pulp.

A true tsunami begins with throwing away the yoke of oppression and the post colonial mentality of fearing nothing but the state. Malaysia can go far, especially if more Malaysians are ready to be counted.

Also read my views on Anwar Ibrahim ( Published on  |  Modified on


Mahathir 2.0 and the new Malay Dilemma

February 6, 2018

Mahathir 2.0 and the new Malay Dilemma

Sunil Kukreja
“Mahathir’s political dance will certainly be one not before performed: that he remains steadfastly committed to the future of Malays and Malaysia, and that this impending future must now be once again rescued and secured – much as he did decades ago – under the stewardship of a more dependable and responsible leadership.”–Sunil Kukreja


Hence the big unknown this time around remains whether the return of Mahathir (and despite some of the lingering negativity associated with his legacy) will in fact be sufficient not only to not undermine the urban support that the opposition garnered in 2013, but somehow enable them to make a breakthrough with rural Malay voters.

For their part, the willingness of the PKR and DAP to feature Mahathir at the top of the ticket as their prime-ministerial candidate quite simply reflects the game plan of challenging UMNO’s supremacy in the Malay rural heartland. Of course, for PKR and DAP to accept Mahathir into their bid to break UMNO’s grip on power also required some serious soul-searching considering the long-standing adversarial relationship they have had with him.

But if politics tend periodically to make for strange bedfellows, it must also be noted that whatever Mahathir’s motivations may be, the PKR and DAP recognize all too well that political change also requires pragmatism.

Capitalizing on Mahathir’s appeal in the Malay heartland is based on at least two premises: first, that there is sufficient discontent with Najib’s leadership across parts of the traditional rural UMNO base, for example in states like Johor, Kedah and Perak, and second, that a known and trusted champion of Malay rights (like Mahathir) could be a reassuring enough option to pull enough rural Malay voters to cross over and tip the balance in the opposition’s favor.

In a highly racialized political and social system, the fact that the majority of rural Malay voters nationally have never before gambled with supporting any other coalition than the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional is significant. UMNO’s ability to have kept this segment of the electorate secure in its grasp has been imperative – and will remain so – to its political fortunes.

Mahathir’s initial rise to political prominence in the latter part of the 1970s was very directly linked to his articulation of an ideology of Malay chauvinism bundled into a rationalization for special Malay rights both as a security blanket against marginalization vis-a-vis non-Malays and justification for affirming Malay indigeneity. It is precisely this ideology that has become all-pervasive in ensuring UMNO’s grip on much of the rural Malay electorate.

Mahathir’s political dance will certainly be one not before performed: that he remains steadfastly committed to the future of Malays and Malaysia, and that this impending future must now be once again rescued and secured – much as he did decades ago – under the stewardship of a more dependable and responsible leadership.

FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

February 3, 2018

FA Abdul defends the Right to Protest

by FA

COMMENT | “Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”

Image result for Fa AbdulMs. FA Abdul

These were some comments I received from friends when I shared posts about Bersih 2.0 rally on social media a few years ago. Clearly, they did not think much about the movement then, what more of its ability to bring about changes in the government through a peaceful protest.

However, it never stopped the rally organisers form keeping the movement going until Bersih 5 in 2016. At the same time, supporters of the rally continued marching the streets of Malaysia with their yellow spirit intact.

For those who took part in the rallies, their protest meant something. It was beyond their campaign’s objective which was to demand for a clean and fair elections.

Everyone who participated in those rallies had their own reasons for marching on the streets. Some wanted a new government; some wanted racism and bigotry to end; some wanted the corrupt to be prosecuted; some wanted Bangsa Malaysia; yada yada yada.

They all wanted change. However, despite wanting things to change in Malaysia, they were wise enough to know that the changes they desired, was not going to come just rolling to their feet following street protests. They knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Image result for Bersih 4.0Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican joined BERSIH 4.0 in 2015 because they wanted  clean, free and fair elections to elect a government which is competent, accountable and transparent. They supported civil society activists–Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria Chin, and Haris Ibrahim In 2018, Malaysians are being put in a situation of having to choose either Pepsi (UMNO-BN) or Coca Cola (Pakatan Harapan). What would you do?–Din Merican


Yet, they continued taking part in the rally from 2011 to 2016. And some, even began wearing their Bersih yellow T-shirts proudly every Saturday throughout the years.

What were they trying to achieve? Nothing much, really. They just wanted to make a statement – that they were unhappy with the current situation and wanted things to change.

Today, we come across another movement who claim to be unhappy with the current situation and want things to change. Yes, I am talking about the #undirosak movement.

Just like the Bersih supporters were condemned back then, today the #undirosak supporters, too, are condemned using similar words.

“Stupidity of the highest order.”

“Drama queen.”

“Better stay at home.”

“Not gonna change anything.”

“Causing trouble to others.”


Oddly, most of those who are throwing this flak are none other than those who used to march the streets of our country proudly clad in their yellow Bersih tees.

Image result for UndiRosak movement

While they believed it was their right to freedom of expression to make a statement (never mind how others perceived it) today they seem to be quick enough to mock and bully others who choose to stand on the same principle.

Why the hypocrisy? Voting is a statement. Be it a cross for BN or a cross for the Opposition. A spoilt vote is also a statement. A stronger one, if I may say so. I may not support the #undirosak movement, but I respect their stand and I acknowledge their statement. I don’t expect others to do the same – but at least respect their right to do so.

Everyone has the right to dissent and protest. Bersih rally supporters had the right back then and the #undirosak supporters should be given their right today.

Image result for UndiRosak movement

Malaysia’s Born Again Democrat and Reformer

After all, what is democracy if not the freedom to protest?

FA ABDUL is a passionate storyteller, a growing media trainer, an aspiring playwright, a regular director, a struggling producer, a self-acclaimed photographer, an expert Facebooker, a lazy blogger, a part-time queen and a full-time vainpot.

Chandra Muzaffar: Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim sidelined Rukunegara

January 30, 2018

Chandra Muzaffar: Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim sidelined Rukunegara

Image result for mahathir and anwar
Dr. Mahathir  Mohamad and his Deputy Anwar Ibrahim before Sodomy 1 (1998)


(Berita Daily) – Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sidelined Rukunegara due to his rivalry with former Home Minister Ghazali Shafie, revealed 1Malaysia Foundation chairman Chandra Muzaffar today (Jan 28).

Image result for Ghazali Shafie


“Mahathir deliberately ignored Rukunegara. There is not a single speech of his that emphasised on the importance of Rukunegara,” said Chandra at G25’s session on moderation and administration of Islam in Malaysia.

“The subcommittee on Rukunegara was led by Ghazali Shafie and we all know the rivalry of Mahathir with Ghazali. It was real. Dr Mahathir’s political secretary was arrested by the order of then Home Minister Ghazali Shafie,” he said.

Image result for pakatan harapanTogether again in Pakatan Harapan–A Political Arrangement of Convenience


“It is a tragedy because Rukunegara is a national philosophy.” Chandra also noted that Mahathir had a certain ideological understanding and perception of Islam. “He brought the young Islamist, Anwar Ibrahim. That’s why there is an International Islamic University. He did not want the Rukunegara in the way.

Image result for chandra muzaffar

Chandra added Mahathir also introduced Vision 2020 as a way to permanently keep the Rukunegara on the sidelines. “On February 1991, Mahathir came out with Vision 2020, effectively sidelining Rukunegara. Five out of nine challenges in Vision 2020 are related to Rukunegara.He wanted something that made his mark,” he said.

As for Anwar’s reluctance on Rukunegara, Chandra said: “He had a certain view of Islam related to Jamaat Islam similar to Muslim Brotherhood. He saw Rukunegara as a barrier to an Islamic order.”

Aside from the two politicians, changing environment also did not make it attractive for Muslims to push for Rukunegara even though the principles did not go against the principles of Islam, Chandra said.

“In the 1970s and 1980s there was rapid urbanisation and Malays in urban areas were conscious of their identity. The Islamic ethos began and Rukunegara did not fit in.”

As for non-Muslims, there were other factors that made Rukunegara not attractive, said Chandra.

“For non-Muslims, they didn’t see it as critical even though the principles are universal and inclusive. There is nothing concrete that can be identified like when you look in the constitution,” he said in reference to articles 152 and 153. For their politicians, their issues and concerns are of their respective ethnic communities,” said Chandra.


Malaysia: GE-14 Elections could go either way

January 16, 2018

GE-14 Elections could go either way: Kalimullah Hassan, Advisor to former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

by Kalimullah Hassan

This is adapted from a speech by a veteran journalist-turned businessman to a regional forum put on by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore on January 9, 2018. 

Image result for Kalimullah Hassan

Dato’ Kalimullah Hassan

Malaysia’s next general election must be called by June by a government that over the past five years has been wracked with financial scandals, an inability to curb rising living costs and income inequality and has seemingly lost a clear vision for the future.

After more than a decade of steadily losing its rural lifeline, common sense would dictate that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government faces an uphill task in retaining a comfortable majority. In fact, as an observer of Malaysian politics and having seen the last eight general elections either as a journalist or an insider, this is one election I will not be comfortable in predicting. There are too many new parts to the equation and any prediction would be, at best, an educated guess.

Long, futile wait for political change

However, although Malaysia’s urban and civil society have long rooted for political change, their views have not prevailed over a vast rural electorate – mostly ethnic Malay and Muslim — that traditionally has supported the ruling Barisan Nasional and its leading political party, the United Malays National Organization.

Image result for Kalimullah Hassan

Still, since the dramatic 2008 general election when the BN lost its two-thirds majority, and 2013 when it actually lost the popular vote but still maintained its grip on power viua gerrymandering and the first-past-the-post system, its share of rural votes has been declining.

The Barisan’s popularity peaked in 1995 with 65 percent of the popular votes, although in 2004 it won 90 percent of the parliamentary seats on 63.9 percent of the popular vote. Since that time, its sway via both the popular vote and parliamentary majorities have been declining. Its worst result was in 2013 when it won 59 percent of the parliamentary seats with only 46 per cent of the popular votes.

Since 1955 and the first general elections in what was then the Federation of Malaya, and since 1963, after the formation of Malaysia, save for a blip in 1969, the rural areas have traditionally been the vote bank for the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor, the Alliance.

Fixed Deposit in the east

And since 1963, the relatively under-developed states of Sabah and Sarawak, which today account for 57 parliamentary seats or about 26 percent of the seats in Parliament – have almost overwhelmingly voted for the BN; so much so that they are referred to as the BN’s fixed deposit.

Similarly, the rural heartland in the Peninsula – where FELDA rural land development schemes account for almost another quarter of the parliamentary seats – have also traditionally supported the BN. But today, save for Sarawak, it appears that it will be down to the wire in the FELDA-seats and in Sabah.

Image result for Naijb Razak praying to God in MeccaWith the outcome of GE-14 uncertain, Najib Razak is praying for God’s Help in Mecca


There is no question that the traditional BN vote bank is hurting. Job opportunities are scarcer, the cost of living has risen, subsidies on many essential items such as petrol have been removed, college education no longer guarantees a good job, the ringgit has weakened against other currencies so much so that even once cheap havens like Thailand and India are now expensive.

Does that mean that the traditional vote bank is going to go against a government beset with corruption scandals and a bungling political leadership? That’s what many of the intellectuals and political pundits want to believe.

Could Go Either Way

But after seeing the Brexit vote and the election of US President Donald Trump, and in the absence of reliable polling, I am not so sure. My gut feel tells me that it could go either way. The trends over the last decade tell me that it could go either way. Anecdotal evidence in my travels through the country tell me it could go either way.

Yet, as all of us know, when you are about to mark the ballot, many other considerations come into play, considerations that do defy logic.

Related image
The Mahathir-led  Opposition Alliance– a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies–is dishing out promises of reform and hope


I take myself as an example. I am a businessman, well-travelled and I think, though some of my friends may dispute that, well-read. In 2013, I resolved that I could not, in all conscience, vote for the Barisan Nasional and I went to vote to fulfil that resolve. Yet, as I looked at the ballot paper, I realized that all my life, I had voted for the Barisan and I was not sure whether if the opposition alliance then won, they could rule any better.

I have been proven right to a certain extent because while the ruling party has continued to disappoint, the opposition alliance – a hodgepodge of differing dreams and ideologies, which a journalist friend of mine once described as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, has broken up with its strongest ally, the theocratic Parti Islam, which is now seemingly supportive of the Barisan Nasional.

But I was already in the booth and I had to vote: I split my vote – for Parliament, I voted the BN candidate whom I believed was sure to lose and for state, I voted the opposition candidate, who I was convinced would definitely win. I appeased my conscience and as so happened, the BN candidate did lose by a huge margin and the opposition candidate did win by a huge margin.

Pakatan Harapan: Stop fondling and just roll the dice and get on with the task of winning GE-14

January 14, 2018

Pakatan Harapan: Stop fondling and just roll the dice and get on with the task of winning GE-14

by S,Thayaparan

Politics is a matter of choices, and a man doesn’t set up the choices himself. And there is always a price to make a choice. You know that. You’ve made a choice, and you know how much it cost you. There is always a price.” – Robert Penn Warren (All the King’s Men)

Image result for tun dr mahathir mohamad ppbm

Dr. Mahathir Mohamad –Pakatan Harapan’s War Horse against UMNO-BN’s Grand Poobah, Najib Razak

COMMENT | What is this horse manure about “mixed views” on whether Mahathir Mohamad should be named “interim” Prime Minister? When will the amateur hour end for Pakatan Harapan? When Harapan embraced the former Prime Minister in their epic quest to oust the current Umno grand poobah, what did they think it meant? What did anyone think it meant?

As quoted in the press, some believe the term “interim” does not inspire “stability” which is why there should not be any doubt as to who will wear the crown if Putrajaya is taken. Forget about interim, just name the old man as Prime Minister and get down to the dirty business of winning the federal government.

This, after all, is what Harapan signed up for. This, after all, is the inevitable outcome of aligning with mainstream Malay power brokers. This is what happens when you claim that the country is in dire need of saving, and people must not be selfish and that there are no credible alternative plans to save the nation.

Mind you, I think there have always been people in the opposition or who support the opposition who have offered up credible alternative ideas but as usual, they were shouted down and dismissed as “idealists” or worse by people who have placed pragmatism over anything else.

Commit to chosen game

The opposition is not offering any visionary ideas; merely apocalyptic ones. Maybe this has something to do with the religious overtones of the opposition but at this point it really does not matter. Choices have been made. Compromises struck and the most important thing the opposition should do is commit to the game they have chosen to play.

Image result for religion
UMNO Grand Poobah in Mecca

This is what I wrote last year: “As I argued the former prime minister plays for keeps and if removing, the current UMNO Grand Poobah is the main goal than the former Prime Minister who has resuscitated the floundering opposition has to be given free rein in the possible destruction of UMNO. That is the only tactical play.”

You know what would really suck? If the opposition could actually win this election by aligning with the former Prime Minister, yet because they are acting like a bunch of precious snowflakes, with each group attempting to gain some concessions, they lose the plot and game.

How bad would it be if the opposition hamstrings the movement led by the former Prime Minister because the opposition is too busy squabbling over the prospect of a man they termed dictator getting back into power on their backs? These are the stakes you created and this is not the time for attempting some sort of compromise in case things go south.


Are people still holding out hope that political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim (photo) could be Prime Minister of this country? Who knows what could happen but the possibility of Anwar becoming Prime Minister should not be one of the goals when naming the position of the big cheese, especially not when the former Prime Minister is in play.

And why even use the term “interim”? Who does that term benefit? What is it supposed to signify? That the former Prime Minister, who the opposition at one time termed a tyrant, does not have a permanent hold on the position?

That there is a possibility that a more politically correct or acceptable candidate could fill the position? That the opposition is still committed to the reform agenda, hence “interim” could serve as a seat warmer until someone more credible steps up or is discovered or merely plays the political game mendaciously and inherits the crown?

Re-imagining alliance politics

Look, what is really happening is a re-imagining of alliance politics. The opposition keeps telling people that unlike BN, the non-Malays will have a say and not kowtow to the dominant Malay power structure if they choose Harapan. In other words, this is the new BN. If the former prime minister could re-imagine UMNO, then why not reimagine BN? That is the draw and what people think is a stable choice for this country.

At this moment in time, the average rakyat is on edge. They realise that they could vote for stability and continuity or go with someone they are unfamiliar with. The former Prime Minister is someone they are at least familiar with.

While the establishment may paint him as someone who is corrupt, there is a large demographic who are willing to bet – vote – that he and he alone can get this country back on track; that his party and his men, will take care of their interests and things will return to the imagined glory days where Malaysians were proud of God knows what.

UMNO political operatives are laughing their behinds off because all this waffling makes Harapan look like a bunch of amateurs. It makes it look as if personal agendas trump winning at any cost, which is what UMNO understands. It is also what the former prime minister understands, which is why in numerous articles, I have argued that the opposition should make it very clear that Mahathir Mohamad is their war chief and that ultimately the crown will rest on his head.

Has the opposition actually thought out how it would be if they win this general election? Have they got plans in place? I know for establishment power brokers like the former Prime Minister and his coterie, they actually do have a plan; who knows, this may even include some kind of reform of the system.

The reality is that the opposition has made the choices that it made. Collectively they brought us to this point. Stop fondling and just roll the dice.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.