People voted for a newer Malaysia, Ketuanan Melayu 2.0
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“The voters in GE-14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed”–Dr. Azly Rahman
COMMENT | As we read about the “Operasi Lalang 2.0” or “Weed-Out-the-Corrupt Campaign of the New Regime” at play and in full throttle as in the McCarthyism of our cultural sensibility, as we see more leaders hauled up to be tried for grand theft, money-laundering and for bankrupting and corroding society, we ask: what next in this metamorphosis and game of political karma we are to see?
All these against the backdrop of talks of the third car project, crooked bridge, political-party border-crossings, renewed demands to strengthen Malay rights, postponed promises, and to rebrand fundamentalist Islamic identity in preparation for the challenges posed by the super liberals and the LGBT. What will the new coalition transform into in a country whose political parties are addicted to a race-based ideology?
Then, there is the crucial issue of a newer UMNO and newer BN emerging, with talk of 40 UMNO MPs crossing over to Bersatu. There was also the latest statement by a minister that Ketuanan Melayu will end soon, replaced by the idea of making every Malaysian prosperous. Then the idea was immediately repudiated by another minister, a former Deputy prime Minister in the regime of the Najib Abdul Razak.
I have a sense that the latest developments in the continuing chaos produced in PKR, the seemingly silent DAP in addressing the issues the party once opposed, the talk of a new Indian party, and, of course, the strengthening and enlarging of Bersatu – all this points not only to the emergence of a BN reloaded, a 2.0 version of Malaysia’s race-based politics.
I might be wrong. We shall observe the developments. We may even see more “Kajang Moves”, cross-overs, and more intense struggle for power within and amongst the coalition parties.
The voters in GE14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed.
The hope for the non-Malays, non-bumiputera to stop being treated as second-class citizens in the land called Malaysia they and their parents and grandparents, too, toiled for will not be realised after all. The rhetoric of today’s new Malaysia is the same old rhetoric of keeping the status quo alive.
DAP is the New MCA?–The Silent Partner in Pakatan Harapan
This means that there will be no push for the idea of “Malaysian Malaysia” and equal opportunities in education, especially for all non-Malays. Hope buried. When the new coalition has transformed into a newer version of the old politics, the non-Malays can expect another five decades of racialised politics affecting the future of their children.
This is not a grim view of what I see developing. I am sure some of my esteemed readers, too, share a similar perspective of a hope for the triumph of multiculturalism dashing. Unless the Harapan government can, in unison, with consistency and as a policy, state its commitment to make Malaysia a place in which no Malaysian will be left behind.
Where are we heading?
Back to Umno and its sudden death. The talk about more UMNO MPs leaving for Bersatu is of concern for those who voted for hope and for real change.
But what will replace UMNO in this time of a “new Malaysia” in which race and religion continues to be the strongest force for the current regime as well, to continue policies inspired by her own apartheid system of divide and conquer with wealth, power, hegemony, and ideology as the hybrid of authoritarianism, continue to glue the still-cognitively unliberated society?
The question remains: what kind of Malaysian Malaysia do we wish to see? How will a rebranded Umno be an obstacle to this?
The key to dealing with any rot from happening is to educate for change. If the change we wish to see is for a Malaysia for all Malaysians, education, as the only means for a sustainable cognitive, cultural, personal and social progress should be the one taking lead.
When politics continues to travel the trajectory of ethnocentrism and only pays lip-service to multi-culturalism and the restructuring of society through a philosophy of education based on a truly Malaysian reconstructionism, we will fail as a people.
Education needs to step in and correct the political conveyor belt, changing course. As it is now, we are not seeing the Ministry of Education committed to producing such a change to reverse the major aspects of discrimination in the various levels of schooling. The issues of class, caste, race, religion and privilege is not addressed systemically.
Like many, I am concerned with the disjuncture between politics, education, economy, and national unity. There is an unhealthy development in the way party-politics is moving.
Our concerns may turn into fear of yet another wave of chaos as parties and followers and consumers of ideology and real and fake news alike prepare for another general election that will only bring stagnancy, not change.
Where are we heading? What then must we do to drum into the new regime that race-based politics should no longer be allowed to rear its ugly head?
*Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. More writings here.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
After two decades of reformasi, two generations of resistance to ‘Malaysia lama’ spent September addressing capacity crowds of Malaysians abroad about ‘Malaysia baru’ and the horizon ahead.
As the two veteran campaigners for Malaysia’s democracy traversed the Australian continent across September, another leader Anwar Ibrahim formally started his campaign to reclaim parliamentary leadership, nominating for the Port Dickson by-election almost 20 years to the day his jailing sparked off reformasi, the democratic reform movement that led to Malaysia’s regime change on May 9 this year.
Amid this frenetic activity was the background rattle of ruling party PKR’s own tightly contested polls this month, threatening to split it apart in bitter recriminations as two proteges contest to become Anwar’s party deputy. All at a time when this year’s historic victory under the PKR flag has become a drama of a fragile coalition, rather than about how the biggest ruling party enables reformasi coming to pass.
As veteran reformasi activist and PKR Vice-President Tian Chua blitzed three Australian cities in four days over the Hari Merdeka (Independence day) weekend, he provoked a raft of thorny questions about a new Malaysia that were sometimes left unanswered.
Those in two minds about new Malaysia’s ambivalence on liberalism, religious laws, and political values found the DAP icon Lim Kit Siang cajoling and bristling in front of record crowds over such questions a few weeks later. After a half-century as an integral part of Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, the once-‘Mr Opposition’ Lim now counsels patience and fortitude as an elder in the new government. Like Mr Chua earlier in the month, Mr Lim by September’s end encouraged Malaysians he met abroad to not judge the new coalition government too quickly or harshly.
The 77-year-old occasionally displayed flashes of his famed street-fighting rhetoric when parrying questions in jammed venues across Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, before continuing his tour of the Malaysian diaspora this week in New Zealand. Like his former nemesis and now coalition partner Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Lim took all questions, barbed and not, with a deftness and directness that was so alien to the previous prime minister’s leaden events.
He wanted the Melbourne crowd, which packed three rooms with scores more stranded outside on a Saturday evening, to forgive but not necessarily forget the DAP’s old foes. In the new Malaysia the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government hopes to build, “we all need to have a big picture outlook, to have a lo-o-o-ng vision.”
Nobody in the new government joined this endeavour with entirely clean hands, he said, and Malaysians when united demonstrated to the region how corrupt governments could be tossed out peacefully via the ballot box.
“Tainted people? We’re all tainted. To some, Mahathir is tainted,” he told the crowd. “Let’s give a chance to all who’re tainted to turn over a new leaf. We want Malaysia to succeed. In the past, some said ‘Malays must unite’ but today we say ‘Malaysians unite!’. So we must give them a chance. So we can go forward. So that we can be inclusive, so that we can be progressive.”
“That’s why when people ask how can Lim Kit Siang cooperate with Mahathir when he had put Lim Kit Siang in jail? Not only that, Mahathir put my son (new finance minister) Lim Guan Eng in jail, and Guan Eng’s daughter is here!” he said, as the audience applauded his granddaughter in the room.
“Yes, it’s not easy. But there’s the larger interest of the nation. Personally, of course, you’ve jailed me twice (referring to the previous Barisan Nasional regime). You say I’m anti-Malay, I’m anti-Islam, you tell lies about me. But what is the larger picture? If Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek can unite for the larger interest, why can’t we do so too? So we must be above ourselves, we must rise above our personal likes and dislikes. National interest, national good.
“So we’re in uncharted waters, in completely new territory,” he stressed. “There’s no simple answer to solve all problems. Of course there are a lot of reports about Mahathir, about Anwar disagreeing, but nobody can give answers to that. But you must have a positive outlook because we want the (PH) experiment to succeed. We don’t want it to fail. And if we continue with that approach, if Mahathir, if Anwar and everyone else has this approach, it will succeed, whatever difficulties and contradictions that arise. But if our attitude is ‘so what? let it fail’, then it will fail. But we want it to succeed. Of course the differences will develop, it will come. Let’s have a big picture outlook, a long vision. That’s also my message to the Malaysian diaspora. Not just now, tomorrow, the day after, but the next 10, 15, 20 years. Can we survive that?”
Mr Lim proved more gnomic and nuanced off stage the night before in Sydney, at a vegetarian dinner after a more formal panel discussion where he insisted Malaysia was created as a secular state, framed as it was by Sabah and Sarawak when the nation formed in 1963. He was relaxed about his ‘backseat’ role in the new government, he said, bemused when referred to as an ‘elder statesman’ after receiving the Bersih Sydney Democracy Award earlier in the evening. His political secretary, the young constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan, drew giggles among the Sydney crowd thanking the “boss” when Mr Lim pointed audience misunderstandings about Malay rights and religion for him to answer.
While the crowd had come to hail “the opposition legend”, as someone synonymous with leading the resistance against the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional government’s corruption and other abuses since 1969, there was also a reflection of where the past 20 years had left Mr Lim’s DAP and the instrumental role he played in the reformasi coalition.
There were principles of accountability, of good governance that couldn’t be cast aside, he said, that urgently needed reform in any ‘new Malaysia’. He suggested old men like the new nonagenarian Prime Minister, and octogenarian advisors like former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, were atoning for previous mistakes, keen to leave behind a nation that worked for more than just the few. The Malaysian people had to continue playing their renewed role, he stressed, whether it was through civil society movements like Bersih or other groups, to ensure the new government stayed true to their promises.
Fellow coalition leader Tian Chua faced similar questioning a few weeks earlier, when he took to the stage at a ‘Malam Merdeka’ dinner event in Sydney featuring Malaysian dancers, and a performance by legendary chanteuse Saloma’s niece Rozita Rohaizad that included the crowd singing along to the Mahathir-era anthem ‘Sejahtera Malaysia’. Unlike the mostly older crowd that attended Mr Lim’s talk a few weeks later, many younger Malaysians at Mr Chua’s event had been part of the storied overseas voters contingent that had gone to great lengths to vote at the historic 14th general elections (GE14).
The questions posed to Mr Chua suggested the crowd was still unsure about how a disparate coalition worked together, under a former authoritarian leader that had jailed so many in the new government, while doubts about another leader returning to center stage also hovered into view. Where this fits into the past 20 years of acrimony between politicians now unexpectedly triumphant together was not easily answered by Mr Chua.
“I was quite surprised when Mahathir invited me to his office the day before he quit UMNO. We hadn’t seen each other since 1999, when he had advised me to eat more as I was going in and out of jail so often,” he revealed, as the audience laughed along.
“Both of us we alone in his office, and I started by saying that most of the time we’ve been opposite each other (sic), we’ve disagreed about most things, we have fought over various issues. But one thing I’ve never doubted was his commitment to Malaysia, never doubted his love for the country. That’s what I said to him. But now we could sit down and work out our differences. We wanted the country to be free, to have a proud and better future,” he said, explaining the meeting in 2016.
“Today, whether it’s led by Anwar or Mahathir, Malaysia will be governed by the set of principles laid down in the (Pakatan Harapan GE14) manifesto. It doesn’t matter who takes over from Mahathir, and after Anwar there will be others. We have to follow a new way of governance. We must strike a consensus among those running the country. There will be no more one-man-shows, no more PM-decides-everything. We must all agree, and the leaders must follow this principle.
“It’s inconsequential whether we think Mahathir is a reformed man, or whether Anwar is up for doing the job. It will be a collective effort. Those in Putrajaya must be executing the collective wishes of the Malaysian people. And if any of us deviate from this, you all know what to do! That’s why May 9 can be repeated, the guarantee that helps us stay on the right track.”
This question of Dr Mahathir’s notorious authoritarianism, and how it had damaged Malaysia’s democracy by the time of 1998’s reformasi, intrigued the Australian parliamentarians Mr Chua met with during this short trip.
When catching up with Anthony Albanese, the former Australian Deputy Prime Minister who’s now a senior leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mr Chua had explained to his old university comrade how a delicate coalition of parties was galvanised to win power after the previous regime’s scandals proved too much for Malaysians. This Sydney meeting contrasted with one a few years earlier, when Mr Albanese learnt of the outrage over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB heist that was still unfolding, and how opposition parliamentarians like Mr Chua faced arrest and worse as they raised the alarm.
The respect for human rights and the supremacy of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution (which had co-drafters from Australia) was a critical part of new Malaysia, said Mr Chua, and keeping the new government true to its word will not only be the task of parliamentarians but also a responsibility of civil society. Adhering to the principles outlined in the winning coalition’s election manifesto will be tough, he admitted, and as Mr Lim echoed a few weeks later, the disappointments will pile up if “practical” timelines for promised reforms are not publically discussed and expectations managed.
“Sometimes people forget that some of us were pushing for the reforms we’re discussing as policy today, before this time 20 years ago. We helped start the reformasi movement, we weren’t parachuted in afterwards,” he said.
But it was the discussions about the tough party elections headlined by Rafizi Ramli’s challenge to Azmin Ali, and the opposing camps Mr Chua and his party peers were slotting into that made his long road trip between the Canberra and Sydney events so weary. The unbridled ambition and the urgency for power often obscured the ideals of the reformasi movement that he felt was still a core part of his identity.
ian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.
Tian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.
The party polls had sounded a little like the party fratricide that Mr Albanese alluded to when explaining how yet another prime minister was torn down in Australia the previous week, making it the fifth time in 10 years. The enmity stayed raw for quite some time, and a brutal contest for party power was no way to ensure stability and purpose when in government.
It was a sobering reminder that lingered as we left Mr Albanese’s inner Sydney enclave. Just as we stepped out, the overcast skies broke into a stormy deluge as the Malaysian reformist rushed to the airport for his flight home, straight into another bruising election season.
Having spent two full days in Port Dickson, I feel compelled to urge all Malaysians, not just the Port Dickson voters, to come forward with more energy and enthusiasm in support of Anwar Ibrahim. Let’s create the buzz and excitement which is now sadly lacking in support of PKR, the party that allowed its symbol to be used for the epic victory on May 9.
Let’s not treat Anwar as an opposition figure like we did over the last 20 years. He is now an integral part of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the party that the people voted in to replace the kleptocrats.
Many in Port Dickson and elsewhere are still asking inane questions such as why Anwar engineered this by-election, why he is in a hurry. Why can’t Nurul Izzah Anwar vacate her seat for her father, and so on. There are also those who keep asking: Is Anwar suitable to be Prime Minister, what is his vision for the country, etc.
These are legitimate questions but if we are seriously looking for answers, we should have asked them before May 9. We should not have portrayed to the people during the election campaign that Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar are working together for the good of the country. We should not have agreed to the winning formula that Anwar succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister.
Once we agree on a deal, we have to honour it. No more questions asked. There is no need to question the timing of Anwar’s entry into Parliament and which seat he should be contesting. If he is not good enough to be the next prime minister, then why the need to accost him in the corridors of courtrooms to invite him to topple Najib Razak? There must be honour, even in politics.
Why is the subject of a government of national unity being talked about non-stop by UMNO and PAS? It’s because Anwar does not feel wanted in the PH government. UMNO and PAS are therefore trying their luck to lure Anwar away from PH. In light of this, it makes sense for parties in PH to assure PKR that its position in the coalition is safe, and that its leader, Anwar, will succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister on a specified date.
This assurance must not be just verbal. Verbal assurances mean nothing in politics. Instead, it must take the form of action by Mahathir and all the leaders of PPBM, Amanah and DAP.
There are three things they can do very quickly.
The Prime Minister, after a few days’ rest from his successful trip to New York and London, needs to go to Port Dickson. Although the Prime Minister does not usually campaign in a by-election, this is no ordinary election. This one gives the certificate of eligibility to his successor. We must not give the impression that there has been a change of mind about Anwar becoming the next Prime Minister.
The people are tired of political gamesmanship and they just want a smooth transition of power. A few reassuring words from the Prime Minister in Port Dickson that the leadership of PH is solidly behind Anwar will go a long way towards ensuring victory for Anwar and sending the message to Malaysians that their leaders want to focus on the more difficult issue of governance, and nothing else.
Some say that Anwar is an “Islamist” and will abandon democracy and secular principles, while others say he was a right-wing UMNO flag-bearer before his dismissal many years ago. I don’t want to get involved in such arguments. All I know is that Anwar and PH today are much, much better than PAS and UMNO; and I know that unless we drive him out, Anwar would rather stay with other reformists in PH. His own party, PKR, is a party of diverse racial and religious groups which will guide Anwar towards policies that unite the people.
The second thing PH leaders can do very quickly is to give Anwar some latitude in the appointment of key personnel in corporations and government-linked companies. It’s probably too late now, but it needs to be said: this is how real partnerships work. If we do not want key decisions and appointments to be left to powerful oligarchs or a special selected group like the 4th floor boys or the famous “Kitchen Cabinet” under Najib’s rule, then we must also not allow some eminent persons to dictate how the country should be managed. Ministers must take charge and senior party leaders like Anwar consulted. We won the election because the people believed we were going to put an end to kleptocracy, but if “oligarchs” still make key decisions in the new Malaysia, then it’s just a matter of time before we are back to the old ways
The final thing to do is for PH leaders to set a date for Mahathir to step down. This date must be decided collectively. I suggest May 2020, which will give Mahathir enough time to put in place plans for the big picture. If Anwar agrees to this, nothing he says or does will be viewed with suspicion or interpreted as an attempt to accelerate his ascent to the top.
The country needs certainty and stability, and we must give the rakyat a smooth succession plan. The people are tired of the endless power-play, so let’s give politicking a rest. This is the message PH needs to bring to Port Dickson.
Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
COMMENT | The mask belonging to the Prime-Minister-in-Waiting, Anwar Ibrahim, has slipped. It did not take long for him to display his ugly side. Anwar the reformer, who championed other people’s causes has gone.
Last week, after being stung by accusations that he was “power hungry”, a narcissist, an impatient man with a super ego which needs constant massaging, he launched a tirade against an unnamed group of people, whom he termed the “Super Liberals”.
He accused the Super Liberals of having strong demands, who denounced people whose views opposed theirs. He said, “When we criticise them, we are attacked, as if this country belongs to them.”
Anwar is being disingenuous. During a nationwide tour, after his release from prison, he told everyone that the premiership belonged to him.
He added, “They think that we must accept their views. If I touch a little on Islam and the Malays, they will raise an argument.”
Anwar is again wrong. He is playing to the Malay crowd and their insecurities, with his Malay and Muslim agenda. Of course, he played a principal role in the fostering of insecurities in the Malays, while he was in UMNO.
Instead of allowing the PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and his team to return stability (financial, economic and social) to the nation, Anwar must act as the prima donna and take centre stage. Add one more adjective to describe Anwar – attention seeker.
The more people criticised him, the more he digs in his heels. He is a perfect example of Melayu mudah lupa. When he was released, he said he was in no hurry to be an MP and thence, the PM. He said that he would lecture, at prestigious universities overseas, for two years. Did these invitations dry up?
Danyal Balagopal Abdullah
A by-election was arranged especially for him. The elected MP, Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, voluntarily vacated his seat, to the consternation of his electorate.
Anwar’s arrogance damaged both the party and his family. Danyal showed that his loyalty to Anwar was greater than his loyalty to the rakyat.
Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji said, the veterans had donated a lot of money for Danyal’s GE-14 election campaign. And now Danyal betrays PD voters.
Former military men expressed their disgust with Danyal. One said, “We once served together, and we are disappointed with him. Those of us who helped fund his campaign in GE-14 want our money back.”
Another former Royal Malaysian Navy officer said, “If I had known he (Danyal) was doing this, I would not have made a contribution. He has squandered goodwill and lost many friends.”
So, what does Anwar mean by a Super Liberal? The Oxford dictionary defines a liberal as one who is: “Willing to understand and respect other people’s behaviour, opinions, etc, especially when they are different from their own.”
The definition of a liberal in politics is: “Wanting or allowing a lot of political and economic freedom and supporting gradual social, political or religious change.”
There is no definition of a Super-Liberal, but the Oxford dictionary’s definition of super is: “Very good or pleasant. Excellent.”
Presumably, a Super Liberal is a person who is extremely good at understanding and respecting other people’s opinions.
So, it appears that Anwar’s understanding of a Super Liberal is flawed. He wrongly claimed that Super Liberals dismissed other people’s opinions and demanded that everyone accepted only their views.
More like a politician from PAS
Anwar is beginning to sound more like a politician from PAS or a member of Ikatan Muslimim Malaysia (Isma). In their view, Malaysians who criticised the arrest of people celebrating Valentine’s Day and the violence against the LGBT community were termed “liberals”. Isma went further and accused liberals of promoting free sex.
Is Anwar laying the groundwork for a pact with PAS, or UMNO-Baru?
Anwar forgot that the liberals, or rather the Super Liberals, fought tirelessly against the mockery of the court proceedings, before he was imprisoned for gross indecency.
The Super Liberals marched to have him freed. When he was denied medical treatment and visits from his family, the Super Liberals protested, wrote about his plight and held candlelight vigils outside Sungei Buloh Prison.
The Super Liberals are not the enemy. They marched for democracy in Bersih. They marched for Orang Asli issues. They fought for marginalised communities and exposed attempts to trample on the rights of both women and children. Anwar’s memory is failing him.
The ungrateful Anwar may regret his vendetta against those he termed Super Liberals. They may be reluctant to stick their necks out for him, again.
At the Bersih rally of 2007, the rakyat spurred him on when he rode pillion on the back of a kap cai, carrying the rakyat’s demands to the Palace of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. In 2013, they roared with approval when, on the back of another kap cai, he weaved in and out of the gridlock, to speak at the Blackout 505 rally. Today, Anwar’s preferred mode of transport is a private jet.
On trips overseas, he acts like Najib and talks about democracy in ‘Malaysia Baru’. At home, just like Najib, he focuses on the Malay and Muslim agenda. The rest of the population is conveniently ignored.
The Super Liberals who fought for him have outlived their usefulness. Older Malaysians remember Anwar’s role in betraying Ghafar Baba. He Islamicised our schools, universities and civil service. He launched the country on the slippery slope to the polarised Malaysia, of today.
A bad judge of character
Anwar is his own worst enemy. He is a bad judge of character and his timing is bad. On September 16, 2008, he declared that 30 BN politicians would defect, to join him and trigger a crisis in Abdullah Badawi’s government. That failed to happen.
Today, Anwar sounds like a bore. One businessperson who has followed Anwar’s career said, “He is a show-off, public orator who keeps reminding us that he was a political martyr. Everyone has moved up one gear, but Anwar is still stuck in neutral.” The Port Dickson farce wastes time and money. It is a major distraction for Pakatan Harapan politicians.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail looked silly when she boasted that her husband was the best Finance Minister Malaysia ever had. Cries of nepotism are bad enough, but did she need to gloat?
Like a teenager, Wan Azizah tweeted about an historic first for “Women Power” when she chaired a cabinet meeting. Sadly, “Women Power” was forgotten when she failed to address the child marriages and the scandals of the women on the East Coast who were whipped.
Anwar’s arrogance harms his family, especially those with political leanings. His inner circle insists that a deal was struck with Mahathir for Anwar to be PM. Have they forgotten? The final say belongs to the rakyat.
Malaysians mudah lupa (forget easily). Those chosen by Mahathir to become the prime minister have all been dismal failures.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
But the unexplainable happened on 9 May. The old regime was swept out of power through an unprecedented electoral revolt. Hope has finally arrived on our shores.
However, the frantic rush by party warlords to install the next Prime Minister after the current one steps down mid-term is worrying. Still my hope is anchored on nothing less than a New Malaysia. Cry no more, my beloved country.
Two former Star colleagues of mine, both retired, one in Penang and the other in New York were trying to catch up with the distance that separates them just the other day in Petaling Jaya. Very soon they came to the same conclusion. They don’t trust Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime minister-in-waiting.
“And it is too much of a coincidence that every time Anwar’s name crops up in conversation, others say they don’t trust him too,” one of them said.
I was a life member of PKR since 2008, but not anymore. Anwar seems to have lost his Reformasi plot. He sticks to old regime politics not much different from what UMNO used to do. In the New Malaysia, we need statespeople, not apparatchiks.
His party, PKR, which is now the biggest component in the new ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition in terms of parliamentary seats, is hopelessly split with Vice-President Rafizi Ramli running against current Deputy President Azmin Ali to be deputy to Anwar, the President-designate.
This is not only Azmin’s second term in this party position, but he is also the new Economic Affairs Minister and former Menteri Besar of Selangor. He was one of the better performing chief ministers the state ever had.
Azmin (photo) has his critics, who have accused him of putting his own people in the state government when he was Menteri Besar, as well as in the current federal cabinet. He is also accused of insisting on keeping PAS in his cabinet against party wishes.
Rafizi’s reason for running against Azmin is to make sure Anwar becomes the Prime Minister. The incumbent Vice-President accuses Azmin of coveting the premiership for himself and that the latter is in league with former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin and colluding with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Azmin is also accused of disloyalty to Anwar simply because he has not offered to give up his Gombak parliamentary seat for Anwar to be elected into the lower house in order to assume the premiership.
By this token, there now seems to be two prime ministers-in-waiting, not just one. Either way, the pretender to the throne is in a hurry to seize the moment now. But Azmin has been quick to punch back by saying Rafizi was still a “toddler” when the Reformasi movement started in 1998. Azmin said he had stood by Anwar and has stayed loyal to his struggle from the day the latter was sacked from the government.
Reformasi veterans like Tian Chua are aligned to Azmin. Among those in Rafizi’s camp is Anwar’s daughter and Permatang Puah MP Nurul Izzah who was the “Puteri Reformasi” (Reformasi princess) and still in school when Anwar went to jail back then.
Nurul has come a long way since. She commanded the most votes in the Vice-presidency contest in Penang over the weekend, garnering 4,039 votes, far outnumbering her opponents.
Meanwhile, Anwar himself has confirmed things are not going well. He said unnamed leaders in PKR are allegedly offering projects for support in the party’s internal election. Is UMNO-style money politics making in-roads into PKR?
Anwar also acknowledged weaknesses in the party’s ongoing election processes, after voting was variously suspended in several states owing to alleged irregularities as well as violent disagreements.
This is plain betrayal to those who elected Danyal four months ago. By accepting this, Anwar is similarly tainted. This scandalises the whole notion of a democratic election, where the sanctity of democracy is now sacrificed on the altar of political ambition.
An ethical question mark hangs over Anwar’s Port Dickson Move. The incumbent MP there is PKR’s Danyal Balagopal Abdullah (centre in photo). He vacated his seat on Sept 12 to make way for a by-election for Anwar to contest to enable him to become prime minister.
In the 14th general election, Danyal won the Port Dickson seat in athree-corner fight, garnering 36,225 votes, with a large majority of 17,710 votes. He has now handed over the seat on a platter to Anwar.
The Prime Minister-in-waiting should have been more circumspect. There are other options for him.
Anwar’s electoral base has always been Permatang Pauh. When he was in prison, his wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, now Deputy Prime Minister, stood in for him in this parliamentary seat until the last general election where she switched to Pandan, the parliamentary seat previously held by Rafizi Ramli, and won. He did not contest due to a court
conviction for exposing a page of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit report. He was later bound over.
In a parallel move, Anwar’s daughter, Nurul, moved from her Lembah Pantai constituency to contest in Permatang Pauh and won.
We are not told of the reason behind this family musical chairs. No one would complain if either of them vacated her seat to make way for Anwar to return to Parliament via a by-election. This would have been better than the Port Dickson Move, which was very much outsourced to Rafizi.
It was Rafizi (photo) who had conjured the Kajang Move that morphed into a full-blown political crisis in Selangor in 2014.
The idea was to topple Khalid Ibrahim as PKR’s Menteri Besar of Selangor, and install Anwar Ibrahim as his replacement. The attempt resulted in a nine-month political crisis within the state of Selangor and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition, that also involved the Palace of Selangor. The irony is that the crisis concluded with the appointment of PKR’s Deputy President, Azmin, as the next Menteri Besar of Selangor.
The Kajang Move backfired. It can backfire again. As pundits would have it, Anwar would have succeeded in his Kajang Move. What if nobody turns out on polling day on Oct 13? Already the BN opposition has said it would not contest, and PAS may also not field a candidate. Anwar may suffer the embarrassment of facing an unknown independent. It may be a hollow victory after all. This does not augur well for a Prime Minister-in-waiting.
After May 9, we now have a two-party electoral system, the first in six decades. In the recent general election, the opposition did not expect to win and the ruling coalition did not expect to lose.
In the words of former UMNO leader and minister Rafidah Aziz, God heard our collective prayer. The people won. The eyes of the Almighty is on our nation. Man may propose this move or that move, but it is God who may dispose. I am at ease. Cry no more, my beloved country.
BOB TEOH is a faith-based writer.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.