Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak? :The Worst Possible News for Malaysia


November 21, 2017

Deal Between Anwar and Najib Razak?: The Worst Possible News for Malaysia

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar and Najib

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materializing between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.–P. Gunasegaram

QUESTION TIME | In Malaysia where conspiracy theories arise at the drop of a 10-sen coin, the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is in hospital following a shoulder operation, has started tongues a-wagging. And how they are wagging!

Is there something brewing here which is suggestive of some kind of a deal materialising between these two once staunch allies? Like they say, there are no permanent enemies in politics and politics is the game of the possible, or is it the impossible? Never mind, you get the drift.

After all, who would have thought that former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, widely held responsible for Sodomy 1 which put Anwar in jail for six years until 2004, would now be working with him to topple BN and Najib? If that can happen, why not a reconciliation, or even a deal, between Najib and Anwar for mutual benefit?

 

Even the burying of past differences between Mahathir and Anwar is difficult to understand. How does a person who spent years in prison, was beaten after he was arrested, had his life ruined and political future now in tatters, forgive the person who was held to be most responsible for this?

And was it not what Mahathir did in terms of consolidating his power within UMNO – technically UMNO Baru as the old UMNO was dissolved as part of plans implemented by Mahathir – that now makes it near impossible to remove a sitting UMNO President and Prime Minister because of all that such a person has at his disposal in terms of power?

Now this, Najib visits Anwar in the hospital with his wife Rosmah Mansor and with Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail present and the gossip bandwagon goes berserk, although it is more likely to topple than to sustain over the next few days.

Here was the man who pushed Sodomy 2 against Anwar with Anwar’s accuser having seen him – Najib – before making his police report. And Anwar is in jail again for a further five years from 2015, more or less putting paid to his political career unless Pakatan Harapan wins the next election. The chances of that are pretty low right now.

How could Anwar countenance a visit from this man who was responsible for his prison sentence in the first place with a lot of people believing that Anwar’s sentence was terribly unfair with admission of evidence that could have been tampered with? If Anwar’s trial was fixed, as he himself claimed, then only one person could have been responsible.

How could he even consent to see this person? As difficult as this is to understand for people like me, those who understand Malay culture say that nothing should be read into the meeting. The PM went to see a former friend and ally who was ailing – nothing more, nothing less.

But talk is not so easily stopped because Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, at one time one of Anwar’s closest friends and allies, visited him as well. Perhaps there is nothing but those visits perhaps indicate to Mahathir that two can play the game – if Mahathir can reconcile with Anwar, Najib can reconcile with him too, with all that it implies for Mahathir.

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What about the stolen money?–1MDB 

But is it as simple as all that really? No. Because if somehow Najib and Anwar ally, who becomes the enemy then? Surely not Mahathir now. And what about 1MDB? What does it mean for all that the opposition has been saying about billions stolen and still unaccounted for?

And what about the allegations, with some evidence, that UMNO and BN are tainted with 1MDB money and that they support Najib only because of that? Will all this be conveniently swept under the carpet forever more and everybody lives together happily ever after?

There can be only one deal that will allow this – in that permutation or combination of both, Anwar has to become Prime Minister, no less. That will entail Najib continuing for a while and then making way for Anwar – which means that Anwar has to be within BN or some larger conglomerate.

Anwar Ibrahim– A political chameleon or a publicity seeking politician?

How that may form boggles the mind but remember that after the May 13, 1969, riots and emergency rule, Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein persuaded (coerced?) the substantial opposition then into a coalition in 1973 forming Barisan Nasional, with the only significant party out in the bitter cold – that being DAP. If Anwar and Najib make a deal whereby Anwar is rehabilitated and Najib carries on, for a while at least, that is the worst possible news for Malaysia because all sections of the political divide – both ruling and opposition parties – will implicitly sanction the greatest theft this country has ever known and multiple events of gross mismanagement and lack of governance.

I don’t believe this will happen but I would have been far more comfortable if Anwar had not consented to meet Najib – and yes, if he had not done a deal with Mahathir too. But then who am I but just another insignificant citizen of Malaysia?

 

Well Done, Tian Chua, for Standing Up for What is Right


September 29, 2017

Well Done, Tian Chua, for Standing Up for What is Right

Image result for Tian Chua

Tian Chua jailed a month after withdrawing appeal

 by Ho Kit Yen

Batu MP tells the Court of Appeal that he is ready to go to jail in order to highlight the wrongs of the government.

 In an unexpected move, Batu MP Tian Chua today withdrew his final appeal against his conviction and one-month jail sentence for refusing to obey a police order to leave a restricted area following the Bersih 3 rally in 2012.
Image result for Tian ChuaGoing to Jail for Justice–Tian Chua, Vice President, Parti KeADILan Rakyat–Lawan Tetap Lawan

Addressing the three-man panel led by Justice Mohtaruddin Baki at the Court of Appeal today, Tian Chua said he had decided to discharge his lawyer, N Surendran, and was ready to go to jail.

He said in his statement to the court that he had been arrested along with 500 other people during the Bersih rally on April 28, 2012, and sent to the Police Training Centre (Pulapol), which was a restricted area.

“I was not charged with taking part in an illegal assembly but in connection with my presence in Pulapol,” he said, adding that he had been detained in the police training academy that day.

“My lords, in my opinion, it is an absurdity to penalise me for being in Pulapol’s compound in a situation in which I was brought against my will.

“Subsequently, I was convicted by the Sessions Court and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and fined RM1,000,” he said.

Tian Chua said he had participated in the Bersih rallies as part of the struggle for a fairer and better Malaysia. He added that he and other Malaysians wanted change, and a better world where justice, liberty and fairness are upheld.

“We want to speak up freely and share our thoughts openly without fear, as this is our right guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.If the price for changing this repressive and corrupt system is to go to prison, I shall say I am more than ready to accept.”

Tian Chua added that accepting his custodial sentence was not an admission of wrongdoing but rather an effort to highlight the wrongs of the government.

After hearing his statement, Justice Mohtaruddin along with Justices Zakaria Sam and Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil struck out his appeal and ordered Tian Chua to serve his one-month sentence from today.

Tian Chua was seen shaking hands with his fellow PKR members and Bersih 2.0 Chairman Maria Chin Abdullah before he was escorted to the court’s detention room.

In an immediate response, PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said she was taken aback by her Vice-President’s decision. “He was inclined to tell us about his decision yesterday,” she told reporters outside the court.

Last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the Session Court’s 2014 decision to fine and jail Tian Chua for refusing a police order to leave the Pulapol premises.

The court ruled that the conviction was safe, even though the written judgment from the late trial judge Mahmud Abdullah was not signed or dated.

“The disputed judgment did not create any prejudice against him.The unsigned judgment’s irregularity can be cured by Section 422 of Criminal Procedure Code,” said Justice Nordin Hassan, who heard Tian Chua’s appeal.

Mahmud, who died in May 2014, had only delivered an oral decision on the matter.

Justice Nordin said the judgment was nonetheless valid as the PKR Vice-President’s case had gone through a full trial.

Tian Chua was found guilty of refusing an order from DSP A Rajagopal to leave the Pulapol area on Jalan Semarak at 2.30am on April 29, 2012, a day after the Bersih rally.

Police said Pulapol was listed as a protected area according to the Protected Areas Order (No 2) 1975.

On May 15 that same year, Tian Chua was charged under Section 4(2) of the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act 1959 for allegedly disobeying police orders by refusing to leave Pulapol after his release.

During his original trial, Tian Chua testified that he was not aware that the zone he had entered was restricted from the public, adding that he only discovered this after he was charged with the offence.

This is Tian Chua’s second conviction in 2016. He was also fined RM1,800 and jailed for three months by another Sessions Court on Sept 28, for making seditious statements during a forum four years ago.

Earlier this year, he was fined RM3,000 by the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court for insulting a police officer using vulgar words, three years ago.

He risks losing his qualification to stand in the general election if he cannot reduce his RM3,000 fine.

This is according to Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, which disqualifies a person from being an MP for five years should the elected representative be convicted and sentenced to more than one year in jail, or fined more than RM2,000.

Puteri Reformasi Nurul Izzah Anwar talks Politics and her Future


September 25, 2017

Puteri Reformasi Nurul Izzah Anwar talks Politics and her Future

by Zikri Kamarulzaman

http://www.malaysiakini.com

INTERVIEW | For almost two decades, Anwar Ibrahim has been the opposition’s bedrock, a political titan who had cast a long shadow over those opposed to BN.

It is a shadow that his party PKR has struggled to step out of, even in his long absence due to imprisonment over sodomy charges.

Image result for nurul izzah anwar at wefin phnom penh

Reverence for Anwar had even stymied Pakatan Harapan at one point, with PKR’s insistence on giving him a top position and delaying the formation of the coalition’s leadership lineup for weeks.

Still, he remains highly regarded, with many still deferring to his judgement or invoking his name in their struggles. But as the 14th general election (GE14) looms, Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah feels that it is time for the opposition to step into the light.

“At the end of the day I think even Anwar himself wants us to move beyond his shadow,” the PKR Vice-President told Malaysiakini in an interview on Thursday.

Praising Anwar’s commitment and willingness to sacrifice personal freedoms for a better Malaysia, Nurul Izzah said the former Deputy Prime Minister’s ideals and struggles are embodied by PKR, and is what drives the party forward. however, she said PKR was not a personality based movement.

Her remarks echo that of Anwar’s symbolic statement in June this year, that he would not be seeking a position as Harapan’s candidate for Prime Minister.

His statement came amid long, drawn-out arguments between Harapan and its then-newest member Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia on who should head the new government.

Many in PKR, DAP and Amanah insisted that Anwar was the only choice, but the former opposition leader said such arguments were distracting the coalition from more important matters, such as preparing for GE14.

Malaysia’s Prisoner of Conscience–Anwar Ibrahim

GE14 will likely be the first time since 2008 that Anwar has not been on the ground campaigning for the opposition. He is currently serving a five-year jail term, but is expected to be freed by the middle of 2018 on good behaviour.

Women not given enough priority

Nurul Izzah indicated that his absence will be felt on the campaign circuit, but said many leaders, especially women, have stepped up to the plate.

“We should focus on our core strengths. PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and (Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s wife) Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, they have their own followers.

“The womenfolk are always, always not given enough priority. I feel that it is a Zeitgeist for female empowerment. It is our moment to seize the future of Malaysia,” the Lembah Pantai MP said.

But to truly step out of Anwar’s shadow, she said, one thing must be done by the opposition, which is to achieve critical mass among all walks of society in order to enact reforms.

“If you want to step out of the shadow, we should harness everyone’s strength… Even harnessing the strength and support of PAS members.

“If we can harness a former dictator (Mahathir) who has embraced reformasi, don’t tell me that you can’t harness everyone else.”

In the following excerpt from Malaysiakini‘s interview, Nurul Izzah addresses speculation that she will be defending Anwar’s traditional seat Permatang Pauh, as well as whether her siblings will be contesting in GE14.

The interview has been edited for language and brevity:

Will you defend Lembah Pantai? There are rumours that you will move to Permatang Pauh.

I love rumours, Malaysia is built on rumours, at least because we don’t have access to mainstream media. Thankfully, we have Malaysiakini, which can allay some rumours

It has been such an honour (being Lembah Pantai MP) because I contested in 2008 and it was Bangsar, it was Lembah Pantai, it was Kerinchi.

Lembah Pantai is a microcosm of Malaysia, and that’s where I got the chance to represent them. I was humbled by the experience, especially more so winning for a second term the most hotly contested seat (in the Federal Territories) previously held by (UMNO Wanita Chief) Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, and then the new minister (Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin), who controlled the coffers of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), and who defined the name of the game in terms of political patronage. So, it was so monumental for me.

I’ve learned so much. I would love to serve them (Lembah Pantai constituents) again. But we are all tied to the decisions made by the political bureau. This is exactly my same answer in 2008 when people asked me, “Are you going to contest Lembah Pantai?”.

Now we are making our rounds visiting the constituencies especially where people are in need of help, and we are planning a huge Deepavali get together.

So, for me until D-Day, which is election day, it’s going to be a battle in Lembah Pantai, that is how I look at it.

If PKR’s political bureau decides that you have to go to Permatang Pauh, would you go?

Yes. Of course. As a soldier of the party, I would expect every candidate that hasn’t been dropped to follow the instructions of the party.

There is a certain degree of freedom allocated to you as an individual, but there’s also the responsibility you have towards the organisation, and that’s community responsibility at work.

Assuming you stay in Lembah Pantai, your vote majority fell by over 1,000 votes in GE13. Can you survive?

I was really humbled by that win. It was extremely challenging. You aren’t taking into account the exact number of votes and the exact degree of manipulation.

Who knows exactly how many votes were cast for us? At the same time, you also have the transfer of voters that took place quite alarmingly in the last election, and because of that, I don’t really place much of an issue in terms of numbers.

It’s more of whether the seats are marginal or whether it’s supposed to be a safe cushion for us in the government. We have to ensure there is a high degree of voter awareness. We have to utilise technology whether it is cell phone cameras etcetera, to guard against vote tampering.

We do hope this time around with all this preparation and investment in poll monitors, legal support, there will be a reduction in terms of BN getting fewer opportunities to get away with fraud.

Prime Minister Najib Razak (seen with his Advisors and Sycophants) faces the greatest challenge of his long political career– Credibility. Problems he faces are of his own making. He is seen as a corrupt, dishonest, lying and greedy leader. As a result, he is today the most unpopular Prime Minister in our country’s history. That said, he has all the advantages of incumbency and should not be underestimated–Din Merican

But we have to be realistic. It is life or death for (Prime Minister) Najib (Abdul Razak). It is life or death for his government. They won’t stop at anything.

That is something we have to be prepared for. You have to understand that we used to win due to protest votes. We used to win due to people genuinely giving a chance to the opposition. But this time around, it’s going to be a clear headcount war.

Every person has to be engaged.The approach by Harapan’s secretariat is canvassing, getting out to the voters like never before utilising sentiment analysis, which is what (PKR Vice-President) Rafizi Ramli has been mentioning, also Institut Darul Ehsan has been , targeting people’s sentiments.

These must all coalesce into a targeted smart and sophisticated campaign. Every message counts. We can’t make a mistake because BN (UMNO-BN) will be watching and, of course, their mistakes can be managed very well through a controlled media, but not ours.

So yes, I think because of that, marginal seats are not just ours for winning but also theirs for losing.

Will your siblings be contesting in GE14?

(Laughs). You have to ask them. I think that’s quite a funny question you know… all of us have the Anwar DNA.

I grew up very much in my formative years with reformasi. He was in prison for a long time. I can’t change the fact that I’m very much his daughter. But in terms of learning about human rights, civil rights, that is from (my time in) Abim, Suaram. That formed me into the person I am today.

We (my siblings and I) are all of different cohorts. I’m building a future for Malaysia. I want to represent my generation, and that’s the generation born from 1980, 1985, to 1999. That’s my generation. So I represent them.

I think my sisters and my brothers represent their generation. You don’t need to be a politician to enact change

You have to give them the right to choose. So you have to ask my siblings (whether they want to contest in GE14). For now, they are quite happy in their own chosen vocations.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to continue fighting for the ideals I believe in. I want to be proud of the fact that I am a living testament to my children as someone who will do everything I can to secure a better future for them.

MP Nurul Izzah Anwar who was born into a political family is Vice President of Parti KeADILan Rakyat (PKR) which was founded by her father, Anwar Ibrahim. Her mother, Dr. Wan Azizah is PKR President.

And of course, I’d like to always be there as their mother. Supporting them, empowering them. Since they’re the biggest joys for me.

YESTERDAY: No negotiations, Nurul Izzah says Harapan’s stand is clear

 

The Right to Dissent Well Done, MP William Leong–Why Deal with PAS


August 25, 2017

The Right to Dissent Well Done, MP William Leong–Why Deal with PAS

by Geraldine Tong

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for MP William Leong

My friend MP William Leong defends the right to Dissent–PAS is a liability to Pakatan Harapan. Good luck to you in your retirement from national politics and thank you for your outstanding service as Member of Parliament since 2008 to the people of Selayang and Malaysia.

Wan Azizah is too weak to censure Azmin Ali’s courtship of PAS. Without Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Syed Hussein Ali, the PKR Political  Bureau is no longer strategic. I worked with both Anwar and Dr. Syed and learned a lot from them. –Din Merican

PKR President Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has not accepted the resignation of PKR Selayang MP William Leong from the party’s political bureau.

“I am sad and would prefer him not to do that (resign). I may not receive his resignation. I just told him I am not accepting it (his resignation), but if he insisted then it is a different matter.

Image result for nurul izzah anwar at WEF

Vice President Nurul Izzah Anwar–The Future of PKR

“For now, I want to talk with him. I have seen his point,” she said to journalists after attending a forum on China’s investments in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) last night.

Leong on Wednesday announced that he had tendered his resignation from the party’s political bureau in protest of PKR’s continued attempts to court PAS.

This is despite the Islamist party having severed political ties with PKR, following the green light given at the party’s muktamar in April.

Leong had said that he cannot defend his party’s position of still wanting to work with PAS. “When I can’t lead in this direction, I can’t follow in this direction, then I have to step aside.”

The Selayang MP had also said that he does not intend to contest the next general election.

Despite that, he said he would remain a PKR member as well as a member of the party’s leadership council.PKR’s political bureau has been debating its relationship with PAS ever since the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat in 2015.

It has also been reported that the bureau decided last week to give Wan Azizah and her Deputy, Azmin Ali, a chance to talk to PAS, possibly to pursue a political pact.

Azmin, who is also the Selangor Menteri Besar, has since been engaging PAS in informal talks.

The Future of Pakatan Harapan Post GE-14–Dr. M and Politics of Betrayal


August 20, 2017

The Future of Pakatan Harapan Post GE-14–Dr. M and Politics of Betrayal

by S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“A crazy country, choking air, polluted hearts, treachery. Treachery and treason.”

– Naguib Mahfouz

COMMENT | Amanah Communications Director Khalid Samad is mistaken. If Dr Mahathir Mohamad returns to the UMNO-BN fold for whatever reason after the next general election, it would not be a betrayal to Pakatan Harapan.

Image result for Mahathir and Anwar in Pakatan Rakyat
A Coalition of Political Convenience is not likely to survive after GE-14, if UMNO-BN wins the contest. Whether Tun Dr. Mahathir returns to the party he created (UNMO Baru) or not depends whether Najib Razak and his associates are prepared to bury the hatchet and welcome him. It is hard to see how this can happen at this point of time. PKR and DAP should, therefore, concentrate on retaining Penang and Selangor. Jangan jadi Mat Jenen.–Din Merican

 

The only betrayal would be that which Harapan commits to the opposition voting public. However, there would be neither any sting nor moral condemnation to that betrayal because most Harapan supporters welcome the alliance with the former UMNO President and Prime Minister. While I have argued that this is a Hobson’s choice of the opposition’s making, any attempt to minimise such betrayal is unwarranted and honestly self-aggrandising.

 

Mind you, this is not a jab at Khalid whom I think is an honourable politician – a trait lacking in the current political leadership – but rather a rejoinder that “betrayal” of any kind in the current political climate is meaningless.

So what if Bersatu, Mahathir or any other politician betrays Harapan? This is a single-issue election – the wrong issue in my opinion – which means the current UMNO grand poohbah is vanquished or he is not. The best-case scenario if the opposition fails in that endeavour is that it retains Selangor and Penang.

Image result for Mahathir and Anwar in Pakatan Rakyat

While I have no doubt that opposition political strategists are working that angle (retaining Selangor and Penang at all cost), the real issue is whether Mahathir and Bersatu can deliver. If he cannot, and if the opposition loses support from their base, then the real question is, will Harapan cling on to the former Prime Minister?

But you ask, why are the stakes so low? Well, the stakes are low because even if Najib wins and this kleptocrat prevails, it would not be as if the sky will come tumbling down. We have endured a corrupt kleptocracy for decades and many would argue that we as a people, despite the overt systemic discrimination, have thrived.

I have argued numerous times of the futility of this strategy – “And right here is the problem for the opposition because this is really is what most voters who vote Barisan National think. Through the decades, despite all the corruption scandals, the sustained attacks against independent institutions, the slow process of dismantling our individual rights, Malaysia, in the words of Josh Hong, ‘for all its flaws, Malaysia remains a prosperous, relatively efficient and economically vibrant country.’”

Besides, the history of Harapan is littered with betrayals that most opposition supporters have accepted. Harapan has always managed to find allies – maybe except PSM – that they managed to do business with, who eventually betrayed the opposition alliance.

I would argue that the opposition is extremely comfortable with betrayals. How many political operatives, political entities and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of establishment politics have betrayed the opposition? Honestly, I have lost count.

And let us be honest. The opposition was not fooled because they were naive. The reality is that the opposition has never met a political outfit or personality that was anti-Najib that they did not have use for, until ultimately, they were betrayed because they were outplayed.

No cohesive platform

I am not making the argument that disparate interests should not attempt to come together but rather, the opposition has never really made an attempt to work together in an honest way. There was never any attempt to form a cohesive ideology or a platform that honestly addressed the agendas that opposing interests brought to the table. There were always these piecemeal efforts to bury the political and/or ideological differences and shoe horn everything into the “save Malaysia” narrative.

Moreover, many opposition supporters were comfortable with this. I would argue that these “betrayal” narratives sustained the opposition when things fell apart because of their own ineptness. “We were betrayed” when it should be “we should never have been in this position in the first place”.

Meanwhile, the UMNO regime has its own cries of betrayal. The urban demographic has betrayed them. Former members have betrayed them. With UMNO, it goes further. Betrayals are not just against the political party. Betrayals are against race and religion. This is why I suppose Bersatu is attempting the same strategy.

I mean take a look at what Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman says while describing the current UMNO grand poohbah as the “Malay race’s number one enemy” – “Pawning the interests of the Malays by giving mega contracts to communist China while we have to shoulder the debts amounting to billions of ringgit.”

I made my stand on this issue of the PRC deals clear here – that pro-opposition rhetoric consists of furthering the narrative that China is taking advantage of the natives and the country is being sold piece by piece to a foreign power to settle Najib’s debts. While my disdain for Najib administration is well-documented (by me, mostly), making the argument that these China deals have no credibility merely because they come from the Najib regime is disingenuous.”

So, sit back and enjoy the show. Nobody is going to betray the opposition because nobody was loyal to the opposition in the first place. PAS will eventually engage in three-concerned fights with its former allies because they have a new sugar daddy. I am sure there will be defections on both sides in the upcoming general elections.

Betrayals will be rife and teeth gnashed, but ultimately the losers will not be the urban demographic but the “lower classes” that many politicians and analysts are banking on to save the opposition.

The only gun pointed at anyone is the one pointed at the marginalised communities here in Malaysia, and they know that that gun will be passed to anyone who claims the throne of Putrajaya.


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

Mahathir Mohamad’s return shows the sorry state of Malaysian politics


July 3, 2017

Banyan

Mahathir Mohamad’s return shows the sorry state of Malaysian politics

https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21724432-former-prime-minister-reinventing-himself-leader-opposition-mahathir-mohamads

The former Prime Minister is reinventing himself as a leader of the Opposition

Image result for doctor in the house mahathir

The Doctor seeks a Return to the House

WHEN Mahathir Mohamad spent a week in hospital last year, at the age of 91, talk naturally turned to his legacy as Malaysia’s longest-serving former Prime Minister. How naive. Dr Mahathir may have stepped down in 2003 after 22 years in office, but he has hardly been retiring in retirement. His constant sniping helped topple his immediate successor, Abdullah Badawi, who lasted until 2009.

Now the old warhorse is picking a fight with Najib Razak, the Prime Minister since then and now leader of Dr Mahathir’s former party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has run Malaysia for the past 60 years. Dr Mahathir has registered a new political party and persuaded Pakatan Harapan, the fractious coalition that forms Malaysia’s main opposition, to admit it as a member. Now Pakatan is debating whether to make Dr Mahathir the chairman of their coalition—and, perhaps, their candidate for Prime Minister at elections which must be held within 13 months. Having long said that he would not be returning to Parliament, Dr Mahathir has lately been hinting that he would consider another stint in the top job.

Image result for anwar ibrahim and mahathir mohamad

In Politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests

It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely turn of events. The original incarnation of the coalition Dr Mahathir might soon be running was formed in the late 1990s to oppose his own interminable rule. Its founder, Anwar Ibrahim, was Dr Mahathir’s deputy until the latter sacked him during a power struggle; he was later jailed on sham charges of corruption and sodomy. The current government’s methods are copied directly from Dr Mahathir’s playbook. Since 2015 Mr Anwar has been back in prison following a second sodomy conviction, this one just as dubious as the first. The reversal of the authoritarian turn Malaysia took under Dr Mahathir is one of Pakatan’s main objectives.

What makes all this even tougher to stomach is that Dr Mahathir’s conversion to the Opposition’s cause looks disturbingly incomplete. Though he is hobnobbing with former enemies, the old codger still finds it difficult to apologise for the excesses of his tenure. Many of his views remain wacky: in May he told the Financial Times that he still thinks the American or Israeli governments might have arranged the attacks of September 11th 2001. Can Malaysia’s opposition really find no more palatable leader?

These are desperate times, retort Dr Mahathir’s supporters. Since 2015 news about the looting of 1MDB, a government-owned investment firm from which at least $4.5bn has disappeared, has dragged Malaysia’s reputation through the muck. American government investigators say that 1MDB’s money was spent on jewellery, mansions, precious artworks and a yacht, and that nearly $700m of it went to the prime minister. Mr Najib says he has not received any money from 1MDB, and that $681m deposited into his personal accounts was a gift from a Saudi Royal (now returned). He has kept his job, but only after replacing the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.

Image result for The Politically unassailable Najib Razak

The Prognosis is that Najib Razak is likely to win GE-14

One might expect this scandal to propel Pakatan into power at the coming election, but instead the opposition looks likely to lose ground, perhaps even handing back to UMNO and its allies the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution. This bizarre reversal has much to do with Malaysia’s regrettable racial politics: the Malay-Muslim majority largely favours the government and the big ethnic-Chinese and -Indian minorities tend to vote against it. Mr Najib has baited an Islamist party into renewing calls for more flogging for moral lapses, forcing them to leave Pakatan. The split in the opposition will lead to lots of three-candidate races, in which UMNO will romp home.

Put in this context, Dr Mahathir’s reappearance is a godsend. It stands to transform Pakatan’s chances by granting access to a broad swathe of rural constituencies that they had previously thought unwinnable. Many Malays have fond memories of the booming economy of Dr Mahathir’s era (they overlook its crony capitalism and his intolerance for dissent); in their eyes, he put Malaysia on the map. As coalition chairman, Dr Mahathir might also bring some order to Pakatan’s noisy council meetings. His backing could be invaluable after a narrow victory or in a hung parliament, when UMNO’s creatures in the bureaucracy might be expected to put up a fight.

All these benefits could probably be obtained without offering to make Dr Mahathir the Prime Minister. But he may be the only front man upon whom most of the coalition can agree. That role had previously fallen to Mr Anwar, but it has become clear to all but a few holdouts that he cannot continue to manage the quarrelsome coalition from his cell. Voters are not sure whether to believe Pakatan when it says that, should it win, it will find some way to catapult Mr Anwar out of his chains and into the country’s top job. Nor are they much inspired by the notion of accepting a seat-warmer to run the country while this tricky manoeuvre takes place.

It could be worse

This is a depressing mess, even by Malaysia’s dismal standards. The opposition bears no blame for the dirty tricks which, over several shameful decades, the government has used to hobble Mr Anwar and many others. But by failing to nurture—or even to agree upon—the next generation of leaders, they have played straight into UMNO’s hands.

It is possible that the thought of hoisting Dr Mahathir into the top job will at last force the coalition to thrust a younger leader to the fore (some suspect that this is the outcome that Dr Mahathir, a shrewd strategist, has always had in mind). But it is also possible that, facing only uncomfortable options, they will end up making no decision at all. Some in Pakatan seem happy to barrel into the next election without telling voters who will lead Malaysia should they win. That might seem like pragmatism, but it is really just defeatism.

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Doctor on call”