Anwar’s birthright to be PM

[Aliran published an edited version]

The sacking of Anwar 20 years ago was a tragic scandal no less scandalous than 1MDB. The Ubah crowd fought hard against 1MDB (there are lots of funds to recover). The Ubah crowd isn’t questioning Anwar’s sacking (there is no fund to recover).

Anwar’s sacking is no less scandalous than 1MDB. 1MDB is a case of monetary corruption which happens throughout history across the continents; there are many precedents and Malaysia can never claim to be too singular. The ruthless way Mahathir axed Anwar, however, is one which is uniquely Malaysia’s.

So promising, Anwar was poised to take over as PM, to lead Malaysia with better diplomacy and better balance than Mahathir. All prospects were reduced to ashes overnight, just like that.

What ensued was a political party whose ideology has been to restore Anwar to premiership. The party survived, despite characteristic airing of dirty laundry in public, despite recurring spectacles of top leaders failing to put up a show for reporters’ cameras.

Even today, political personalities vow to make Anwar the prime minister. The idea suggests that these are the good guys, anyone standing in the way is the bad guy.

That a political party has such an ideology as to make a specific individual prime minister, that personalities openly vow to make a specific individual the prime minister, suggest as if becoming PM is Anwar’s birthright.

Do people not find it odd that one can call this an ideology of a party? Ideology by definition would be sustainable through generations, and therefore should not be tied to making a particular mortal the prime minister.

Do people not find it strange when politicians openly vow to make a particular individual the prime minister? That by definition defies democracy.

That Anwar was the best candidate 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean that he remains relevant today. It is for Anwar to demonstrate his relevance.

Mahathir is still looking East and he is still looking at cars. Not only has he not aged; he seems hardly grown.

By looking East still, he fails to bring out the best traits of different nations and peoples both east and west. We can’t have our gaze stuck on Japan, Japan only and Japan forever. In fact, nothing suggests that Mahathir understands Japan’s greatest gems.

By looking at cars still, Mahathir misses the non-physical asset of skills. See how India populated USA’s silicon valley with computer experts.

Yes, Anwar can be more diplomatic and more balanced than Mahathir, but being better than Mahathir in certain ways would be a bar set too low. He has to prove himself better than contemporary, dynamic, competent figures like Khairy Jamaluddin.

We need a unifying figure. 7 months after GE14, we hear not a single unifying speech – the sort of famous victory speeches leaders make to charge the nation into a new beginning. What we experience instead is a vacuum of leadership. We need somebody to stand up and tell everyone the same message – not turning this side to tell one story and turning the other side to tell another story.

We need somebody to stand up to say we have won, put down your swords, stop that campaign against ‘rural Malays’. Stop telling this side to be tolerant of the other side – we need someone to tell everybody that we have a joint heritage that makes all of us richer.

Anwar, will you do that?

Mahathir isn’t doing it. Ambiga isn’t doing it. Maria Chin Abdullah isn’t doing it. Ambiga and Maria Chin Abdullah can slam Mahathir and Anwar, but not disciplining the Ubah crowd has been their shared record. It is the Ubah crowd which is still abusing news headlines and raging divisive campaigns against ‘rural Malays’.

So how should we explain the phnomenon as if premiership is Anwar’s birthright? If Anwar must become PM because Mahathir axed the PM-to-be 20 years ago, we would then be turning Mahathir debt’s to Anwar a national debt. That would be a national debt which cannot be measured in units of ringgit. It would be a national debt which can only be expressed in units of year. The debt could take the nation 20 years behind itself.

Before we ask how many years is Malaysia behind South Korea, Singapore or India, we must first check how many years is Malaysia behind itself. Is Tun Salleh Abas going to be restored as Lord President too? Is Danyal Balagopal going to be restored as Port Dickson MP too? Of course we do have an unending list of restorations we can work on and if that’s the way to move forward, we become full-time restorers and the country will forever be chasing its own tail. Adding up, the number of years we lag behind ourselves would go through the roof of standard arithmetic.

The Ubah crowd in fact devised roundabouts around the constitution to make Anwar’s come back possible. On the ballot papers my friends all told me I must cross that one box. However, what I see on my ballot ballot papers would not be what I get – a full orchestration was already in place — a sama-suka-sama agreement (well outside electoral processes) that one man would become PM first and then pass the position to another man.

Do you, and do I, take pride in the ingenuity of that suka-sama-suka agreement between Mahathir and Anwar, also that suka-sama-suka agreement between Anwar and Danyal? Are elected public offices for one to secure, reserve and swap as and when two individuals mutually consent?

Malaysians can become touchy over outsiders’ faintest suggestion that we live on trees, “Don’t you dare think that we live on trees!” Well, if we don’t live on trees we have to stop behaving like we do.