Sunday, 9 November 2008

Saudara Anwar Bin Ibrahim...Apa Lu Mau?

Of late, there has not been much attention on Anwar Ibrahim but the other son of Ibrahim (different Ibrahim), Zaid has taken the limelight. Many have begun to wonder if this other son of an Ibrahim has more than it takes to be PM of Malaysia compared to Anwar.

With all the talk on Ketuanan Rakyat or for that matter the idea of "Malaysia for All Malaysians" and his famous "anak semua, anak saya thingy", Anwar Ibrahim has never (not that I know of anyway) put forth his conceptual framework of what he thinks is the formula to make the whole nation work as one.

So far, there has been little action and too much rhetoric; oratory skills alone does not a good leader make. For saudara Anwar Bin Ibrahim, the noise is beginning to ring hollow.

To this end, much attention is now focused on Zaid Ibrahim following his resignation as de facto Law Minister and senator, and after his
landmark speech at the LawAsia 2008 Conference that appears to have set the parameters for Bangsa Malaysia.

The Singapore Straits Times has this report that was quoted in the
Malaysian Insider:

What does Anwar really want?

Sleepy Batu Caves became a hot spot of controversy recently all because of a 12.2m-high painted plywood cut-out of a smiling Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in a blue shirt and red tie and with his right hand held high. The opposition leader's supporters in the area had put up the RM5,000 replica of him in time for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. But it quickly drew flak from the Mufti of Perlis and Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Ali Rustam. They accused Anwar's supporters of idol worship and thus, being anti-Muslim and anti-Malay, since idol worship is anathema in Islam.

The cut-out has since been dismantled, but its exaggerated homage does raise a question about Anwar: is he keener on becoming the next prime minister of Malaysia than on shaping a credible alternative government?

Those aims are not mutually exclusive, of course. But since leading the opposition coalition to victory in five states in the March general election, Anwar has spoken of little else besides getting enough ruling coalition MPs to cross over to the opposition so he could become prime minister. He boasted that he would accomplish this feat by Sept 16, the anniversary of Malaysia's founding in 1963. The day has come and gone and Anwar is still not yet prime minister.

Whose cause is he more interested in championing: his or the people's? Many Malaysians now say that it is Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, not Anwar, who has what it takes to be prime minister of Malaysia.

Zaid was the law minister till he quit the Cabinet on, yes, Sept 16 to protest against the government's detentions under the Internal Security Act of an opposition politician, two bloggers and a journalist for allegedly inciting racial hatred.

Anwar's constant talk of taking over the government is like political bonfires which the ruling Barisan Nasional has to keep putting out. The bonfires have not made him premier, but they have caused the incumbent, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, to call an early end to his tenure, causing even more uncertainty about Malaysia's future.

Already, foreign investors are holding off on new forays into the country. Malaysian Investors' Association chairman P.H.S. Lim told The Straits Times that Anwar's bonfires have caused a big annual meeting in New York between global investors and Abdullah and his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to be cancelled at the last minute.

On Oct 23, Anwar told reporters that he was now -in no terrible hurry- to seize power but would try working with BN instead to resolve the country's economic problems.

One might say that Anwar should not need to concern himself with the details of government and can leave his lieutenants to chalk up experience instead. But with almost 20 years of experience in the federal Cabinet himself, could Anwar not have prevented his lieutenants from making some serious mistakes and gaffes?

It is in Selangor, the country's industrial vanguard, where the opposition coalition is most beleaguered. Its patchy performance in the state so far may prove Anwar's undoing. That is because Selangor is governed by Anwar's own Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which has the least experience among Pakatan Rakyat's three component parties, having won only one parliamentary seat in the 2004 General Election.

Selangor's new Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim initially delighted his electorate by giving them some free water every month. But then he decided to go ahead with a RM100 million project to integrate pig farms. Many Muslims castigated him for it, even though it was his BN predecessor, Datuk Seri Khir Toyo, who had approved the project.

There has been little let-up since, with Khalid having to deal with the controversial demolition of Hindu temples, an aide hauled up for corruption, the vilification of his outspoken coalition compatriot Teresa Kok and the nomination of alleged criminals as town councillors. His suggestion that the all-Malay Universiti Teknologi Mara give 10 per cent of its places to non-Malays caused the campus to erupt in protest in August. Khalid need not have made this gesture for few, if any, non-Malays are keen on studying at UiTM.

To top it all, PR still does not speak in one voice. When Khalid announced on Oct 26 that a Chinese woman, Low Siew Moi, would temporarily temporarily, mind head the state's development corporation, PR's Islamic component Pas protested, saying that one from among her Malay colleagues should have been appointed instead.

How are Malaysians to hope that PR will bring about a Malaysia for all races, as Anwar likes to say at his stirring rallies, if its component parties cannot even agree on a Chinese occupying an official position temporarily?

Anwar would do well to remember that the large share of the vote that PR got on March 8 was meant more as a referendum on Abdullah's lackadaisical administration than as a ringing endorsement of PR as a credible alternative to BN.

In recent months, BN has bungled again and again, especially in hastily detaining opponents under the ISA and just as hastily releasing most of them. With such bungles, all Anwar had to do was just guide his compatriots in good governance and sit tight until the people voted them into power at the federal level in the next general election.

But where is the shadow Cabinet the opposition should have been able to form by now? The only shadowing PR has done so far was to tail ruling coalition MPs when they travelled to Taiwan, a trip allegedly arranged to prevent the latter from crossing over to PR.

The current buzz is that Najib, who is set to become the country's next prime minister, will call for snap polls when he takes over from Abdullah next March. Judging by its slip-ups since March 8, Anwar and the opposition seem ill-prepared for that eventuality.

Perhaps Anwar is keener on remaining just the leader of the opposition than on becoming the next prime minister of Malaysia.

Straits Times Singapore

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