Ever since he burst onto the national stage in the 70s, I have felt that Anwar’s agenda was not “Malaysian”, but “Malay” and “muslim”. This was not in any way predicated on any detailed knowledge, but impressions garnered from newspapers.
When Anwar shifted from an external pressure group (ABIM) to join UMNO, I felt that he was a man who was willing to be used because he believes he can use those who would use him.
He quickly rose in rank and soon became Minister of Education. There, his move to rename Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu revealed his Malay agenda. I still remember those years wondering whether Malaysia would be swept by Communism that was sweeping across the nations in the north, or whether the country would be “Islamised” and freedom of religion would be swept aside.
When Anwar engineered his victory to be the Deputy President of UMNO, and thus Deputy Prime Minister, sweeping aside Ghafar Baba, I saw him as manipulative and ruthless.
When he met his fall, I thought he was beaten at his own game. Reformasi felt like a means to save his own skin.
Not that I condoned such manipulations of the system, but if you live by the sword you die by the sword.
Then came 20 or so years, mostly in prison, while building his own political party founded on the principles of justice.
Today, on voting day in Port Dickson, as Anwar takes an important step towards becoming the next Prime Minister of Malaysia, I ask myself: which Prime Minister are we getting?
Do we rejoin the timeline in the late 90s and Malaysia gets the Anwar had he played his cards better? Or is this sidetrack of the timeline, Anwar’s 20 years in the wilderness, to enable Malaysia to get a better Anwar than possible twenty years ago?
The answer, of course, is “only God knows.” The one thing I am sure of is that you cannot go through the 20 years and remain unchanged.
The bible is positive that suffering can make a better man. Moses had his wilderness experience, Jacob was cheated out of many years of his life and Joseph must have at times felt that fate was cruel. But they came through better men, and better leaders, in God’s sight.
I think suffering can also be negative, in that a person can emerge bitter and vengeful. I cannot quote any biblical examples but I think life has plenty of examples.
I am a believer. I believe in grace. I believe in redemption. I believe a man can change. Not to become a different person, of course. But a change of perspective, a cementing of what is truly important, and who are important to you. I believe in hope.
If today is a referendum on Anwar as the next Prime Minister of Malaysia, I vote yes, for a man whose ambitions have brought him to the top only to crash and forced to undergo 20 years in the wilderness, and by grace has been given a second chance.