The vote on Anwar

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.

A heart for the poor

Many, many years ago I attended a course where the course leader took us through the Bible to show us that God is actually biased… towards the poor, that is.

It was quite something to have my preconceived notions peeled away to read Scripture as it is actually written.

Of course God is not unjust. But Scripture teaches me that the poor, the weak, the helpless, have a special place in God’s heart. Even to the extent that when we are kind to the poor, God regards that as kindness to Him.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 34-40

A few days ago I read this article by Praba Ganesan, a Malay Mail columnist, entitled “Why faith in the poor works”.

In it he shared about his uncle, who was caught in the vicious cycle of drug abuse and eventually passed away.

He was a junkie who had two wives, because he never divorced the first one. Children from both marriages, he never lived to see any of his children marry. Junkie means a drug addict. He was in and out of prisons, more out in his later years, and then passed away.

But then,

My uncle could not break away from his addiction. He brought his wife down, and later on acquired another in India with the misguided notion that marriage solves problems.

Both sets of children are saddled with his problems, but to their amazing credit they love each other even if from separate mothers. They assume responsibility for each other, and I can’t express my admiration at their resolve to be right by each other. Maybe my uncle did get something right, when he was alive.

The thing is, they are walking examples that if the state had a bit more faith in its people, it would be worthwhile.

The point Praba wants to make is that while there are many who made wrong choices and threw their lives away, there are others who make the right choices but will need help to escape their circumstances.

I am living embodiment. If there was no subsidised public education or the state government willing to back me, I’d not have a degree. I’d be shut out of opportunities. I’d be an outcast.

Which is why I fight for the less privileged. It may not be noticed, but we are nasty to those born on the wrong side of the track. I’d be at my old school’s homecoming dinner this weekend, but I do not forget where I come from. There is nothing which will make me forget where I come from. It defines me.

But what I do argue, and I do so regularly is that many Malaysians need a hand up, but not pity from their fellow Malaysians.

A country is about the potential and not about reality. And if a country is about what is possible, it realises we have done really badly for those who should have had assistance to sort out their bootstraps a long time ago. The real error is that we did not do enough so long ago.

This is where I stand, this void, sometimes in the impression it is a lonely stretch. A very lonely stretch.

There is so much we can do, really, so much. But the fact we are encumbered by history, a sense of entitlement and the burdens of history, leads us away from the real things, the opportunity to lift the most deserving from the weight of the world. Actually, to lift even the most undeserving from the filth of the world.

His convictions resonate with me. So too his experience because I too came from a poor family. I too would not be where I am today if not for the education opportunities provided by the Government.

But what caught my attention, and prompted this article, is his passion for the poor. So close to the heart of God. And I do wonder if He would be biased towards such a one. I pray so.

Mischief afoot?

It’s like a barn house dance, changing partners every few bars as the music merrily plays on.

After PH’s historic win over BN, Zahid met with Dr Mahathir. And Najib called Anwar. At some point, it seems, PAS president Hadi and PPBB president Abang Johari also met Dr Mahathir.

A few days ago Mustapa Mohamed, a senior UMNO leader, quit UMNO, followed by Anifah Aman.

The rumour mill is working overtime. “There will be many more resignations to come. PPBM is enticing Malay MPs over to strengthen its own position.”

Adding fuel to the fire, Hishammuddin recently met with Mahathir, to “listen to Mahathir’s plans for the country’s future”.

And let’s not forget Rafizi’s claim that Mahathir wants to deny Anwar the premiership and Azmin is a pawn in this game.

Underneath all these is UMNO’s desperation to get back into power. Nazri recently revealed (and Zahid has acknowledged) that UMNO MPs have signed a a statutory declaration empowering Zahid “to negotiate with Pakatan Harapan parties or PAS in its bid to return to government”.

The article goes on to say,

Nazri’s remarks have made political observers (including, I must admit, yours truly) to ask if this is a ploy to create disunity among Pakatan parties and drive a wedge between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar?

With Dr Mahathir already shutting the Pakatan door on Umno, political observers are asking if the underlining message is Zahid and Co will be taken in by Anwar (sooner or later) considering their ties back in the days in Umno?

For the record, Dr Mahathir’s stand is Umno will not be accepted into Pakatan even if they work with PKR. Still, Umno members can join Bersatu or any Pakatan component party as ordinary members, but not come in as a party. En bloc, so to speak.

Anwar, on his part, also said there will be no cooperation between Pakatan and Umno… at least for now. Not very reassuring as some people see it.

UMNO’s dalliance with PAS has been quite public.

But then last week, Dr Ahmad Zahid and several top Umno leaders held a hush-hush meeting with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya.

A source said it was to discuss the Malay agenda and how politics had divided the Malays.

The source said that Dr Mahathir, who is also Bersatu chairman, seemed concerned that Malay support will not be with Pakatan once he is no longer up there.

“There was nothing at the meeting to imply any sort of alliance.

“The discussion was on the well-being of the Malays and the betterment of the country,” said the source.

Perhaps we should take Wong Chun Wai’s advice,

But dig deeper, and it sounds more like a group of Umno MPs – who find the gravy train now derailed, and without benefit in sight – cooking up a juicy story to let the various insecure factions in Pakatan Harapan fight over them, for what they are still worth as MPs.

And if nothing is offered, what can be more pleasing to the egos than be heralded as the saviour of the race and religion at the party assembly for their undying proclamation to the party, race and religion?

But don’t be too quick to dismiss the story. It’s only a story, so far, and it hasn’t ended. Whether it’s fiction or otherwise, it will always be strange because this is Malaysia.

For the main PH players involved, Mahathir and Anwar, it would be sensible to keep their eyes on the ball, to work for the good and welfare of the nation and its people. PH is in power and Anwar’s premiership in 2 years is in the hands of PH MPs, not UMNO or PAS. An agreement is in place and key parties have publicly endorsed that agreement. There is no need to play games and allow insecurities to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you look at the things that are actually being done, the PH government is making good progress. A lot of positive decisions have been made, the latest of which is the appointment of Art Harun as the EC chairman. Ultimately this is what the electorate wants. And not more political games that will only benefit certain politicians.

The hope of Anwar

Today, Khairy said that “Anwar is not a king“. It is, of course, a loaded political bit of mischief, because Anwar never claimed to be one, and his “PD Move” is not a coronation.

Kit Siang called on PD voters to support Anwar, saying that this is the beginning of the second phase of “new Malaysia”. Kit Siang is of course appealing to sentiments that GE14 has ushered in a new Malaysia and he made it very clear that Anwar’s premiership claim is very much part of the plan.

Many others though, significantly those who are in “civil society” (I use this loosely to cover those who are not connected directly to political parties) criticised the PD Move because it involved sacrificing an MP. Some think Anwar should have waited until GE15 to prove his legitimacy. Others think that either his daughter Nurul Izzah or his wife Wan Azizah, should have been the ones sacrificed and because they are not, still others like Ambiga, raised issues of nepotism.

Wong Chun Wai addressed this with characteristic directness.

It’s pointless being the PM-in-waiting if one isn’t elected. We could not give two hoots about the charade and antics of politicians, who have the audacity to tell us they dislike politicking. We want certainty, stability and succession planning.

Anwar being named successor and elected into Parliament will provide better comfort because otherwise, an ugly scramble for power is bound to ensue, which we have no wish to see.

Then there is the issue of family dynasty, but let’s not get into this because the Lim brood has two MPs and a senator, the Karpal clan has two MPs and one state assemblyman, and of course, there’s the PM and his Mentri Besar son.

Yet others are looking forward to the hope of Anwar; here is a person who wrote to encourage Anwar to be a PM who would be known as “Bapa Perpaduan Malaysia“, the father of Malaysian unity.

This nation needs a Bapa Perpaduan Malaysia. It needs someone who can remove the sensitivities that have divided the people, causing us to pull each other down or suppress others. This nation needs a Bapa Perpaduan who can lead all of us to respect and accept – not simply tolerate – each other’s differences; to live and work together for the best interests of our descendants and the nation. This nation needs you to do that. You can be the Bapa Perpaduan that we yearn for; the Bapa Perpaduan who helps us visit each other’s places of worship freely, who gives us the right to worship in our own ways as long as we do not intrude, interfere or impose our values onto others. We need you to do that.

There is no doubt that Anwar is a polarising personality. And there is no doubt that with the PD Move, Anwar is very much back in the thick of Malaysian politics.

Anwar has his baggage. In his meteoric rise to the top when he was in UMNO he was ruthless. He was, in my mind (and to be honest I was not very informed those days), a Malay nationalist, championing the Malay cause to the detriment of others in the country.

But let’s be honest and say that Mahathir has his baggage too and did much harm to the country during his first stint as PM.

To my mind, there is no one like Anwar in Malaysia today who can fill Mahathir’s shoes. I think only Anwar has the stature and commands the respect of all the major parties in PH, as well as major institutions in Malaysia.

But even more so, Anwar has the respect of the Malay community and is a voice they can listen to, especially when it comes to persuading them to embrace change. Anwar can be very persuasive.

For now, politics in Malaysia is very fragmented and however you like it, personalities and not political parties count a great deal, when it comes to PM material because he has to command the respect of different parties with different agenda and ambitions. I think I am being realistic when I ask the question, after Mahathir, who? At 93 anything can happen any time.

Anwar has his own agenda, for sure. He has his ambitions, no doubt. And he has his way of doing things that you might find disagreeable. But of course! So many different people have different expectations of him. But he can only be himself and no one knows who he will be as PM.

Right now, we only have the hope of Anwar to replace Mahathir whom, when we voted in GE14, we have no idea who he will be as PM either.

But think the other way round and you will see that the country needs him for now. Many people dislike his actions in positioning himself to take over as PM and see it as entitlement. I see it as the only choice available to the country.

Those who want him to wait till GE15 to lead his party to victory and establish his legitimacy are willing to risk the country being destabilised should anything happen to Mahathir. They should consider that PH stood on the platform of Mahathir and then Anwar within these 5 years, as Kit Siang is saying. It was a tag team that was put forward in GE14. And surely he does not need to prove he can win an election to become an MP.

It does no good to undermine him unless there is someone else who can take truly over from Mahathir. Yet many who wanted PH to succeed are now undermining him. Sad, or foolish?

The People’s Justice Party

I have kept an eye on the developments of the race for the deputy presidency of PKR. At least after Anwar won uncontested the presidency. Because before that there was a question as to whether Azmin would challenge Anwar for the presidency.

Interestingly Azmin never came out to address the speculation. In the end it turned out when nominations closed that he was only going to defend his deputy presidency.

In the meantime Rafizi threw his hat into the ring for the deputy presidency, challenging Azmin.

Rafizi’s strategy is to wrap himself tightly around Anwar, even claiming Nurul Izzah in his corner. His primary script is that Azmin is a rival to Anwar, and should be removed.

Azmin’s strategy is to keep above the fray and not respond to Rafizi, except to point to his own record in PKR to substantiate his loyalty.

Underneath all these is a failed move in the past called the Kajang Move.

The manoeuvre sought to topple the 14th Menteri Besar of Selangor, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, and install the national opposition leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim (who subsequently could not contest as he was convicted in Sodomy II) as his replacement. The move was initiated by Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Strategy Director, then Vice President cum Secretary General, Rafizi Ramli. 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 crisis concluded with the appointment of PKR’s Deputy President, Azmin Ali, as the 15th Menteri Besar of Selangor.

Azmin was never PKR’s choice, but was submitted to the sultan by PAS.

Back to the present, the question as to whether Azmin was actually contemplating challenging Anwar was never actually addressed.

A few days ago, Rafizi revealed that Azmin had asked Anwar to step aside, at a meeting in Turkey.

“If this story wasn’t true, I would not say it live like this,” he was quoted as saying by a news portal during a ceramah at the “Reformasi 20 Tahun” programme in Kota Baru on Friday night.

Of course Azmin rubbished it.

Yesterday, in response to a complaint by PKR vice-president, Tian Chua, that Rafizi is making public decisions that are yet to be discussed and ratified by the main PKR leadership, Rafizi said the plan to enable the PKR president-elect to return to Parliament was discussed by Anwar himself and several other party leaders.

”I understand Tian Chua may have felt awkward for not being involved in the process. Usually, only a few of us are involved. That includes me, Anwar and several others,” Rafizi said here on Sunday night (Sept 9).

Rafizi, however, said he would not have announced something that significant involving Anwar without getting his approval.

”There are a few important decisions that are not discussed with everyone, only with a few of us … Anwar discussed it with people that have to do with it,” he said. Rafizi also said the plan to vacate the seat had been in place since the general election and was identified early on. He said that the move was timely as the benefits outweigh the risks and all would be revealed this week.

Let me get to the points I wish to make.

  1. Rafizi now claims (though not in so many words) to be Anwar’s proxy. In other words, he speaks for Anwar.
  2. If indeed he speaks for Anwar, then not only did the story of Azmin asking Anwar to step aside originate from Anwar (note I don’t say it is true because I do not know), but also Anwar regards Azmin as a rival and wishes to expose Azmin as such, and remove him.
  3. (assuming again that Rafizi is accurate), Anwar is sidelining the PKR leadership.

This is no longer a contest for the deputy presidency of PKR.

There are only 2 responses that would make sense.

Firstly it is true. And it is Anwar’s decision to expose Azmin. Then Anwar does nothing.

Secondly, Anwar states in no uncertain terms that Rafizi does not speak for him.

Finally, assuming the first response, that it is true, and Anwar lets Rafizi’s claims stand, my respect for Anwar, and my trust in his integrity, takes a serious hit. And the fact that I would even write such an article shows how much damage Rafizi has caused.

It could very well be true, that Azmin has ambitions. But is it true that he is impatient? Is he such a political novice that he thinks he can just ask Anwar to step aside? Do his calculations really show that he can win the public, as well as PH component parties, over to his side after stabbing Anwar in the back?

I don’t know Azmin at all. But I’m pretty sure he is not stupid.

I titled this article with the full name of PKR just to remind us of what PKR is about. Not Anwar, but Justice.

Many, many years ago, the man in power felt that his second-in-command was impatient and engineered his ouster. And the People’s Justice Party was born. Perhaps events might take a full circle, and after being ousted, Azmin joins PPBM to lead the party when Mahathir vacates his position.

A troubling development

On 28 July 2018, there was the “Himpunan Kebangkitan Ummah” rally which attracted about 1000 people. Participants called for the upholding of the rights of the Malays, Islam and the preservation of Bahasa Malaysia.

A report on 7 August quoted Patriot President about 2 videos showing two Umno politicians, Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, making speeches during the Sg Kandis by-election. The videos smacked of racism, hatred and incitement against one race that could cause public disorder, racial disharmony and above all, threaten national peace and security.

”Patriot takes a serious view at the speeches made by those two Umno politicians and urges them to refrain from making such speeches in the future that can result in disastrous consequence to racial harmony and the peace and security of our country,” Patriot president Brig Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji said in a statement today.

A “Melayu Bangkit” rally was held at Pasir Salak on 2 September, drawing thousands of Malays.

Organiser and Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman claimed there were 10,000 attendees who came from all over the country, not just Perak, adding that they included non-party members.

The Pasir Salak MP said the gathering was held to show that Malays will unite when their rights, Islam and Malay institutions are under threat or disrespected.

This week there is growing evidence that an electoral pact between UMNO and PAS will be an official reality.

UMNO invites PAS to general assembly on Sept 29 and 30, and will also grace PAS’s muktamar with its entire leadership.

In his speech at a PAS ceramah for the Seri Setia by-election campaign, which was also attended by the MIC deputy president and a MCA central committee member, Zahid said,

“The Malay rulers must be respected, Malay privileges must be respected, Bahasa Malaysia as the national language must be respected and Islam as the religion of the federation cannot be questioned.”

In his speech at the PAS event, Zahid accused the Pakatan Harapan government of undermining Malay interests, saying that “the principles in the federal constitution cannot change.”

In one sense it is an inevitable development. After all, Pakatan Harapan consists of parties which were ideologically very different and in the case of PPBM, with key personalities who were enemies. They came together with the uniting purpose to defeat BN, which is seen to be corrupt.

Why not two traditional enemies coming together to defend Malay and Islamic interests?

The real question is why MCA and MIC continue to hang on. Whose interests are they representing and defending by their association with UMNO and PAS?

At the most cynical level, an UMNO-PAS pact to defend Malay and Islamic interests would probably be the quickest way back to power. Both parties wield enormous influence over the Malay electorate and the Malay electorate wield enormous influence over election results.

GE14 is not “mission accomplished” with respect to the ills of our society. Instead it is an opportunity to free up the national conversation, away from Malay and Islamic rhetoric, to consider the merits of inclusiveness and unity.

Unfortunately that space is taken up by some civil society advocates, emboldened by the change in the political climate, to speak their mind with complete disregard to the sensitivities of others. Islamic practice is characterised as pedophilia, barbaric (to cane women publicly), the civil service is characterised as bloated, backward, and feudal, and the Malays are unthinking, lazy and dependent on handouts.

Such careless characterisations, that demonstrates disregard for the dignity of the Malay and the muslim, are no different from the likes of Tajuddin, Annuar and Zahid and their rhetoric that demonstrates disregard for non-Malays and non-muslims. One says “I am right and you are stupid”, while the other says “I am great and you are insignificant”.

It doesn’t help one bit to have critics shout that the PH government is bending its own principles (Mazlee), abusing power (Guan Eng’s acquittal) and reneging on its promises (that blasted manifesto). Every small thing is amplified to be everything.

To me, if I were a Malay muslim, it would not be difficult to think that once the problem of corruption has been dealt with, I would like to go back to the way things were where my interests are taken care of and let other people bark from the sidelines. After all, even in their eyes the PH government is failing.

But that would be tragic as we return to being divided along racial and religious lines and the cloud that has been lifted by GE14 returns and the country misses its chance to move forward.

My plea is for everyone to work towards unity and speak with respect about each other, even when we disagree. And my prayer is that God will shield us from our own foolishness.

The PM in waiting

It is a strange position to be in: designated as the 8th prime minister of Malaysia while the 7th prime minister is still in charge.

What can Anwar do in the meantime that will not threaten the sitting PM, while still remaining significant?

Many people have come up with different ideas but most were united in this: Anwar should bide his time patiently. To appear impatient, to suggest that the PMship is his entitlement, to contradict the sitting PM, would cast him in bad light.

In this recent article, Anwar seems to have come up with the solution: Let the PM run the country, and let me manage the legislative agenda.

It is an interesting idea, and one with merit, except there is still the danger of clashing priorities and even ideas and agenda. If Anwar were to do this, he will have to adhere strictly to an agreed upon agenda among the PH parties. It is important that he demonstrates his willingness to be a team player.

I wish to put forward another proposal, that perhaps can go hand-in-hand with the management of the legislative agenda.

That Anwar goes on a “road show”, especially to rural Malaysia, to sell the PH agenda and to reassure the Malay public that they have little to fear and much to gain when they embrace “Malaysia for Malaysians”.

Change is a dangerous process when at least half the population of the country have not embraced the New Malaysia. Yet without real and substantive change, the country will not only lose this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but will continue to be mired in racial, religious and cultural conflicts.

Two years is a good and well-paced opportunity for Anwar to allow the country to really get to know who the next PM is, and to get the country to trust and embrace the party and coalition he leads. And it will be a great opportunity to unite the people.

The foundation for the New Malaysia is going to be laid in the many important legislative enactments that will come. But the most important part of that foundation will be the change in the hearts and minds of the people. Anwar is a great communicator and I truly hope that he will set his heart to do this.

I voted for change

The past week or so, in conjunction with the 100 days anniversary of the PH government, there have been numerous articles assessing the performance of this fledgling government.

Many of the observations are obvious: the ministers seem to act like the opposition, they seem to be focused on ferreting out past wrongs in order to cast a continuing bad light on the previous administration, they have not fulfilled all the promises spelled out in their election manifesto. A common admonition is that they must start governing, start articulating long term policies and strategies to move the country forward, especially in the area of economic policy.

Others disagree with specific decisions, especially the abolition of GST and reintroduction of SST, the third national car project, the response of the PH government to specific situations, namely the marriage of an 11 year old, the removal of pictures of LGBT activists in a public exhibition. Interestingly, the PH government was blamed for the destruction of a barricade that the Orang Asli had put up to protect their land, in Kelantan; something they have no direct jurisdiction over.

I must admit I was pretty shocked when I read this on Patrick Teoh’s facebook: Victimising LGBT Malaysians, condoning pedophilia, destroying Orang Asli ancestral lands…. Is this the new Malaysia? Sounds worse than the old version to me. I didn’t vote for this type of government.

Civil society, I think, has been particularly critical of the PH government. As many Malaysians have responded to such criticisms, Rome was not built in a day. Many of the issues that civil society are concerned about are built into laws, culture and religion, and also into the prejudices, fears, expectations and perceptions of Malaysians. And unless you wish to be a dictator, you cannot redress these matters overnight.

Of all the problems Malaysia faces, problems that arise from values and beliefs are the hardest to deal with and these are often the problems that civil society are fighting for.

Certainly I didn’t vote for a government that seeks to victimise LGBT Malaysians (or any Malaysians for that matter), condone pedophilia and disregard the rights and needs of a poor and powerless people like the Orang Asli. And I’m pretty sure that this description of the PH government is pretty far off the mark.

But what did I vote for? Perhaps while we are assessing this new government, we should re-examine our expectations when we voted.

I voted for change.

At the most basic, I wanted a change of government. I wanted a two-party system in the political scene because I believe that this is the best deal for Malaysia. You are forced to do well if you know that otherwise you will be out the next round. If you are always voted into power, you can, at best, be lazy and incompetent, or at worst, be corrupt and destructive.

As they say, “new broom sweeps clean”, and I believe that this new government are hungry to prove themselves better than the previous one. They may not be the most competent and they will take time to learn the ropes. But I have always believed that good governance requires commonsense, not vast amounts of knowledge and experience. Moreover, the civil service is there to make sure things don’t go wrong.

And for me, the cherry on top is the fact that this government is reform-minded. Not only has it set out to do things differently, but it has committed itself to reform key institutions in order to make it much harder for any government to govern willy nilly. Parliamentary reform is in the works. Respectable and competent people have been drafted into key positions, including the judiciary and the AG Chambers. I am waiting for the CEP report on institutional reform because that will be vital. A committee has already been formed to look into election reform.

The economy will always require immediate attention. You will be slaughtered politically if things go wrong with people’s livelihood. Reform can always be ignored and put on the backburner and paid lip-service. For this government to put reform at the top of its to-do list is a wonderful surprise.

To be honest, this government has far exceeded my expectations and I am so thankful to God for such a wonderful miracle.

Reports of reform

Appointment of Tommy Thomas

Institutional Reforms Committee

Electoral Reform Committee

Nine agencies begin reporting to Parliament

Setting up Parliamentary Select Committees

Auditor General no longer appointed by PM

MACC and National Audit Department to come under Parliament.

Bogeyman politics

Campaigning in the PKR elections seems to have reached fevered pitch with the Kapar MP Abdullah Sani publicly accusing Daim of conspiring to stop Anwar from becoming Prime Minister. The PKR MP, who is campaigning for Rafizi’s bid to be elected deputy president promised to show proof at a later stage.

In a strange twist, one key claim that Rafizi has made for his bid is that a loyal deputy president, meaning himself (and by implication, his opponent, the incumbent Azmin, is disloyal) is vital to ensure that Anwar will succeed to be PM in the future. The rumoured story is that Mahathir is grooming Azmin to overtake Anwar, and the proof is Mahathir’s appointment of Azmin to the powerful Economic Affairs Ministry.

No one can know for certain what Mahathir really intends or thinks with respect to Anwar. And any claim in that respect must be dismissed as speculation. As I have mentioned in another article, you can claim anything with respect to anyone’s intentions and motivations. No one can prove you wrong. But neither can you prove it. You can feel Mahathir’s disgust over such tactics with his terse response: Show proof I want to block Anwar.

“I am not interested and stay away from interfering in the affairs of other parties,” he added.

But if you turn a deaf ear to the speculation and just look at the facts, Mahathir had appointed the PKR President to be his DPM and the PKR Deputy President to what is said to be a very powerful ministry, when previously no less than Rafizi had complained that Mahathir had not given due consideration to PKR’s dominant position as the party with the most number of MPs by rewarding it with ministries of greater significance. Who else should he have appointed to that ministry?

It just seems to me that a desperate Rafizi is resorting to “bogeyman” politics.

The bogeyman “is a common allusion to a mythical creature in many cultures used by adults to frighten children into good behaviour.”

“You need me to defend you and your loved ones against the bogeyman.”

UMNO has used this tactic for decades, casting the Chinese, the Christians as the bogeyman, ever ready to enslave the Malays and Christianise the Muslims. In more recent times, DAP is cast as both Chinese and Christian.

The harm of such tactics is that you make monsters out of innocent parties or communities and you create an unreasonable fear and paranoia about them, causing a breakdown in relationships. Not to mention that you are slandering in order to advance your own cause.

To see bogeyman politics being practised so early in PH’s history is a little alarming. If it works for Rafizi it could encourage others with similar ambitions to try such tactics and when they come into positions of power and influence they may start to demonise persons or communities, just as UMNO did.

What Rafizi does not realize, or perhaps does not care, is the harm he is causing to the relationship between Anwar and Mahathir, and by implication, between PKR and PPBM. And, I must say, the harm to Anwar in the eyes of the public. There is nothing more ugly than the sight of a man who feels entitled and who strikes out to defend that entitlement. I am not saying that this is Anwar, because I think he is a far better politician than this. But Rafizi is doing him no favours and linking Nurul Izzah with himself taints him even further.

Bogeyman politics is another relic of old Malaysia we should do away with.