Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Anwar Factor

Raja Petra Kamarudin

On 11 September 2000, I published an article in the Free Anwar Campaign website called The Anwar Factor. This is what I said then:

Anwar said Mahathir would not last beyond the year 2004 - that is, the final date to hold the Eleventh General Election. Wishful thinking? I think not. This seems to be the same thoughts of some ‘strong’ Umno members I met over the weekend.

In their hearts, they had hoped Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah would meet Mahathir head-on in the recent party election and make a bid for the party Presidency. But this was not to be. As much as Umno and the whole of Malaysia were hoping for a showdown, nothing happened.

What disappointment everyone felt. The anticipated battle of the year was a non-starter.

Tengku Razaleigh is the only Umno Parliamentarian in the state of Kelantan. The rest of the seats are all opposition held. There is a joke making its rounds that the opposition purposely let Tengku Razaleigh win that seat by fielding a candidate not of his same calibre to ensure that he would still be around to give Mahathir a run for his money. If this is true, then the opposition wasted that seat.

Anyway, whether Tengku Razaleigh takes Mahathir on or not, Umno still has to resolve the matter of Mahathir's retirement.

Umno realises that Mahathir wants to die in office. But the point is: this is taking too long to happen. Umno cannot afford to face the 2004 general election with Mahathir still at the helm. This will spell doom for it.

For the opposition, in particular the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), this is no problem. If Mahathir wants to stay on until the next election, let him. This would increase the chances of an opposition victory.

This happened in 1990 in the state of Kelantan. The people were so fed up with its Umno Chief Minister, Mohd Yaacob, but he insisted on staying on and the state fell to the opposition.

Then, in 1999, the same thing happened in Terengganu. Its Chief Minister, Wan Mokhtar, had overstayed his welcome. When he decided to go one last round, everyone knew the state was finished and, true enough, that state too fell.

Kedah, Mahathir's home state, almost fell when the opposition won eight out of the 15 Parliament seats in that state. This is another way the people are saying, "Mahathir must go." The opposition won only one-third of the state seats though - if not they would be ruling that state as well.

This shook Mahathir and Umno so badly that the Chief Minister, Sanusi Junid, a staunch Mahathir man, had to go. It really hurt Mahathir to have to retire Sanusi as there was no man in Umno more loyal to him than Sanusi. But they needed a scapegoat and the Chief Minister had to be it.

Umno can see its fortunes diminishing as long as Mahathir still leads the party. The trouble is, Mahathir does not think so, but he seems to be the only man to feel so. The talk on the lips of every Umno man is not whether Mahathir should go or not. This is unanimous - he must go. What they need to sort out is how to allow the old man to go gracefully and with little or no loss of face.

This is easier said than done! How do you remove, in a nice way, a person who is holding all that power and prestige? A sacking is a sacking anyway you look at it. As long as the old man wants to stay on, you are stuck - unless you remove him by force.

But who in Umno has enough courage to bell the cat? They have seen what happened to Anwar Ibrahim. And Anwar was not even trying to remove Mahathir. All Anwar did was to disagree with Mahathir on who should be bailed out from the financial crisis and who should be given a decent burial. The only problem was, those on the list of dead ducks were all Mahathir's friends and family members.

This was sheer coincidence. Anwar did not intentionally target them for death. They had already collapsed due to self-inflicted wounds. In Malaysia, big business is procured not though know-how but through know-who. And all those who knew the Prime Minister prospered.

This is okay when the economy is good. Badly run and over-geared companies can make it in boom time. But when the economy takes a turn for the worse, the badly run companies will be the first to take a fall.

This also happened to be the IMF's formula for solving the crisis. Use whatever little money the country has to save the good businesses. The bad businesses must be allowed to go. But the bad businesses are all owned by Mahathir's friends and family.

This was the main issue Anwar and Mahathir could not agree on. And Anwar was not even talking about Mahathir's retirement yet.

The rest, as they say, is now history. Malaysia took certain short-term measures to solve a long-term problem. Can these measures carry Malaysia over the long haul? Probably not! Foreign investments have been rapidly declining. Malaysia has lost its competitive edge over its ASEAN neighbours. Thailand, Indonesia, and even India and China are displacing Malaysia as the ‘economic miracle’. The short-term measures are beginning to take its toll. Malaysia is going downhill.

Umno realises Mahathir is now a liability, both politically and economically. With Mahathir staying on until 2004, Malaysia will lose its place in the business world, and the ruling coalition its power in the political arena. But what to do with Mahathir?

Umno cannot solve its problem in isolation. They cannot just address the Mahathir issue while ignoring the Anwar issue. Whatever plans they come up with must include the Anwar factor.

Getting rid of Mahathir - however nicely it may be done - will not extricate Umno from its problems as long as Anwar still sits in jail. This is what makes the task very difficult. Pushing Mahathir out is difficult enough. Getting Anwar out as well involves a major reversal of what has been done thus far.

Umno realises Anwar is far from finished. With Mahathir gone it will just make Anwar stronger and Umno weaker. If Umno wants to save itself it must include Anwar in the formula. But how?

Mahathir's successor does not have his job cut out for him. Mahathir's legacy is going to be one of turmoil and uncertainty. Umno has only the next one to two years to figure this one out. If they wait too long the damage will be beyond repair. But they cannot act now as long as Mahathir still believes he is God's gift to Malaysia.

It's no fun being next in line after Mahathir.

Yes, that was what I wrote five years ago in September 2000. Mahathir left the scene before the 2004 general election as predicted. With Mahathir no longer at the helm, the ruling party sailed through the Eleventh General Election with flying colours as predicted. And Anwar was freed from jail as predicted.

Three predictions, all fulfilled, and in the timeframe predicted as well. Three strikes in a row - a perfect score. But this is certainly not the end of the saga. It may even be just the beginning. For all intents and purposes, this is only Act One, played out in Three Scenes. The question now would be: what is Act Two going to be about?

The Second Act yet to be played out in ‘The Anwar Factor’ is what role would Anwar be playing in the attempt to save Umno from itself? Dare I hazard a prediction that he would be brought back to Umno as a White Knight to prop up Abdullah Badawi?

No, I already have a perfect score of three strikes. I don’t think I want to risk spoiling my 'clean' record by predicting this.


le-khair said...

but it might be worth predicting bro...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 9:16:19 AM  
Mr. Smith said...

Raja is a smart man because he knows the situation is very fluid and can flow in any direction.
UMNO is a party living in fear and in utter confusion.
The chances of his predictions being fulfilled at this point of time is very remote.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 10:37:14 AM  
bumi-non-malay said...

Come on Raja one more.

OK here is mine....Anwar ____?? join UMNO....he he he...fill in the blank. He is now weighing up being a Legendary Legacy or Power- Corruption lagacy.....Datuk Onn class or Pariah class (like ku li).....Principle or money$$$$....We will not judge him by the content of his SKIN but by the CHARACTER of the person.....Martin Luther King!!

Yes its hard ....but that is what underdogs are for ...they rise to the occasion without the trappings of corruptions but by the power of the people!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 11:50:14 AM  
Rozlan said...

Pak Raja

Maybe your 4th prediction will come out true after all...If that happened DSAI will lost one supporter...One lonely supporter is nothign to him who will have hundred thousand of suporter from from PKR and UMNO

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 5:10:08 PM  
PJUtara Resident said...

Anwar is a practical man. He will do what is best for him and the country. I will support him as long as he is agains NEP or any other Malay racist policy.

If he feels he has enough support in UMNO to bring Dr.M's supporter down and the rest of the old guard, he will do it.

If he feels he can't do it within UMNO, then he will whack UMNO from outside. As long as he stands on the belief that NEP is the root source of all corruptions. And any Malay racist policy is the root cause of all corruptions, then there is hope in Malaysia.

Anwar willing to take risk to go against Dr.M even risking his life is enough to show that he stand by his principles.

At the moment, I think he is in the perfect position to screw UMNO. He can make UMNO greedy leaders fight among themselves and destroy the party eventually or he can go in to UMNO and reform it.

It seems that the latter choice is much more difficult task then the first choise.

UMNO can't jail him the second time. It will destroy UMNO international reputation. Anwar has got much support from the Islamic country such as Indonesia and other liberal middle east country. That gives him some recognition as a liberal muslim.

Whereas UMNO leaders are frustrated when they go overseas and do not get the respect like Anwar Ibrahim.

So UMNO leaders come back and take more bribe thinking that the more money they have, the more respect they will get.

That is why DR.M build castles and high rise to impress the west. But the west is not impress with his castles and buildings. They know that DR.M is a tyrant with hunger for recognition like Saddam.

Where is Malaysia R&D;? Where are the brains of the country? Everything that is build in Putrajaya or KLCC is from foreign expertise and materials. Did the Malay entreprenuer involves in those project learn anything.

I doubt it. Most Malay entreprenuer are in for a quick buck. Because Malay entreprenuer has not get rid of their 3rd world mentality. Showing off your MErcedes and Bungallow house will not earn you the same respect as Tony Fernandes of Air Asia or Bill Gates of Microsoft.

You must show brain and character power which is very lacking in Malay entreprenuer.

That is why Malay entreprenuer would rather spend all their time and money to protect the NEP or any other Malay racist policy.

I think Anwar believes that for the Malay entreprenuer to be successful they must learn how to fall first. Just like a professional skate boarder. Professional skate border learns how to fall before they learn how to do stunts.

Anwar says enough of spoiling those ingenuine Malay entreprenuer. They are a bunch of sore eyes to Malaysia reputation. The malay entreprenuers and UMNO youth is dragging Malaysian economy down.

They are not loyal Malaysians because they only care about themselves, their car and their house. Their mind has not develop yet.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 8:11:13 PM  
ProArte said...

If Anwar is a man of integrity who believes in the dignity of man, democracy, freedom of expression and a 'Jeffersonian Focus', what in the devil's name should he want to be at the helm of a racist party such as UMNO which is corrupt to the core?

I thought Anwar believed in the values of PKR whom he advises. In America he gave a speech extolling 'freedom of expression', the misunderstood term secular andthe 'Jeffersonian Focus', but in Malaysia he will be campaigning vigorously for the Islamic party PAS which wants to introduce the death penalty for Muslims who want to renounce their faith. Now there is talk that he will be rejoining UMNO at the invitation of Badawi!

Why Badawi should want to rehabilitate Anwar, his bitterest political foe when he was in UMNO, whom he regards as a rascal, simply escapes me.

Is it not surprsing that Anwar has earned the sobriquet 'All things to all men' ? Will the real Anwar stand up?

Who is the real Anwar?

Friday, November 11, 2005 8:33:22 AM  
LChuah said...

Pro-Arte says:
>I thought Anwar believed in the values of PKR whom he advises. In America he gave a speech extolling 'freedom of expression', the misunderstood term secular andthe 'Jeffersonian Focus', ]]

I'd really like to know what he meant by the "Jeffersonian Focus," for Jefferson had certain ideas on how democracy could function in certain kinds of political setup (not all of which are congenial to democracy).

Saturday, November 12, 2005 2:17:01 PM  
Jan said...

The day he supports PAS is the day he has permanently turned his back on UMNO. At the present moment he's not welcome anyway what with the likes of Najib and Muhydeen lurking in the corridor of power waiting for their turn to be PM.

Monday, November 14, 2005 12:46:00 AM  

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