In my posting Sweet & Sour Po ..... litics I commented on how politics make strange bedfellows, when Tengku Razaleigh or as his affectionately called, Ku Li, once Mahathir’s bête noire could come out to defend the doctor’s right to criticise PM Abdullah Badawi.
I remarked that all it needs to complete the crazy sleazy world of Malaysian politics would be for reformasi champion, Anwar Ibrahim to speak up in support of Mahathir's right to criticise, but I was doubtful about that because I thought that would jeopardise Anwar’s chances to return to UMNO.
Well, let it not be said that KTemoc doesn’t admit his mistake, because I have to say I have been wrong, but only partially. Why only partially? Please read on.
Anwar Ibrahim has called on PM Abdullah Badawi to answer Dr Mahathir’s criticism of several issues that the current government has, in Mahathir’s eyes, badly managed. He wants Abdullah Badawi to respond to allegations concerning the economy, corruption (AP issue; multi-million ringgit Augusta bike sell-off for 2 Euro), the media and the judiciary.
Anwar said he wasn’t interested in personality issues such as Mahathir’s remarks about Abdullah Badawi being only his second choice.
He fired a salvo at Mahathir about the doctor’s complaint of being blacked out by the press, that the media was less constrained during his PM-ship or that the judiciary had more credibility then. Anwar said only ignorant people or those oblivious to the stark reality would believe so.
He commented on Abdullah’s current difficulties with Mahathir: “At least Abdullah has not been assaulted or stripped naked or thrown into jail. He should be thankful that he is now a prime minister. If he is still the deputy, God save him. Because then all the instruments of the government, the police, the judiciary and the media, will be used to hammer him without any possibility of defence.”
A bit of self-pity or self-martyr-ising here, though of course there is no denying Anwar had suffered. But one could comment that Abdullah has been smarter in waiting for Mahathir to exit before he started dismantling the ole man’s policies and projects.
Anwar said Mahathir is suffering from delusion about his stewardship of the country: “He is surrounded by tok ampu (apple polishers) who never tell him the real picture. That is why he never gets the real truth. In that sense, I pity the man.”
Hmmm, wasn’t Anwar Ibrahim once one of those tok ampu? Let’s just recollect what he said on 12 August 1998 during the opening of the Penang UMNO building. That was when UMNO rumours began to circulate of a rift between Anwar and Mahathir because of the belief that Anwar was going for broke for the presidency of UMNO:
"I have said this many times, but it has all been for nought, but right here in front of my Penang friends, I want to announce my full support and loyalty to Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed for him to remain as party president."
"Dr. Mahathir is not a new leader. He has vast experience in all matters. If you compare me to him, I am just a student. I can never go against my mentor, much less my father. We may have some differences but it is impossible to believe that these petty differences will split us up. When it comes to important matters, including economic issues, we stand united."
Well, … mentor-student, vast experience in all matters and father-son ... what do we make of those sweet endearing words?
Anyway, let's leave Anwar to his own track record while we now turn to his full broadside on Abdullah Badawi. Anwar pontificated:
“Towards the end of Dr Mahathir’s premiership, the stable institution of the economy has declines adversely [...] there was a lack of confidence in governance, rampant corruption, widespread nepotism, decline in foreign investment. These are serious issues.”
“Unfortunately, under Abdullah nothing seems to change. There is no direction. Apart from impressive rhetoric and pronouncement, I see no implementation. So certainly the present condition is certainly not satisfactory.”
I did say I was “only partially wrong” because Anwar didn’t actually defended Mahathir’s right to criticise, as had Ku Li. Anwar used Mahathir’s criticisms of Abdullah Badawi as a vehicle to launch his own attacks on Abdullah’s performance.
Certainly an attitude that's quite different from when he was first released from prison. Maybe some promises had not been kept?
But, it’s once again vintage post-incarceration Anwar when he was asked whether he would be willing to sit down and discuss with Ku Li and, holy Moses and glory be, his Nemesis Mahathir about issues involving the Malays. Anwar first meandered around the query like the now-brackish Ayer Itam river, not really going anywhere.
He declared his interest was more focused on a wider cross section of the people, meaning of course the inclusion of non-Malays, his hopeful future constituencies. But when pressed, he didn’t reject the suggestion but instead said he would study any proposal forwarded to him.
He added: “For the people’s benefit, UMNO leaders must do the necessary to stop corruption, ensure a free media and continue the reform. If you have a problem with the agenda of the people, talk to them [...] this would be more useful.”
Very motherhood statements without even missing the good PR “for the people’s benefit” prefix, and more significantly, "UMNO leaders". Did he include himself?
What a politician, never ever closing the door to any options.
To the Anwaristas, sorry if I sound sceptical but alas, I have lost what little faith that I had in him.