Just the day before the Federal Court upheld the guilty verdict for Anwar Ibrahim and sentenced him to five years’ jail, Mahathir Mohamad told the media that Malaysia “is a democratic country”, and that ‘if people want Lim Kit Siang to be the prime minister, the constitution does not prevent him even though he is a Chinese”.
Yes, nothing in the constitution that bars any rightful Malaysian citizen from assuming the highest political office in the country, theoretically and legally speaking. However, having witnessed what has happened to Anwar and his family over the last 17 years, would anyone in his or her right mind earnestly believe Malaysia is indeed so free and democratic that he or she can rise to the top job safely and on merit?
Not when one is not part of the traditional elite within Umno. Then again, one does not need to make it on merit if one is in Umno’s good books.
Granted, Anwar was once a member of the entrenched elite, for several years the heir apparent to Mahathir. But his fall from grace was so dramatic and shocking that he has gone to the other extreme by becoming an icon of the people power.
Mahathir, too, was once an outsider within Umno, with no royal lineage and elitist educational background. But with brilliant yet cunning political maneuvering, he rose through the rank to become a tyrant, far more autocratic than all of his predecessors. His family allegedly became filthy rich on his watch, and the Mahathir clan is now very much part of the inner elite circle within Umno that decides Malaysia’s fate.
While Mahathir, Daim Zainuddin (right) and Kadir Jasin may not see eye to eye with Najib Abdul Razak on a host of issues, they have never been clouded from the fact that their common enemy has always been Anwar, for the vision that the latter advocates could turn the political structure carefully designed by Umno upside down and threaten the vested interests of its leaders.
Malaysia’s political culture has long been based on fear and feudalism. That Anwar and his allies have demonstrated their determination to change it is unforgiveable. If change came to pass, it would jeopardise the entrenched interests of Malaysia’s traditional elites, monarchists and the military, a reason why these powerful ruling factions of the ruling class were wary or even bitterly hostile toward Anwar.
Five years in jail plus five years ban on politics. By the time when Anwar is free to participate in electoral politics again, Umno will have ruled Malaya/Malaysia for nearly 70 years. It also means that the party will have spent nearly half of it persecuting one individual and his family.
World record indeed, and Malaysia Boleh!
Najib had always wanted to put Anwar in jail back in 2012, but with the general election in mind and fearing public backlash especially the non-Malay vote, he decided to set him free. As we all know, the electorate did not appreciate Najib’s ‘goodwill’ as a ‘liberal’ and ‘reformist’, but went on to deny him legitimacy in GE13 as his coalition lost the popular vote.
Perhaps no prime minister in Malaysia’s history has suffered so much humiliation and taunting by the people, who openly ridiculed him and his vainglorious wife. Once the election was over, his fangs showed.
What was the point of finding Anwar not guilty if the public remained ungrateful to Umno?
Now that Anwar is behind bars, I am pretty sure the Najib regime would use the next three years to “return happiness to the people” with all the goodies so that Malaysians would forget all the injustice done, just like Thailand under the current military dictatorship.
Are Malaysians ‘happy to be happy’?
But are Malaysians so forgetful and “happy to be happy”? Time will tell, although I am not hopeful.
Just before GE13, many ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ (and elitist) pundits were arguing Malaysia’s judiciary was independent as seen in Anwar’s acquittal by the High Court in January 2012; they also said the Malaysian opposition had always had a fair chance of winning as seen in Kelantan, Penang and Selangor.
I hope these so-called ‘impartial’, ‘whack-both-sides’ elites can revisit what they wrote and do a bit of soul searching in the wake of the redelineation exercise in Sawarak and the Federal Court’s verdict on Anwar.
And of course the ‘moderate’ voices exemplified by none other than Marina Mahathir have been conspicuous by their silence on the utterly shameless verdict. They continue to go around the country and put up a good show about ‘moderation’ and ‘liberalism’; some have even been more than glad to seek the help of Mahathir who is anything but moderate.
However, when it comes to the insanity of Anwar’s sodomy charges which speak volumes of our rotten judiciary, these ‘moderate’ voices are nowhere to be heard.
And I understand why. After all, it was under Mahathir that judges were sacked for their bravery to defy Umno. More importantly, the Barisan Nasional government made an amendment to the constitution with serious but negative implications on the separation of powers. The Syariah courts were also given greater powers which resulted in the subsequent dual judicial systems, now a bane for the country.
Therefore, it is hard for those ‘neutral’ elites to criticise the Federal Court’s decision last Tuesday, for they cannot do so without revisiting the destruction of our once independent judiciary under Mahathir!
In short, Anwar’s real crime is not sodomy, which was a farce from the very beginning, but his vow to challenge and dismantle the status quo. Little wonder that Umno, the business elites and the royal households have been frightened of the influence that he has had on the masses.
Still, it puzzles me to see Malaysia can remain so indifferent to a travesty of justice on this scale. Anwar is no doubt a divisive figure and I never count myself a staunch supporter of his. However, if a man whose ‘wrongdoing’ is nothing more than a legitimate inspiration to lead the country beyond Umno should suffer so horribly and mercilessly, who else would dare to give it a try in the future?
I care not if a non-Malay would become prime minister; that is not an issue. The crux of the matter is no Malaysian will ever be safe from persecution should his or her legitimate ambitions be a menace to Umno, even if he or she is a true-blue Malay like Anwar, and knowing this fact alone does chill me to the bones.