From The Star Online
By By JANE F. RAGAVAN
From an impending sodomy trial to holding Pakatan Rakyat together, 2009 will be tough.
FEW could have anticipated the return of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in such striking fashion prior to the March 8 elections. Released from incarceration in 2004, he continued to be a voice of conscience, rebel-reformer and thorn in the side of Barisan Nasional. Yet, he remained on the margins of mainstream politics.
That changed after the events of March 8 and a convincing victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election in August which led to his ceremonious return to parliament as leader of the opposition, transforming him into an indelible force in the unfolding of the political future of the country.
Detractors continue to point to Anwarâ€™s failure to take over and form the next government on Sept 16 as an example of his lack of credibility; still, while much needs to be achieved to make the opposition a viable and lasting powerhouse, most of the five states governed by Pakatan Rakyat have proved largely stable, grappling reasonably well with the legacy of the previous state governments while attempting to implement and lay the foundation for the coalitionâ€™s policies in these respective states.
Two examples from Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim are his appointment of Low Siew Moi to head the Selangor State Development Corporation and his call for Universiti Teknologi Mara to open its doors, at least partially, to non-bumiputra and foreign students.
2009 will prove challenging for Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat. With the advent of a new prime minister â€“ which has historically led to a favourable shift in political sentiment towards the government â€“ they will have to consolidate their positions significantly in the Pakatan-led states and the Federal Territory by demonstrating powers of performance that will illustrate their commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency and openness.
The worldwide economic fallout will dominate and serve as a test for the BN government in its handling of the ramifications of the downturn and the sacrifices it is willing to make. It is an opportune time for Anwar and the Pakatan government to come up with comprehensive alternative policies as a way to introduce and fortify the virtues of the Pakatan-devised New Economic Agenda. The PR opposition has already made significant strides by introducing a shadow cabinet and it remains to be seen how it can offer rational, deliberated alternatives to government policies.
The principal challenge confronting Anwar and the PR opposition will be their efforts at initiating real, credible moves towards transcending racialist politics and committing themselves to multi-cultural politics, as emphasised by Anwar and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Datin Seri Wan Azizah Ismail at the partyâ€™s recent national congress. They will have their work cut out to dismantle the racial conditioning that has determined the Malaysian political psyche since Independence and most significantly in the past three decades. The most immediate challenge is the Malay constituency, although the Pakatan Rakyat government has stressed that privileges enshrined in the Constitution will not be compromised.