Malaysiakini- Yee Siew Meng
There are some in PKR who forget quickly; perhaps their amnesia is hastened by politics and blind loyalty to factions?
There are some who follow opposition politics from a distance and echo the statements of those in PKR who say that party president and opposition leader Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is allowing her emotions and personal agenda to free Anwar Ibrahim, to take over the main agenda of the party and the coalition.
This cannot be further from the truth. Anwar Ibrahim is still relevant, and I will explain why.
In a report by Free Malaysia Today last Monday, Sepang PKR branch chief Arffain Mohamed insisted that deputy president Azmin Ali should instead helm the party – which only reveals his political intentions.
It appears that only Umno knows and understands the severe threat that former deputy prime minister and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim still poses to the ruling BN coalition. Sadly, many in the opposition have declared that it is time to move on from Anwar or insist that Anwar is now irrelevant.
Looking at the diverse political ideologies within the opposition ranks, and the ambitious leaders within some parties, there is still a critical need for Anwar – who has played peacemaker before, bringing the many ideologies to unity.
Prior to 1998, Umno and BN had a free hand to use race and religion to manipulate the electorate. The opposition leader then was DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and it was so easy to make it look like a fight between a Malay government vs a socialist Chinese party.
The opposition was fragmented beyond imagination. There had been right-wing religious group PAS that was made to look like fundamentalist fanatics, and the leftist DAP whom BN portrayed as “communists”.
The situation was ideal for the BN government to pit these two parties against one another and to divide the opposition – such that they will never have more than one-third control of the Parliament. It looked like BN would rule forever.
The divide between the two main opposition parties existed right up till 2004. Then, Anwar – having spent six years in detention under former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s regime – made a comeback in 2006 after fixing his back and taking a stint as a lecturer in the UK and the US.
In two years, Anwar was able to rally the diverse political parties to face off with the BN government, denying them for the first time a two-third majority in Parliament during the 2008 GE.
The incredible feats of Anwar
When you think about the polar opposites of DAP and PAS, it truly is an incredible feat that Anwar was able to unite the opposition towards a single vision. Up to then, DAP and PAS were satisfied in their separate roles and agendas as opposition noise-makers. Anwar painted a picture of a new federal government and the possibility of winning the general elections.
Apart from uniting the political parties, he had painted a picture of a truly united Malaysia. He gave the masses a vision of “hope for a new Malaysia”. Following the 2008 victory, Malaysians from all walks of life celebrated the new-found freedom and boldness to voice out against corruption and injustices.
In all his rallies, he cast the vision of a new Malaysia for all Malaysians. There was no turning back for the rakyat. This boldness later spun off into Bersih rallies, solidarity marches and mushrooming civil societies, seeking greater civil liberties for all Malaysians.
In 2013, Anwar held the fragile opposition together to ensure two-cornered fights against BN. The hunger for change was in the air, and the BN government had little confidence of their own victory. Without the help of government agencies, indeed victory may not have been theirs.
Still Anwar, as opposition leader, led the coalition into gaining more ground in Parliament. He was a real and present danger and a serious threat to the BN government. They had to remove Anwar from the picture and they set out to do whatever they could to return him to jail.
The future of BN rested on the ability to remove Anwar as opposition leader. His ability to unite the opposition and rally the masses were frightening for Umno and BN.
Is Anwar relevant? He is, and remains, the most dangerous weapon the opposition has against the BN government. I have been at the fringes of opposition politics for 17 years since Reformasi, and am of the opinion that the power struggle for the position of opposition leader is intense because he or she may very well be the next prime minister after the GE14.
This jockeying for position may tear the fragile opposition apart before they even capture Putrajaya. Anwar, however – with his statesman stature and the respect he commands from Gerakan Harapan Baru as a religious man and from DAP as a man of integrity and strength – will be the respected choice of all for prime minister.
Apart from that, he has the experience and international clout to lead Malaysia its premier. Anwar, therefore, is really the catalyst to unity for the opposition.
Unfortunately, the BN government acknowledges this threat and is bent on keeping him in jail. Factions in his own party are obvious and the vying for party president position is intense for this very reason. If Anwar is out, many would be silent just out of reverence for the man who most deserves and is most qualified for the position.
Some say, PKR and Pakatan Harapan should move on from Anwar. On the contrary, why should we allow the BN government to force us to abandon the most powerful and unifying factor of the coalition? Anwar is the icon of the resistance. He is the Mockingjay.
We should shout for his freedom and demand that all the wrongs done to him be corrected. We should demand for the truth, for justice to be carried out for him, and for the many cases that have found no resolution or justice.