Saturday, June 7, 2008

My thoughts on anwar ibrahim has not changed ...

Recently, a student of mind asked what i think about Anwar Ibrahim. These 2 letters/article i wrote some time ago is still representative of my position about him. It was written in 98/99


Many find it difficult to make sense of the current political crisis affecting the nation. The local dailies have a tendency to paint an incomplete picture while the foreign press gravitates toward exaggeration. Both of cause is doing a disservice to you and I.

Furthermore, pro-Anwar supporters seem to see no wrong in him. Vice-versa with pro-Mahathir supporters. In reality, both Mahathir and Anwar are not absolute angels with one hundred percent goodness nor are they absolute Satan only bent on doing wrong. They are both human beings, like you and I.

It is with these in mind that I set to write the following ' Question/Answer Approach' in explaining the crisis. I do not claim to be unbiased, as I too am limited to my own world-view of what is right and wrong. I want to state it up-front so as you are reading, you will notice my partiality and adjust your thoughts appropriately.

I disagree with quick-fixed solutions.

Thus, I am not for 'street demonstrations' and Indonesian styled revolution. I prefer a slow but sure approach for political, social and cultural change. To explain simply, while I agree with the goals for bringing continuos reformation, I do not agree with the platform used. I may not like Suharto's policies, but I also disagree with the manner the revolution took place. You see, the problem with such a revolution, neither side will ever be ready. Can we accept a revolution that causes young children being raped and a whole community being made to suffer? Regardless if there are rich or arrogant, a death of an innocent child equals to the death of humanity. Period.

I have relatives in Indonesia. Our neighbours in Medan are surviving with only one meal per day! Since the food distribution structures were broken (before the revolution, they were mainly maintained by ethnic Chinese), now you may have Rupiah but you cannot find milk, rice nor sugar.

In short, Indonesians have 'rights' but no 'rice'.

Now that does not mean that I see no right in Anwar. He has done many good
deeds. To name but a few,

1) Burning desire to eradicate poverty and provide cheaper homes for poorer
2) Openness to cultural dialogues and shared values within the world's
varied spiritual traditions.
3) Willingness to listen to opposing ideas, etc.

Let us now go to the various topics at hand. Many of which are questions and
comments either e-mailed to me or was spoken via the telephone.

Does Mahathir has the right to sack Anwar?

Yes! As the Prime Minister he has sole rights to choose and fire whoever he wants in his cabinet at his whim and fancy. As the President of UMNO and leader of the coalition, it is an accepted rule. As anyone who signs up to become an UMNO member he/she also give their word to live by the rules that govern the organization. Until and when the rules have change, one must stick to it. In fact, in these rules lay the strength of the coalition and UMNO. Such rules provide a centralized power and stability to the organizations' survival.

In summary, if you want to be an UMNO member, government Member of Parliament or Minister, you must follow the rules laid out by the party you subscribe to. If you find the rules unfair, you must first win the majority's heart and change the rule from within. Until then, the rules apply.

Why do you think Mahathir sacked Anwar?

According to the Prime Minister, Anwar was sacked because he is a Sodomite. Whether this is true or false, I choose to remain neutral as I am not a mind reader nor am I God. Furthermore, I think there are some between us who may not mind if he is a Sodomite as long as he does not lie about it and at the same time is a capable leader. However, if you choose to lead in an organization like UMNO and a country like Malaysia, I would suggest you stick to heterosexuality.

Perhaps, the first reason for the sacking….

The events since the financial and economic crisis started since late last year seems to suggest that Anwar did not play a good role as a second man. Many a time he has contradicted his boss, Dr. Mahathir. In fact, viewed from my own level of patience, Dr Mahathir was rather a patient man. I would have sacked Anwar earlier. Let me explain. If I am the number one man, I will
encourage my number two and the rest of the management team to express their ideas. I would also encourage massive debates and arguments within closed doors. But, once a decision has been made, we walk out with that decision as our own. In short, unless my second man and the management team managed to convince me otherwise, I stick to my ideas and I will expect them to do the same. That is a basic organizational rule, " The Principle of Authority". In
an organized group, the supreme authority must rest somewhere.

Yet, that does not mean that one must be a geek in an organization. On the contrary one must be daring. But, as suggested by my former Managing Director who was managing an organization that is more than a century old, " BE DARING, BUT DON'T BE STUPID!".

Perhaps the second reason …

After the UMNO general assembly this year, there were a few of us who suggested that Anwar's days were numbered. In politics, such miscalculation by Anwar and his gang will prove fatal. Both Zahidi and him will have to go. The swift action taken by Dr. Mahathir just days after the assembly in appointing Tun Daim as Special Functions Minister, was a clear sign.

Conspiracy and counter-conspiracy were perhaps played on both sides. Anwar recently had openly announced that he had instructed the UMNO youth leader to attack Mahathir during the assembly. In his bid to topple Mahathir, he pays the price for failing (however, we will later discuss whether the price he is made to pay is fair). He could have waited, but he chose not to.
Mahathir of cause must make his move. It is only natural. That is politics.

Perhaps, the final reason …

Earlier this year, Mahathir will announce an interest rate cut and Anwar will counter him the very next day. It was clear that Anwar was leaning towards IMF styled measures while Mahathir was opposed to it. At that time, the business community, you and I were confused about which direction the economy is heading two. Perhaps, the Chinese dailies were right. Using an old Chinese analogy, they described Anwar's sacking as " In a three-horsed carriage, If one horse is running in a different direction, It is better to cut it loose".

I see the timing of which Anwar's sacking took place just a few days after the resignation of key Bank Negara officials and one day after the imposition of capital control as too much of a coincidence. Mahathir may have decided that Anwar must go during the assembly, but the timing was probably decided because of the currency control measures. In fact, to succeed with the new measures, the Prime Minister must have complete support from the administration. A disobedient second man will do his plans harm. In fact, he would have to chop anyone who is not in sync with the program if he want to realize his goal by insulating the economy. The capital control is as much a political gamble by Mahathir as Anwar's during the UMNO assembly.
Unfortunately for Dr. Mahathir, he miscalculated Anwar's support and willingness to mount an opposition. Now, with political instability, the measures are undermined. In reality, the 'rakyat' will suffer.' Dua gajah berlaga, semut mati di tengah-tengah'

Does Anwar has the right to question Mahathir's move to sack him?


Does Anwar has the right to know why Mahathir sack him?

Yes. Anwar has a right to know why he was asked to go, yet, he cannot argue against it. He can try to explain, win back Mahathir's trust etc, etc but failing which, he should have resigned or accept UMNO's and Barisan's rules. That is the name of the game.

Does the 'rakyat' have the right to know why the Deputy Prime Minister was

Yes! While the rule within Barisan and UMNO applies to members of the organization, the 'rakyat' have the right to know why their number two man has been sacked. It would have been better and I would have been happier if the Prime Minister was to call for a special press conference or explain his actions in detail. He must first explain to the general public his rights as a Prime Minister, Barisan and UMNO's supreme leader as explained earlier in
this article. He should also express his misgivings towards his deputy while at the same time excuse himself for not being able to relate certain information that may obstruct justice as some may infringe on forthcoming legal cases. He should also plea with humility to his 'rakyat' to have
patience with his decisions, as he has to act in accordance to his best knowledge. Now, that is statesman like. I expect no less from a Prime Minister.

What about the manner of which the sodomy chargers were thrown against Anwar?

Badly. It seems that Anwar is now guilty until proven innocent. That is unfair. The affidavits served on Nallakaruppan with regards to Anwar should not have been made public, as Anwar was not a party to the application before the judge. Furthermore, Anwar has been put to trial by the media. Both local and foreign media are playing to the entire issue in one way or
the other.

What can Anwar do?

Sue! Sue the Prime Minister for defamation, sue whomever who claim that he is a sodomite. He did not have to wait for the powers that be to take him to court. He can make the first move. (By the way, according to legal proceedings he has six years to do so).

Why did he not do so? Why "reformation" instead?

Your guess is as good as mine. According to the Prime Minister, Anwar was fishing to be caught under ISA so that he can avoid going to open court. Be that as it may, let us wait and see.

Does Anwar has a right to form a reformation movement?

Yes. So do you and I. Why the big fuss? Of cause, your and my idea of a reform movement may differ from Anwar's. Mine would concentrate more inwardly to members of the reform movement rather than asking for the other parties to change. Remember that when Gandhi suggested tolerance, he was willing to take even fatal blows from the opposite party. He was inward looking than outward. Moreover, he suggested the judge preceding his case to give him the maximum sentence for his defiance of tyranny (if the judge truly believes in the empire's law).

So are you saying that the ISA is right?

No! I disagree with the ISA. But, that is the law of the country and until such a day that the law is abolished, I will respect it. That does not mean I like the law or it meant that I think the law is fair. So, if I do decide to take to the streets, at the same time I must accept the fact that I could
be taken away. That is the price one must pay for not following the law that we are so aware of. Similarly, those students who are expelled or punished for breaking the University and University Colleges Act, there must not complain. If you cannot do the time, don't do the crime. It would be real stupid to break a law knowingly and later claim the law is unfair. As stated
earlier, 'be daring but don't be stupid'.

So what can we do with the ISA and similar laws?

If we really have strong convictions that we do not want to and cannot live with such laws we can choose to vote against the government in elections. On the other hand, of cause we also must consider the current government in totality. If viewed in totality that the current government is good enough even though we dislike certain aspects of the administration of the country,
then we must find a more gradual approach towards abolishing them. Perhaps through genuine persuasion, providing alternatives and working gradually from within the government. It is less exciting (you cannot shout and scream on the streets for instance), slower but surer.

Going to the street and demanding the Prime Minister's resignation is not the answer. It is not even legal for a democracy for the silent majority has yet to vote. The laws were there since independence and will still be there even if Mahathir passed away this morning. Will Anwar abolish them? Any answer is academic for the time being. Suffice to say that he did not show
any clear signs of such reformation in his sixteen years in office. In fact, if we remember correctly, he was a party to 'Operation Lallang' back in 1987 when a host of opposition and NGO leaders were taken in. Recently, even when his good friend Nallakaruppan were taken in, we do not see any signs of his 'reformation'.

You seem to doubt Anwar's sincerity?


Anwar is a great guy. I sincerely like his quest for interacial-religious understanding and his support for poverty eradication policies as well as his advocate for art and culture. But, his sincerity took a dip after he was sacked. For the second time he change colors a little too fast. When he was head for ABIM he was fiery and critical towards UMNO. A week later he joined
that very same organization. In a short time later, he fought to lead the youth wing of UMNO.

Similarly, within a week after his dismissal he attacked the very organization and leader he was fully giving support to just a month ago (reference to his declaration in Penang in support of a no contest for Mahathir in the next UMNO election.) He even signed in defense of Guan Eng.

He is also willing to use all the secrets he holds as a comrade in arms (then) with the current government as blackmail. He criticizes the very projects he was a party to just a few months ago, etc,etc,etc. I found all these a little too much.

But what about Mahathir?

Like I said earlier, both men are neither perfect nor one hundred percent flawed. They both have contributed for the good of the nation as well as the bad. My main concern is that the 'rakyat's' perceptions of the public instruments have been diluted over the years. Now, the people of Malaysia have doubts each time that the police said something. They also doubt the
court of law. Their perceptions may be true or incorrect yet, perceptions are perceptions. That is something the government must look into. I believe events that took place within our judicial system since the early eighties have contributed to this and Mahathir is very much a party to it. I hope, a visionary as he is will be able to visualize a future that is better than today in terms of public perceptions to law enforcers and judiciary. Ironically, ten years ago I wrote about Mahathir's problem with his then deputy Musa Hitam which directly escalated this negative perception.

So where do we go from here?

I suggest we choose 'rice' over 'rights' for the time being. We have lived with ISA and Mahathir for umpteen years or more, so why not another few years till our economy picks up. The capital control measures are sensitive enough and we need not add problems like a political crisis. These measure needs our wholehearted support and have a chance to work in the short run. Anwar and his men must give way especially since his IMF styled measure screwed badly. The old man has been proven right both in his attack towards the speculators as well as his misgivings
towards IMF. Yet, Anwar's case must go on. He should be allowed to clear his name and sue all the relevant parties that defamed his name if he was found innocent. All under the ISA
should also be released as soon as possible. It will only reflect well on the Home Minister as well as calm the situation.

Anas Zubedy
September 1998

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