Sunday, 13 May 2018

Returning to the Kingmaker's First Choice.

When I read that the King is going to pardon Anwar so as to pave the way for him to become the eighth PM of Malaysia, I thought to myself: "You can't have a better fairy tale ending with Malaysian politics."

If this is not love behind the scenes, that is, twenty years of devotion, dedication and faithfulness to the cause, both to the nation and marriage/family, then nothing is.

One senior fellow and academic, Mr Yang Razali Kassim, said: “Dr Wan Azizah is once again forced to be the reluctant saviour – the loyal wife who has to dig deep into her inner energy to be many things all at once. She is the alter ego of her husband, mother to her children, and the alternate glue that binds the disparate opposition parties together.”

To me, her struggles over twenty years make her not just a reluctant saviour, but the unsung heroine of the whole political revolution that culminated to the most stunning and inspiring landslide victory in Malaysian political history. 

If there were a theme in GE14, it is this:-

"The underdog led by an old dog supported by a mixed group of pariah, that is, persona non grata of the ruling party, with an imprisoned great Dane waiting by the wing while his Lassie-like wife tirelessly working behind the scene". 

It is a metaphorical tribute of canine-like loyalty, integrity, and tenacity. 

And that was how the citadel of defiance, complacency and corruption with a history of 60 years fell on Wednesday. 

This time the opposition did not just bark their way into a resounding victory. They walked the ground and promised to serve and sacrifice for all to turn the country around. 

Now, after the victory dust settles, this alliance confronts their greatest test, and it is the crucible of time to transform a nation they love. 

Mind you, the electoral victory on Wednesday is but the first gunshot fired to start a race and the journey ahead is still a long and challenging one.

I therefore earnestly wish Malaysians all the best in this hardscrabble journey to serve the Rakyat.

But having said all that, I would like to draw out some readily identifiable ironies of GE14. For locked in this anthology of ironies are lessons that I can learn from. Here goes. 

First, two days after the crushing defeat, Umno "celebrated" its 72nd anniversary with a prayer session. 

It was supposed to be a grand affair with much pomposity in anticipation of a win in GE14. But history was not on their side this time. 

The irony is in the words of Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin. At the muted celebration, he said: "To return to the original UMNO, we must undergo a major change within." 

He then said that "changes needed include "absolute honesty, outstanding courage and painful sacrifice."" He called for the "rebuilding of the party" and for members to return to its "original spirit". 

Incidentally, Mahathir's advice for them was this: "Go back to your roots".

The second irony rides on the words of Khairy when he said about "absolute honesty, outstanding courage and painful sacrifice".

When you watch the luxuriant couple, Najib and Rosmah Mansor, whom the papers describe as "the ubiquitous kedai kopi or on the road in taxis", you get the feeling that the only "painful sacrifice" they had offered to the nation was to come out of their palatial comfort once every end of term to campaign in the open sun. 

I guess Rosmah may have to return her 22-carat pinky diamond necklace together with her trolley stuff of Birkin handbag collection, which collectively are worth millions. 

And regarding "absolute honesty", that virtue has somehow been beaten into a pulp under Najib's administration, not only with the 1MDB scandal where billions had allegedly gone missing, but it goes further to poison the roots of the party with the cowardice of last-minute redelineation exercise to dilute the opposition electoral grounds, the temporary ban on Mahathir's Bersatu party, the hasty passing of the fake news bill to suppress genuine voices, "the circumscription of voting eligibility", the last ditch pitch to throw tax exemptions at voters under 26, shameless cash handouts to voters on the street, and to top it up, the new rules on media ban on publicising Mahathir's face on the campaign trail, which led him to say this to reporters after the win:-

"I thought you want to see the paper not my face. Now I would like to tell you that my face is no longer haram. We don't have to tear out the picture of my face. I'm not saying anything against the government, you know. By the way, at this moment, there is no government."

The party's desperation to throw the kitchen sink at GE14 like the tomato fight in Valencia town spilled over into the street and yet they still lost by a considerable margin. 

Imagine if they had been "absolutely honest" to the voters...wouldn't the town be painted in crimson red overall?

The third irony centers around the grand old man of the voting match. At 92, going 93, Mahathir sweeps in like a reckoning force of nature and blows the Umno house down in one swift victorious grab.

The great irony here is that Najib was his choice. He groomed him personally after Badawi lost favour with the kingmaker. 

But Badawi was not as controversial as Najib with the latter's blatant admission that the billions of ringgit entering his personal bank account was a political donation from the Saudis. 

Although the Attorney General cleared Najib of all wrongdoings, Mahathir was not even the least convinced by Apandi Ali's simplistic, and almost laughable, money flow charts, which he proudly held in both hands before the media in 2016 as a triumphalistic vindication of Najib.

I guess those flow charts would be taken out once again and forensically scrutinized by Mahathir's government in the coming months for hidden links and traces that were conveniently left out before.

Can't wait to see how this CSI mystery gets unraveled, that is, is it really a donation to fight terrorism or a corruption to hide a greedy administration? After all, the missing funds belong to the people, Rakyat.

Alas, Mahathir did give Najib a chance to resign so that proper account and investigation could be carried out with him out of the way. 

But Najib not only held on to power in reaction to his mentor's plea, he even went on the offensive and fired all those who refused to accept his self-declared innocence in one broad sweep, including his padawan master.

So, Mahathir took the road less travelled, or in his case, a road no premier before him had never trekked (because it was deemed political suicide).

He quit the party he dedicated 22 years of his premiership to, rallied up an alliance of foe-turned-friends, and led them in a show of unprecedented unity to go against the party he no longer recognises as good for the nation. 

In fact, if a fish rots first from the head, then it is a party that is not even remotely recognisable by him.   

And on Wednesday, the unexpected happened. The people's will sealed it. His newly minted party won by a simple majority. 

His party defeated a 60-year-old political Levithan with effectively a sling and a stone right at the heart of where it truly matters. That sent Goliath in sarong scampering for a quick getaway with his wife over the weekend. 

And the latest is that Najib has quit as BN head and banned from travel. Mahathir has a hand in the latter when he said: "It's true, I prevented Najib from leaving the country...(because) there's sufficient evidence that certain things done by the former PM (require an investigation)."

So, Mahathir not only did the unthinkable, and defeated the unsinkable, he also became the oldest head of state in the history of government to prove that he is still undeniable.'s that for a twist of fates, or more appropriately, the wicked turn of ironies.

The fourth irony is about Dr Wan Azizah and Anwar, the couple who have inspired millions. 

If PH stands for the alliance of hope, then Anwar and Azizah together, especially for the last twenty years, stands for the alliance of love. And it spoke volume.

It has been a great struggle for Azizah, as she admitted that she was not born into the role as a politician. 

In a recent interview, she recalled this conversation she had with Anwar in prison:-

"I went to him and said "I can't stand it, going around campaigning and all that, why don't we change places"...and he said "You will never survive it." Then I knew it was not easy.""

It was indeed never easy, for both of them, including their children.

Their children have no doubt all grown up by now. But before that, that is, after their father was sacked, charged and convicted in 1998 and right through last Wednesday, Azizah lamented that raising the children alone was no easy task. 

She said: "I come back at night and see the children lying asleep, it gives (me) that extra motivation...No matter how tired you are, you are working for (their) future."

But alas, her toil has paid off, fully and most deservingly. Her working for her children's future has culminated to her being the deputy PM of Malaysia and President of PH. 

In fact, to sweeten irony with trivia, here is one fact that comes to mind after the electoral victory.

There are currently two medical doctors leading Malaysia, one a general practitioner from NUS and the other, a trained ophthalmologist who had won a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The latter is Dr Wan Azizah.  

Indeed, the doctors are in the house.

And with that, I have come full circle from where I first started in this post. I thus return to the news yesterday about Anwar receiving the King's pardon. The journey has been an incredible one for Anwar (in fact, the latest is that Anwar will be released on Tuesday).

Mahathir said he can't do this for long. He gives himself two years and then, Anwar will take over. 

The kingmaker has finally found his successor, after two of his handpicked stepped down; one voluntarily and the other by force of the will of the people.  

Mahathir said: "It is going to be a full pardon, (he will) be released immediately when he is pardoned. After that, he will be free to participate fully in politics." 

After all's said and done here, the final (and fifth) irony has to be this: the Reformasi movement which took Malaysia by storm in 1998 when Anwar, as deputy PM, was sacked by Mahathir, has bore its first resilient fruit, that is, the fruit of freedom - Anwar's full pardon and return into the fold.  

The dean of comparative and international politics at NTU, Professor Joseph Liow wrote this in yesterday's article "A New Dawn in Malaysia":-

"GE14 was truly an epic tale for the ages, in defiance of history and the powers of incumbency, the Reformasi movement birthed in the wake of the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago appears to have finally come of age, midwifed by the man it was conceived to oppose in the first place."

By a serendipitous convergence of ironies, the prodigal son of Malaysia has finally returned. 

No, he is not Anwar, but the current Malaysian PM, who had realised his errors, made amends for them by (ironically) leading the Reformasi movement (supposedly against him and the system he had left behind) and is now setting the stage for the official handing over of the succession crown to his rightful deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.

A plan 20 years in the making, with blood, sweat and regrets. 

(ps: I have no delusion about Mahathir's past especially the BMF scandals in his early years as the premier. That was a 30-year mystery - some say cover-up - and with the win, I think his tainted past is now a distant smog superceded by the resurgence of an old, wiser man driven more by the existential call of mortality than the desperation of self-expediency).

And when that transition comes, when Mahathir hands over, the house will no longer be occupied by two medical doctors but by the most recognisable couple of Malaysia, whose love for each other and the nation has never waned because they have always been fighting for the hearts and the future of all Malaysians.

And mind you, that might just be another first in the history of government with the wife as deputy PM and her husband as PM. It would be a match made by the will of the people and held together by unfailing love and unsurpassed hope. Cheerz. 

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