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Friday, March 30, 2012

At the cusp of history: Anwar offers hope to a Malaysia fed up with a corrupt BN

At the cusp of history: Anwar offers hope to a Malaysia fed up with a corrupt BN
If Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose hold on the nation seems to be unraveling by the day, hoped to demoralize Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim with a barrage of gutter politicking launched through the mainstream media controlled by his Umno party, he would be badly mistaken.
Anwar, rated as the most outstanding Malay leader to emerged in recent times, showed his fighting spirit at a ceramah or political lecture in Bangi on Thursday night. A charismatic orator, Anwar sizzled the crowd with his no-holds-barred speech.
“Do you think I’m like Najib? I went to jail but when they opened the door, I fought. I went to jail and got thrashed but after I fixed my back, I fought. Lawan tetap lawan!” Anwar told a rapturous crowd of nearly 1,000.
At the cusp of history
A former student leader, Anwar was a keen Muslim activist before he was persuaded to join Umno by the former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. He rose through the ranks with lightning speed and before his persecution in 1998, was the Deputy Prime Minister cum Finance Minister. Alarmed by Anwar's growing clout, Mahathir imprisoned him on trumped-up sodomy and corruption charges, and it was only after the ham-fisted leader's retirement in 2003 that the Federal Court dared to throw out the charges and acquit Anwar.
Today, Anwar is sitting at cusp of history. Many expect him to pick up where he left off in 14 years ago and finally assume the premier-ship of the country - a post that until now has no worthy alternative candidate. Even Mahathir had to admit that Umno now lacked talent and that the Opposition these days is "not like that of the past and the current situation is rather confusing."
Indeed, after sacking and jailing Anwar, Mahathir got rid off all those who dared to challenge him, promoting the likes of Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak. Even before Anwar, Mahathir was averse to competition and schemed and plotted the downfall of other strong Malay leaders of calibre such as Musa Hitam and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Obviously, Mahathir's decision to go for the mediocre in order to safeguard his own power has harmed Umno and the BN coalition it leads. Abdullah was forced to accept early retirement in 2009 after losing 5 of the country's 13 states in the 2008 election to the Pakatan Rakyat opposition led by Anwar. Abdullah's 6-year tenure was undistinguished and lacklustre.
Anwar vs Najib: Starkly different
Worse still is Najib's administration, which has been pockmarked some of the worst social turmoil the country has ever seen. Advised by his team of strategists to take a strong hand against Anwar, Najib's solution for turning public sentiment against his arch rival is to concoct a barrage of smear campaigns led by shady personalities including Senator S Nallakaruppan, Senator Ezam Mohd Noor and Ummi Hafilda. It has not worked and in fact boomeranged badly, but known for his vanity, Najib has refused to admit it and change tactics.
Even so, Anwar has not allowed himself to slum down to Najib's gutter politicking, instead issuing at least 3 official challenges to Najib to debate about the economy and the general state of the nation in a moderated televised public debate. So far, Najib has refused to acknowledge the debate invitations, and for his cowardice, he has dropped further in the esteem of the public even as the nation heads towards the next general election.
Najib's mandate will end in March 2013 and he has hinted he will call for GE-13 very soon. But 'very soon' to Najib has been a shifting target, changing from July 2011 to November 2011 and thence to March-April 2012 to May-June 2012. And now, the latest speculated date is September 2012.
This, as Anwar pointed out, only underscored that beneath Najib's bullying ways, he knew the people were not behind him and the Umno-BN may lose the federal government to the opposition, the first regime change Malaysia would see in 55 years.
“The prime minister doesn’t understand the suffering of the junior officers who serve the government.  I know suffering, what it means to be insulted and beaten every day. I know,” said Anwar.
Fire still burns strong
Now 64, Anwar does not seem to have lost any of the fire in the belly that distinguished from other student leaders in his youth. His passion to end the feudalistic system of politics promulgated by the elitist Umno still rages strong. He condemned the endemic corruption in Umno and the BN government, the lack of leadership in the economy and warned of a severe financial crunch if the people did not vote for change and reforms.
In particular, Anwar slammed Najib for the recent slew of mega deals favoring BN cronies that have been pushed through by the Finance ministry, purportedly to cash out in case the BN lost to Pakatan in GE-13.
“A leader must be brave to defend his leadership, not focus on red carpets. Those are just the trappings of power. You are a leader, and so you must be responsible for your policies and answer my questions. This country is rich but the income gap between the wealthy and poor continues to widen,” said Anwar.
Anwar reiterated his debate challenge to Najib so that the Malaysian public could envision and evaluate for themselves the sort of future they wanted, and which could be offered by the Pakatan and BN respectively.
"Face me if you are a real fighter,” said Anwar, throwing the gauntlet once again to Najib.
Malaysia Chronicle

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