ASSESSMENT: Raja Petra faulted Anwar both for his ineptitude in improving the economy of the PKR-led Selangor state and for turning his latest sodomy trial, bogged down by prolonged delays, into a political circus.(New Straits Times) - SINGAPORE: Raja Petra Kamarudin has said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is fighting his latest sodomy charge, will be politically irrelevant and fade into oblivion if the opposition failed to take over Putrajaya in the coming general election.
With the opposition coalition “in a mess” due to infighting, and Anwar’s inability to hold a firm grip on PKR’s “crown jewel” of Selangor, the chances of Pakatan Rakyat winning power will be at stake, said Raja Petra, once a staunch supporter of Anwar.
“Like an Elvis Presley song, 'It’s Now or Never'. But the question is can it be now?” the UK-born Selangor prince, now living in exile in Manchester, told the New Sunday Times in a rare interview.
Raja Petra, 61, has been a long-time supporter of the opposition and was instrumental in the first campaign to free Anwar from jail 11 years ago. Both have since fallen out.
Raja Petra had disappeared after two arrest warrants were issued against him for failing to attend court hearings in April and May, 2009. He had claimed to be in a self-imposed exile.
In the wide-ranging interview, he also gave a frank assessment of the government’s transformation programme spearheaded by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the current state of the Pakatan coalition and the emerging role of the so-called “third force” in the Malaysian electoral system.
In the two-hour interview at a hotel suite in Singapore, he launched a scathing attack on Anwar, whom he spent years fighting for his freedom from his jail sentence following his earlier corruption and sodomy convictions.
He faulted Anwar both for turning his latest sodomy trial, bogged down by prolonged delays, into a political circus and for his inability to improve the economy of the PKR-led Selangor state, raising question marks over his leadership. (Anwar is the economic adviser to the Selangor government).
The sodomy trial has taken a very long time and the verdict is not due until Jan 9.
“There were like 50-60 postponements during the trial,” Raja Petra noted.
He said the most important thing was not whether Anwar would be found guilty or otherwise.
“To me the issue of Anwar is not whether he is or not guilty with sodomy. The issue is whether he is the best person to run the country. Can he run the country? Now, you might be the most God-fearing man on earth, you can be absolutely clean. But if you cannot run the country, you cannot run the country,” Raja Petra said.
Likewise, Anwar has also not seen much success in Selangor: “What's your advice? In the last three years since you been economic adviser, you've gone overseas 60 times in mere three years. Shouldn’t you be staying home running the state? Running the party? Running the coalition?…The coalition is in a mess. People are fighting with each other,” Raja Petra said.
“He seems to be running away.”
Raja Petra warned opposition supporters against turning the fight for justice into a struggle for Anwar.
"Even when Mandela went to jail for 27 years, there was no campaign to free Mandela. Even though there were groups, the Free Mandela Group. It was a campaign to end apartheid,” he said. “I am sure Mandela is a much bigger figure than Anwar by far, in terms of historical importance.”
Raja Petra said Anwar’s leadership of Pakatan was out of political expedience. “Pakatan will back Anwar as long as they still harbour hopes of forming the next federal government. But if come the next election, and if Pakatan fails to form the next federal government, Pakatan has no use for Anwar anymore, especially Pas and DAP.”
Raja Petra also said both sides of the political divide would have to work hard to win the sizeable “floating voters” in the coming election.
“There’s this group which is actually floating and this is a big group. This is 30 to 40 per cent. They are prepared to swing either way. At the moment, a lot of them will still give Pakatan the benefit of the doubt. But also a lot of them are beginning to lose confidence with Pakatan.
“At worst, if they are not prepared to give Barisan the confidence, yet not prepared to give Pakatan the benefit of the doubt, they will abstain from voting.
He said the Egypt-style people’s revolution was not an answer for Malaysia due to the delicate racial balance.
“They (Chinese voters) don’t want Tahrir Square type of change. But if then you merely embark on evolutionary changes, small changes. I think it's time Najib grabs the bull by the horns and call a spade a spade.”
He said Umno, the backbone of Barisan Nasional, too needs an internal transformation. “Najib must be prepared not only to take a knife but take a chainsaw and cut whatever needs to be cut.”