Georgetown, we have a problem

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Anwar Ibrahim was released from jail 18 months ago and since then has been based at Georgetown University in Washington DC. In May, Anwar, now a professor, will be coming home for good to play an active role in Malaysian politics. Some say, watch May 2006, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Barisan Alternatif are going to rock this country. Okay, I am all for partying, so let’s rock. But does the opposition have what it takes? More importantly, has Anwar finally got his act together? We kick off the first episode of THE CORRIDORS OF POWER by talking about the dying opposition coalition and whether Anwar will be able restore it to what it was during the heydays of 1999.

Tanah: BN hanya terima pakai polisi kerajaan PAS

Oleh Khairul Azlam Mohmad
Harakah (23 March 2006)

Pesuruhjaya PAS Terengganu, Dato’ Mustafa Ali berkata Kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN) negeri hanya menerima pakai dan meneruskan polisi yang dibuat oleh Kerajaan PAS sebelum ini berhubung permohonan tanah.

Katanya, keputusan itu menunjukkan kerajaan BN negeri sekarang tidak mempunyai `benda baru’ dalam menyelesaikan masalah tanah rakyat.

Beliau menyatakan demikian ketika diminta mengulas kenyataan Menteri Besar, Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh mengenai keputusan kerajaan negeri yang membuka semula permohonan tanah kepada individu yang meneroka tanah haram sejak 16 tahun lalu.

Idris ketika bercakap kepada pemberita selepas mesyuarat Exco semalam berkata, pemohon mestilah anak negeri dan terdiri daripada peneroka tanah sebelum 1990.

Tambahnya, permohonan itu dijangka dapat menyelesaikan beberapa isu tanah haram dan dapat mengatasi keperluan tanah untuk penduduk.

“Keputusan ini jelas menunjukkan bahawa adalah menjadi polisi umum kerajaan BN membekukan permohonan tanah sejak dulu dan sehinggalah kenyataan ini dibuat,” ujar Mustafa ketika ditemui di Pejabat Perhubungan PAS negeri, di sini, hari ini.

Katanya, permohonan bagi mereka yang meneroka tanah haram selama 16 tahun ke atas merupakan satu-satunya polisi yang dibuat oleh PAS sewaktu mengambil alih pemerintahan.

Tambahnya lagi, ada tiga bentuk permohonan tanah yang dibuat oleh kerajaan BA pimpinan PAS, antaranya menyelesaikan masalah tanah pemastautin tanpa hak atau tanah haram yang diteroka dari tahun 1990 dan sebelumnya.

“Kerajaan BN hanya menerima pakai polisi itu dengan tambah enam tahun, sekarang 2006, menerima pakai keputusan yang telah dibuat oleh PAS yang telahpun menyelesaikan beratus-ratus tanah pemastautin tanpa hak yang tidak diselesaikan oleh kerajaan BN sebelum PAS perintah,” ujarnya. (Cut …..)

That was the report by Harakah, the official organ of the Islamic Party of Malaysia or PAS. For those who do not read or understand Bahasa Malaysia, I will summarise what the report said. It is about how the present Barisan Nasional government of Terengganu State has adopted policies that PAS implemented when it was running the state from 1999 to 2004.

What is wrong with this report? First of all, the heading says ‘policies of the PAS government’. Now, note the parts bolded and marked in red in the body of the report. The first marked item says ‘the PAS government’, the next says ‘done by PAS’, the third is ‘BA government led by PAS’, next is again ‘done by PAS’, and finally, ‘before PAS came to power’.

We assume Harakah correctly and accurately reported what Mustafa Ali said and did not misquote him. Out of those five highlighted items, only the third — ‘BA government led by PAS’ — would be considered acceptable to the non-PAS partner in the opposition coalition. As for the other four items, they would certainly strike a raw nerve. And the heading tells it all. It tells us what is in the minds of the PAS leaders.

PAS must not indulge in the misconception that it was it that ruled Terengganu from 1999 to 2004. It was Barisan Alterantif (BA), the opposition coalition — just like it is the Barisan Nasional and not Umno government that is in power today. No doubt PAS monopolised all the seats. But that was only because it was stingy with the seats and it took all the good seats and left its other coalition partners, in this instance Parti Keadilan Nasional (keADILan), with hardly any seats. And even those few seats keADILan was given to contest were kamikaze seats which PAS knew it could not win anyway.

There were numerous complaints from keADILan leaders in Terengganu and Kelantan that PAS was rather pompous in the many sessions of seat negotiations they held with the leaders from the Islamic party. This complaint was echoed by keADILan people in other states as well, such as in Selangor and Kedah. In some disputed seats which were reluctantly given to keADILan, PAS fielded ‘independent’ candidates and it became three-corner fights. As much as PAS may deny that these independent candidates, though PAS members, were sanctioned by the party, one cannot deny the fact these candidates had their party’s surat watikah (appointment letters). If they were renegades, how could they be in possession of proper credentials? And no disciplinary action was ever taken against these renegades though they breached party discipline. Umno would have sacked them. But then I suppose Umno is an undemocratic party.

A slip of the tongue is the fault of the mind. If the above Harakah report is a slip of the tongue, then it can only be faulted on the mind. PAS always had the impression that it and not BA was running Terengganu. And this scenario still exists in Kelantan today. PAS did (and still does in Kelantan) what it wants and not what BA wants. It even interferes in keADILan’s choice of candidates (remember when Dr Syed Husin Ali wanted to contest in Kota Bharu, a keADILan seat?) which should actually be an internal party matter and no business of others. And that is why the Democratic Action Party (DAP) left BA when PAS unilaterally made its move to implement Islamic laws in Terengganu. DAP left the opposition coalition not so much because it is opposed to Islamic laws, though it is of course, but for the fact that PAS made a decision to implement Islamic laws without consultation with or approval from its other partners in BA. If PAS no longer recognises the existence of the coalition, then there might as well not be one as far as DAP was concerned.

Anwar Ibrahim has been out of jail almost two years now. Okay, not quite two years yet, but come September this year it will be. In two months time, Anwar is scheduled to come home for good. Okay, not quite for good, he will have to spend 10 days or so overseas every month — but he will be based in Kuala Lumpur instead of Georgetown. What can we expect come May?

In his occasional trips home thus far, Anwar has had dialogues and meetings with the business community, media, educationists, and many other sectors to discuss various issues of national importance. In the questions and answers session, one question that attracted a lot of excitement is whether Anwar intends to contest the next general election. He confirmed he does but he doubted he would be allowed to. They might call for an early election to deny him his right to contest the election, said Anwar.

Anwar must realise, he lost his right to contest the general election the day he lost his appeal against his conviction for corruption and six-year jail sentence. He will only regain this right on 14 April 2008, after he crosses his five-year bar. If they call for a general election before 14 April 2008, then he would not be eligible to contest the election. After that date he is home free.

Will Abdullah Ahmad Badawi determine the date of the general election just for the sake of denying one man the right to contest the election? He will be most stupid if he does. Though many now believe he is a bit slow in the brain, he cannot be that slow. There are many more important factors to consider in determining when the election should be called. If one were to study the many opinion polls conducted over the last few years, it is clear that economic issues are the most important factor in the minds of the voters and an issue which would influence the outcome of any election. If the economy is in the pits, then expect the ruling party to perform badly. If the economy is booming, even a government with the worst human rights record will still retain power. And in Malaysia this is even more so because money is more important than all other issues as far as Malaysians are concerned.

2008 is not a good date to have an election and we all know why, so I need not elaborate on the reasons. Suffice to say, the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Globalisation are just not compatible and when we open up our market to the world, the NEP would be similar to building a sand castle on the beach to protect your house against a twenty foot Tsunami. If I were Abdullah, I would create this illusion of a boom economy, say sometime early next year, and get the elections over and done with long before Christmas of 2007. I would do so not to deny Anwar his right to contest the election, but because this would be the most sensible thing to do.

So let us work on the premise that the next general election will be before 2008. If Anwar wants to contest the election then he would have to first be granted a pardon. But he refuses to ask for one. So how will he get it? You can’t have it both ways. If you want it, you have to ask for it. If you are too proud to beg for it, then forget about getting your pardon.

Anwar’s excuse for not asking for a pardon is that he is not guilty of corruption and was fixed up in a sham trial. If he applies for a pardon then this would be an admission of guilt. So he refuses to ask for one — this tantamount to him not ‘endorsing’ his conviction. This line of thought would apply if he was just thinking of himself. But if he really believes this nation has gone to the dogs and that he must do something to save Malaysia, then he has to put his pride aside and do what is best for the nation and not what is good for his ego. He cannot be selfish and just think of himself. He must make sacrifices for the sake of the nation. Anwar projects himself as a Muslim leader. His platform, in fact, has always been Islam, even up to today. Would not a true Muslim leader put sacrifice first and service to society above everything else? Islam is about sacrifices. If there is no sacrifice, there is no jihad. And if there is no jihad, then there is no Islam.

Anyway, whether Anwar contests a seat in the general election or not is a minor issue. It would not change the fortunes of the opposition one bit if Anwar is allowed to contest his old Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat now held by his wife and keADILan president, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail — especially if that is the solitary seat the party holds, like now. It is what Anwar will do to restore the opposition coalition to the days of 1999 which is the more important issue.

The opposition coalition is in shambles. And we cannot blame PAS entirely for this. As much as we may feel PAS has become arrogant and the Harakah report mentioned above lies testimony to this, keADILan and DAP too are equally guilty of this crime. The Chinese leaders in keADILan are curt and abrasive towards the Chinese leaders in DAP, who are equally uncompromising. It is no secret that the younger Chinese leaders in keADILan, such as Tian Chua the Information Chief, are, as Lim Kit Siang says, kurang ajar (insolent) towards the veteran DAP leaders.

It is being touted that Anwar is going to be this unifying factor for the opposition. It is being bandied about that Anwar is the one man who can bring the opposition back together again. The Malays in PAS are at loggerheads with the Malays in keADILan. The Chinese in keADILan are at loggerheads with the Chinese in DAP. The Islamists are at loggerheads with the secularists. The Young Turks are at loggerheads with the Old Guard. DAP has internal conflicts. PAS has internal conflicts. And keADILan has internal conflicts. In short, the opposition is fragmented into a dozen pieces. How can Anwar weld everything back into one solid piece when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

Yes, that is the question we want to ask today. What are Anwar’s plans? How is he going to unite the opposition? Will PAS drop its Islamic State agenda? Will DAP rejoin BA? More importantly, will BA be more than just PAS, DAP and keADILan? And who are these new partners of BA?

In the episodes to come, we will look at the other aspects of the opposition, in particular what Anwar plans to do and whether he knows what he must do. But THE CORRIDORS OF POWER is not just about Anwar or the opposition. We will look at the entire spectrum of the Malaysian power game. We will look at those who walk through the corridors of power. We will look at those who hope to one day walk through the corridors of power. And Anwar is not the only one who harbours this aspiration.