Turning over a new leaf

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Referring to Anwar Ibrahim, Zainur Zakaria (one of Anwar’s lawyers) said the ex-deputy premier had also claimed to have been helpless to make changes while in government.

“But look, you were there (in government) for 16 years. Then, what were you doing all those years? What did you actually do when you claimed you couldn’t do anything?”

“(Former deputy premier) Musa Hitam resigned on a matter of principle because he couldn’t agree with Mahathir. If Anwar doesn’t agree with Mahathir, why didn’t he resign?”

The option to quit, he said, could be taken by any member of the cabinet if they disagree with a decision.

Malaysiakini – Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, Wednesday, hit out at Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) for bringing up the petroleum royalty given to Sarawak as an issue in the state election, polling for which is set for May 20.

He said he could not understand why PKR was raising the issue now when its adviser, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had rejected a request for a bigger petroleum royalty for Sarawak when he was the finance minister before his expulsion from the Cabinet.

“When he (Anwar) was the finance minister, I myself asked for an increment in the petroleum royalty but he didn’t give. Why is his party talking about it now?”

“I asked for more development for Sarawak because we don’t have enough (development) and he also did not want to give (allocations). Why is PKR talking about it now? Why didn’t he give us more when he was in power? Now he is no more in power, he can talk,” Chan told reporters after a meet-the-people session at the Krokop Market, here.

Chan, who is the BN candidate for Piasau, was responding to a statement by PKR President Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife, at a ceramah (talk) yesterday.

Chan, who is president of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), said PKR had no right to manipulate and misrepresent the issue to the people as it was Anwar who had rejected Sarawak’s request for the oil royalty increment.

Bernama – Wednesday, 10 May 2006

The news reports above are just two of many examples of criticism levelled at Anwar Ibrahim. Some of course question Anwar’s sincerity and ask whether he has really reformed or turned over a new leaf. Some feel he has not really changed much from the days when he was in power and his present stance is just a charade to play to the gallery. They feel that Anwar, being the political animal that he is, is catering to the taste buds of the voters and telling them what they would like to hear. Nevertheless, this is what most good politicians do anyway and we probably should not hold this against Anwar.

One thing Anwar should not do, though, is to ignore these criticisms. This has been earlier raised in The Corridors of Power where it was pointed out that Anwar faces a credibility problem of crisis proportions. The common cold one can ignore, as it will go away by itself. But ignoring allegations such as those above, plus much more, will not go down well with the voters who have long memories plus the assistance of the Internet to constantly remind them what Anwar said and did in the days when he was in power.

For example, Anwar gave a talk at an education seminar recently and he stressed on mother-tongue education. But the Chinese educationists remember when Anwar was once Education Minister. Why did he not do everything he is saying today when he was the Minister and had the power to do so then? Anwar has no answers and his only response is to apologise for his error of judgment. Well, at least Anwar admits his mistakes and begs forgiveness. But the damage has been done. Will the Chinese voters be able to forgive him for this irreparable and irreversible damage to Chinese education?

Even if you want to argue that Anwar may have been the Education Minister but then he really did not have much power to change any government policy as this is a Cabinet decision and no one in the Cabinet is able to contradict or oppose the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had an iron grip on the country. Well, what about when Anwar was not yet in the government and was still only a student leader? Many remember Anwar leading the University Malaya students in demonstrations to oppose the English Language in an effort to install Bahasa Malaysia as the country’s first and official language. English became the second language and, today, the present generation of Malaysians have a very poor command of English. Now, the government realises that in the era of globalisation this is a handicap in getting good jobs.

This makes it very difficult for Anwar to raise issues as invariably every issue that he raises can be pointed back to him. When he slams the government’s education policies, it is pointed out that he was once part of the problem. When he criticises the government’s economic policies, people remember when he was the Finance Minister and the damage the Ministry did with him at the helm. When he talks about corruption and cronyism, many can rattle away names of Anwar’s friends who made it big in the days he was in power.

Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. Unfortunately, Anwar too has sinned so he should refrain from this stone throwing exercise. Anwar needs to instead come clean and admit the many mistakes he made while in government. As Zainur Zakaria said, you can’t say that you were powerless and blame it all on Mahathir. If you really did not agree with Mahathir, you should have resigned and spoken out then — not speak now after Mahathir had thrown you out. What would happen if Mahathir had not thrown you out? Or what would happen if Mahathir had resigned and allowed you to take over as Prime Minister? Would you then speak the way you are speaking today? Or would you continue with all the bad policies that you inherited from Mahathir?

Malaysia has many laws which even Anwar does not agree with and today speaks out against. Malaysia is highly regulated and tightly controlled in every aspect. Civil liberties and fundamental rights are violated at will. Many laws in fact violate the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. But we did not hear Anwar speaking out against these laws when he was in power. Anwar in fact used some of these laws himself to curtail the opposition. What gives him the moral right to oppose these laws today?

This does not mean Anwar should therefore support these laws today. Bad laws are bad laws and should be opposed, especially if they violate the Constitution. But Anwar cannot remain silent and pretend he did not go along with all these transgressions when he was in power. He cannot criticise and act as if he has been criticising these transgressions all his life. He did not when he was in power. He is only doing that now that he is out of power.

Anwar would gain more credibility if he confesses his mistakes and repents. Everyone makes mistakes and the avenue to repentance is always open (jalan ke taubat sentiasa terbuka). But to pretend you made no mistakes while pointing out the mistakes of others will just allow people to point out what you did when you were in power, which is the same thing you are today criticising others of doing.

It is not difficult to reveal the mistakes of others. It is the big man who admits his own mistakes, which is more difficult. And you cannot repent unless you admit your mistakes. And until you do admit them, then no would believe you are repentant but that you are still the same old Anwar Ibrahim.