More hot air over ‘Sept 16’ dreams

DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim is anticipating a “Malaysia Spring” when the general election comes.

For those who have trouble remembering, Sept 16, 2008, was the date that Anwar had repeatedly and boldly set, just after the last general election, as the time for him and his allies to take over the Federal Government through defections of BN members of parliament.

By Syed Nadzri, New Straits Times

But after his “Sept 16” debacle, this could be just another case of wishful thinking, say some people.

The hot air, others add, even bears the same smugness of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s immortal “You’re out of date” remark bellowed just before the 1990 polls. That one also turned hollow, of course.

In an interview with Bloomberg news late last week, Anwar, the former high-riding and all-powerful deputy prime minister and now parliamentary opposition leader, said in the next general election, his loose alliance called Pakatan Rakyat will end five decades of rule by Barisan Nasional.

“We’re taking over the government at the rate we’re going.” He then connected this ambition to the Middle East upheavals known as the Arab Spring.

He said: “When will the Malaysia Spring be?”

He replied: “The next elections.”

In a way, Anwar was partly right. The 13th general election could possibly come around in March or April, which is springtime in many countries (hence, the Malaysia “spring” reference). But given the political fluffs of the past, that is where the connection is likely to end and Sept 16 memories would take over.

For those who have trouble remembering, Sept 16, 2008, was the date that Anwar had repeatedly and boldly set, just after the last general election, as the time for him and his allies to take over the Federal Government through defections of BN members of parliament.

The build-up to that date was noisy and mischievous, to say the least, with the  former Umno firebrand upstart going on his nightly ceramah roadshow, declaring  something to this effect: “I will name the people crossing over to our side tomorrow night at 11.30. Make sure all of you come. We will celebrate our victory on Sept 16.

“I also have boxes and boxes of evidence of corruption against  BN leaders and their cronies.”

Well, four Sept 16s have passed and Anwar is still not prime minister. The boxes of documented proof never saw the light. He was, as someone said, just taking us down through “strawberry fields, where nothing is real”.

In all likelihood, his Malaysia Spring will turn out to be like that as well.

It is a throwback to the time when  Razaleigh, at one time an equally high-riding and powerful finance minister, was leading the new party, Semangat 46, and a seemingly resurgent opposition pact after a falling out with Umno leaders.

In such a situation, they all like to take it out on journalists.

In one of his repartees at a press conference just before the 1990 election, Razaleigh shot back: “Why do you ask a silly question? You will get a silly answer. You are out of date. Why are you talking about two-thirds. We will form the next government.”

The poor reporter from this paper had merely asked whether the opposition parties’ chance to deny  BN a two-thirds majority had increased with Parti Bersatu Sabah withdrawing  from  BN.

The takeover never happened. The opposition alliance not only failed to form the government, it was also routed. So, there you go.

Actually, Anwar’s wishful intent was one of the two striking news items that raised our eyebrows last week.

The other was the landmark decision by the Court of Appeal that ruled that Section 15(5)(a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, which restricts students from expressing support or opposing any political party, was unconstitutional.

The section says: “No student of the University and no organisation, body or group of students of the University which is established by, under or in accordance with the Constitution, shall express or do anything which may reasonably be construed as expressing support for or sympathy with or opposition to any political party, whether in or outside Malaysia.”

The significance of the case is far-reaching and goes even beyond the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression.

The ruling has unwittingly resurrected the old question about which of the three is supreme: Parliament, the Federal Constitution or even the court that  interprets laws passed by Parliament.

The Court of Appeal said it straight last week: the Constitution, which provides for freedom of association and expression, is supreme and anything that is in conflict, including a law passed by Parliament, is therefore unconstitutional.

But isn’t it Parliament that  has the power and control over the Constitution, that is,   to amend it or review it altogether? This, I think, is one for the legal experts to ponder.

In the meantime, a related news item in Saturday’s paper befuddled me.

It said that a student body called Gesa, reacting to the court case, actually wanted Section 15(5)(a) to be retained. It handed over a memorandum  to that effect to the government on Friday.

What has become of our students? Gesa’s action is akin to a situation where prisoners, having been released after years of detention, are objecting to their newfound freedom, wanting to continue to be kept under lock and key.

It is a funny world.