Shall we experiment?

The ‘devil we know’ is a recalcitrant beast which is resistant to change whereas the ‘devil we don’t know’ is promising Utopia.

Anwar was regarded as a racist and religious bigot. Then there was also that persistent rumour about his fondness for clean-shaven men. But it was his lack of devotion to Dr Mahathir Mohamad that put a curse on his charmed life.

RK Anand, FMT

Anwar Ibrahim is no saint. But who amongst us is? That is a subject for debate in ecclesiastical circles.

But those who believe that a halo hovers above the opposition leader’s head must also extend the same benefit of divine doubt to the prime minister who has sworn in the name of God that his hands are not stained with the blood of a murdered Mongolian woman and that he did not pocket a handsome sum in connection with a submarine deal.

During his sojourn with Umno, Anwar’s reputation as the heir to the throne struck fear in the hearts of many similar to how the prospect of the “Malay first and Malaysian second” Muhyiddin Yassin becoming prime minister is bone-chilling to the non-Malays.

Anwar was regarded as a racist and religious bigot. Then there was also that persistent rumour about his fondness for clean-shaven men. But it was his lack of devotion to Dr Mahathir Mohamad that put a curse on his charmed life.

More than a decade has passed since Mahathir shoved Anwar out of the corridors of power and into prison but the epic battle between the two warlords continues to be waged. Trapped in the middle is Najib Tun Razak.

His predecessor ended up as collateral damage and his ambitious son-in-law was cast into cold storage in the aftermath of the 2008 electoral debacle. Does a similar or even worse fate await him?

As the nation edges closer and closer towards the 13th general election, the situation is becoming “curiouser and curiouser”. As more and more cans of worms and cows are opened, it is evident that Najib has committed a dreadful error in not calling for the polls earlier when the forecast was in his favour.

Perhaps he was not contented with just holding on to power but aspired to be the Ceasar who would return Rome to the pinnacle of power, the emperor who is adored and venerated by his subjects. To his credit, Najib had dared to be different but the odds were just too great. Now he risks losing it all.

Mahathir returns to battle

This has prompted Mahathir to return to the frontline in order to save Umno Baru from decimation. It is, after all, his party.

Moreover, the thought of Anwar becoming prime minister is unsettling for the patriarch, especially when his arch-nemesis would have access to certain documents which could prove to be incriminating.

Driven out, ridiculed, imprisoned and battered, Mahathir’s former deputy might not be as forgiving as some hope him to be should he triumph.

Anwar claims that Mahathir is once again sharpening his blade, which has butchered numerous illustrious political careers in the past. He purportedly wants Najib’s head to roll but after the polls since Umno is in no position to witness a high-profile beheading at this juncture.

The often repeated argument from Barisan Nasional is “better the devil you know”, with the prime minister warning Malaysians not to experiment with their votes, lest it would invite damnation.

Najib prefers that experiments and debates be confined to the science labs and schools instead of being carried out at the expense of his position.

His steadfast refusal to debate with Anwar suggests that perhaps the prime minister is a fictitious character and each word that rolls out of his mouth is crafted by a team of public relations experts.

Does he fear sharing the stage with a fiery orator without his retinue of speech writers and advisers, forced to respond to questions without rehearsing his answers in front of a mirror beforehand and in the absence of a prepared text? Is he afraid that he would fail the test of scrutiny on television?

The “devil we know” is a recalcitrant beast, which is resistant to change, save for Najib and a handful of others who dwell in the 1Malaysia wonderland, churning out an endless stream of slogans and abbreviations.

The rest in Umno remain disenchanted, reminiscing about the golden era where in the words of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, only the Almighty-sanctioned media like Utusan Malaysia existed, dissidents could be jailed without much fuss, the only ones blowing the whistles were scouts and no carpet dealer threatening to pull the rug from under their feet.

Most of all, it was a time when the people feared the government and not the government having to fear the people.

The devil or messiah?

On the other hand, the “devil we don’t know” promises Utopia though his detractors remain unconvinced due to the mounting allegations against those in the opposition, lending credence to the belief that power breeds corruption.