Who knows what the truth is these days?


Kee Thuan Chye 

How do you decide what is truth and what is falsehood as the build-up to Malaysia’s 13th general election heats up? So many bizarre twists and turns have emerged in recent days that Malaysians must be in a state of shock and awe.

First, businessman Deepak Jaikishan openly alleged that Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor were involved in forcing private investigator P. Balasubramaniam to make a second statutory declaration to contradict his first, which had implicated Najib in the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Then Bala returned from exile earlier this year to affirm that he stood by his first statutory declaration, reinforcing the revelations made by Deepak about how the second declaration came about.

The latest twist is Azlan Mohd Lazim’s announcement that Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is innocent of the charge of having sodomised Azlan’s son, and that Anwar is the victim of a political conspiracy. Taking everyone by surprise, including apparently Saiful as well, the father attests that his son was “used by several unscrupulous individuals”, including a special officer of Najib’s, to tarnish Anwar’s image.

READ: Saiful’s father joins PKR, defends Anwar
READ: Saiful’s dad apologises to Anwar, says son was ‘used’

Saiful, however, disputes his father’s testimony. He stands by his accusation of Anwar, which had led to the Sodomy II trial, debunks the claim of political conspiracy, and insists that it is his father who is being used. He actually lashes out at Anwar and warns him not to “use my father to twist the truth, no matter how desperate you are”.

Is Anwar desperate? He was acquitted of the charge by the High Court in January last year, but the attorney-general appealed, and the hearing has been scheduled for July 22. By that date, the general election should be over, and if Anwar’s coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, is in control of Putrajaya then, he might be able to get his new attorney-general to quash the case, but if it isn’t, he could be in for troubled times. 

If the Court of Appeal finds him guilty and subsequently, upon his expected appeal, the Federal Court upholds the verdict, he could be shut away for years. In that sense, he might truly be anxious – if ‘desperate’ is too strong a word – to avoid being in the soup.

But then again, would getting Azlan to denounce Saiful’s claim be of any help to Anwar at the appeal hearing itself? Unless Azlan is called as a witness and has new evidence to clear Anwar, his denunciation will be of no consequence in court.

The only value it may have for now is in creating a perception among the public that Anwar is indeed innocent and a political victim, as this would boost his image and help his coalition’s chances at the polls. 

But even so, discerning Malaysians are already waxing sceptical about Azlan’s sudden turnaround. He was, after all, quite forceful in urging the attorney-general to file an appeal after Anwar’s acquittal. They are also questioning his motive and the timing of his announcement. And why he was accompanied at his press conference by Johari Abdul, an Opposition member of Parliament.

Such circumstantial indicators promote speculation that the coalition might have engineered the new twist to aid its chances of winning Putrajaya so Anwar could escape further prosecution, but other questions arise which confound that theory, like why would a father discredit his own son? 

Then there’s the other theory that is being bandied about a lot – of promised rewards to Saiful that have not been fulfilled prompting retaliatory action by his father. And another popular one – that the recent bombshell developments, starting with Deepak’s revelations, followed by Bala’s return and now Azlan’s volte face implicating Najib or at least his men, are the work of Najib’s own party rivals plotting his downfall.

Although this seems foolhardy and potentially suicidal for his party since the general election is so near, one never can tell in politically surprising Malaysia, especially with so much intrigue piling up almost every other day.

So far, Najib has said or done hardly anything to counter the serious allegations against him, and this is something that greatly befuddles the public. It could mean that there is truth to the allegations or that he is someone who doesn’t bother with what others say about him and prefers to let his performance as prime minister do the talking.

But even on that score, Najib has been coming across as a rather weak leader, and his confidence of winning the elections seems to be waning. He may have to drop a few bombshells of his own to blow up his rivals’ chicanery and set a course for not just winning the elections but winning big.

As such, in the coming days, Malaysian politics could get even dirtier than it already is. And the public could become more bewildered trying to figure out truth from lies, reality from fiction, and the other way around. As it looks so far, the 13th general election will certainly be the dirtiest one ever.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!