Scratching an old sore

Does Anwar really want to see the formation of a unity government? Of course he does not. He wants to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia. But the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th general elections have shown that this is not easy to achieve. It can never be achieved unless Umno is first brought down because Barisan Nasional is basically Umno.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

(TMI) – Putrajaya’s recent peace overtures to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for a possible unity government was initiated by an eager political aide and a top Indonesian businessman without the direct knowledge of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, say sources from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

They told The Malaysian Insider that the overtures were not sanctioned by the top leadership although Anwar has confirmed to the Asia Sentinel news portal that ex-Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla has been acting as an intermediary.

“It was initiated by an eager political aide and a famous Indonesian businessman. They were concerned about Malaysia’s future direction,” a source told The Malaysian Insider in Kuala Lumpur.

Another government source confirmed the overtures while Pakatan Rakyat (PR) sources said knowledge of the talks was limited to a tight circle around the PKR de facto leader.

But opposition politicians laughed off talk that the proposal made to Anwar was unsanctioned, noting that no aide would dare to move without getting the go ahead from the boss. They also point out to the flurry of trips by Kalla related to the talks.

Talk of a unity government has set off roiling speculation and created some unease among Umno politicians close to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has made it clear that Anwar must not have a role in any BN government.

The peace moves come ahead of key polls in both Najib’s Umno and Anwar’s PKR although analysts say both leaders are not likely to be challenged for top posts.

The Malaysian Insider had reported a possible meeting between Najib and Anwar in Jakarta in June but it was denied by both parties although they were in the Indonesian capital city that same weekend.

But Anwar recently admitted there were peace overtures from Najib after Election 2013 which Najib’s BN won with a lesser haul of 133 federal seats, seven less than in 2008.

Anwar’s PR also won 51% of the popular vote but failed to take over Putrajaya, which led to talk of a possible unity government a month after the May 5 general election.

In an interview with the Asia Sentinel, Anwar said the peace moves were initiated by Najib, but he had sent word through intermediaries that attacks by Utusan Malaysia on the Chinese and Indian communities would have to cease, before any progress could be made.

He also wanted as a condition the lowering of the racial temperature in Malaysia.

“I said the fundamental issues must be addressed, ending the racial stuff, there has to be a clear understanding and commitment to reform and change, ” Anwar had told the Asia Sentinel.

Anwar has not received any reply from Najib despite the overtures through Kalla, the latest of which was made several weeks ago.

Earlier in the year, Kalla was unsuccessful in trying to broker a commitment from Najib and Anwar to accept the outcome of GE13, regardless of the coalition which won.

It is unclear why Najib would send feelers for a unity government given the antipathy in Umno towards Anwar and his partners in Pakatan Rakyat.

Within Umno there is a sense that while BN is weak, the ruling party is in a strong position, having won 88 of the 133 parliamentary seats on offer at GE13. In this current mood, party leaders would view offering any olive branch to the opposition as a weakness.

The Asia Sentinel offered this interpretation on the unity government move: “Presumably the Najib gambit opens another front against Mahathir, who has been allowing surrogate bloggers to attack the wounded prime minister ever since the election.”


We would like to respond to errors in the media coverage of our edited collection, ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia’. The media response to this collection was not expected. Despite our efforts to stress to the media early-on that this was a serious reflective collection by scholars and practitioners, the focus has been on sensationalising parts of the book, especially former premier Abdullah Badawi’s interview.

The media dynamic has taken on a life of its own, with nasty unjustified attacks on individuals, including some of the contributors and editors. These are not in the spirit of the season, nor do they reflect the substance or the intention of the collection itself.

This was a project that began several years ago, and consistent with a project involving multiple contributors, the process is a long one. This project was delayed. The sole responsibility of this delay lies with the editors, as we navigated multiple publishers, galleys and conflicting professional demands.

Bridget Welsh and James Chin (READ MORE HERE


In my previous article, “It’s 2006 all over again”, I said that it is impossible to bring down the Prime Minister from the outside. If you want to bring him down then it has to be done from the inside.

And that was the reason Anwar Ibrahim gave back in 1982 when he abandoned the opposition cause and joined Umno. If you want to change Umno then you must do it from the inside, argued Anwar, it can never be done from the outside.

The question of whether once you get inside you manage to change what you hoped to change, or you change instead, was a question the late PAS President Ustaz Fadzil Noor raised.

“How do you clean the tong tahi (latrine bucket) by jumping into the tong?” asked the Ustaz. “Instead of cleaning the tong you will get shit all over you.”

And many would swear this was exactly what happened to Anwar. Instead of changing or cleaning Umno from the inside, like he said he wanted to (and the reason why he joined Umno in the first place), Anwar changed and became just like any ‘normal’ Umno person.

So Anwar, of all people, know that not much can be achieved from the outside. You must infiltrate the organisation you wish to change. And that was one reason why back in 1999 Anwar told some of his people to remain in Umno when he launched his new party, Parti Keadilan Nasional. He wanted some of his people within Umno in the event he needed to make a comeback. He also ‘sent’ some of his people to join PAS.

In the recent general election in May 2013, many thought that Umno and Barisan Nasional were going to be ousted. They were confident that Pakatan Rakyat was going to form the new federal government. So many in Umno and Barisan Nasional wanted to cross over and join the opposition.

But Anwar would not let them. He wanted them to remain in Umno and Barisan Nasional in the event that Pakatan Rakyat does not quite make it or loses the general election with a hung parliament or with a very narrow margin. Then he would get them to cross over and bring down the government like what happened in Perak soon after the 12th general election.

Whatever it may be, Anwar plays what is called realpolitik — meaning: politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives. And that, too, is how Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad plays his politics.

Dr Mahathir will work with the opposition when it suits him (twice so far in his political career), will play the racial and religious card when it suits him, will whack the monarchy when it suits him, will attack the west and the Jews when it suits him, and so on.

In short, Dr Mahathir is the master and Anwar is his protégé. So they both play the same realpolitik.

Does Anwar really want to see the formation of a unity government? Of course he does not. He wants to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia. But the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th general elections have shown that this is not easy to achieve. It can never be achieved unless Umno is first brought down because Barisan Nasional is basically Umno.

And to bring down Umno you first need to create a split within the party. In 1969 there was one split resulting in May 13 and the creation of Barisan Nasional. In 1987 there was another split resulting in the closing down of Umno and the formation of Semangat 46. In 1998 there was a third split resulting in the creation of Parti Keadilan. And that weakened Umno even further — so much so that Dr Mahathir was forced to retire and hand the reins to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Umno cannot afford a fourth split. As they say, a drowning man surfaces only three times and Umno has used all three of its ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards. The next time Umno engages in an internal split will be the final time and will be the death of Umno.

You may have noticed that the aftermath of the May 2013 general election has seen some ‘strange’ happenings. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is said to be a liberal who is trying to be a centrist. But the sound bytes coming out from the other Umno leaders give an impression that Umno is becoming more racist while issues involving religion have become very critical of late.

In fact, Najib is being accused of ‘wasting his time’ by courting the support of the non-Malays and of being too accommodating to the Chinese and Indians. Some say Najib would have performed better in the recent general election had he focused on the Malays and not try to get the support of the non-Malays.

Then we have the launching of the new book, ‘Awakening: The Abdullah Years in Malaysia’ and it is said that Kalimullah Masheerul Hassan (a Pak Lah man who hates Dr Mahathir) is behind that book together with Khairy Jamaluddin, Pak Lah’s son-in-law. And the two authors, Bridget Welsh and James Chin, are said to be staunch Anwar people.

The fact that it was reported that Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah, is supposed to launch that book just strengthens the talk regarding the Anwar-Pak Lah alliance even further.

Then we hear stories about Najib and Anwar meeting a few times to discuss the formation of a unity government between Umno and the opposition ‘for the sake of Islam and the Malays’.

With the perceived Anwar-Najib alliance plus the Anwar-Pak Lah alliance, this is going to drive Dr Mahathir up the wall. And if Dr Mahathir can be made to turn on Najib, like he did Pak Lah in the pre-2008 general election, this will be the fourth and final split in Umno and, for sure, the end of Umno.

It makes one wonder who is it that has control over Umno. Najib may be the Prime Minister but that does not mean he has control over Umno. And the race, religion, unity government, Pak Lah’s book, and so on, issues that have cropped up give an impression that Najib is under siege from his own party.

It is actually a very good political strategy. If you cannot bring down Umno in an election then get Umno to disintegrate from the inside. And this can be achieved if Umno itself plus veteran leaders and warlords the likes of Dr Mahathir decide that Najib is too intimate with Anwar.

Some say that Dr Mahathir talks too much and that he should stop talking. But that is just it. It is safer when Dr Mahathir talks. It is when he remains silent that is the problem because when he remains silent we do not know what he is up to.

Pak Lah’s new book undermines Dr Mahathir. The RCI regarding the illegal immigrant problem in Sabah undermines Dr Mahathir. The Najib-Anwar ‘talks’ regarding the unity government undermines Dr Mahathir. And the perceived Pak Lah-Anwar alliance plus the perceived Anwar-Najib alliance undermines Dr Mahathir.

And when Dr Mahathir is undermined he retaliates with a vengeance. And one way to retaliate is to play up race and religion issues — which is what is already happening. Malaysian politics is in such a mess and we no longer know who is whose friend and who is whose enemy that it makes your head spin.

But then that is the only way to bring down Umno if you cannot bring it down in an election.

Basically, this is just another Anwar versus Dr Mahathir tussle for power. All the issues are mere pawns in the game of realpolitik, as are the players such as Najib and Pak Lah. The coming Umno party election will decide the winner. If the ‘right’ person wins then Umno will survive. If the ‘wrong’ person wins then Umno is destroyed.

And if Anwar wants to become the Prime Minister then he must make sure that the ‘wrong’ person wins the Umno party election. So the Umno party election is not just about Umno but also about the future of the country.

And this ‘future’ is being decided by two people — Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, the master and his protégé. And Pak Lah and Najib are not savvy enough to realise that they are mere pieces on a chessboard. So let us sit back and watch Dr Mahathir and Anwar make their moves.

Yes, there are issues galore. But all these issues lead to only one thing. And that one thing is: will Dr Mahathir still have control over Malaysian politics or will control shift into the hands of Anwar?