Anwar’s date with destiny


The sodomy verdict is also taking place at a time when Pakatan Rakyat is being held together by a thread. The differences between DAP and PAS have blown up into open squabbling. They are like an incompatible couple on the verge of divorce except that they cannot decide how to divide their joint assets.

Joceline Tan, The Star

PKR’s big man Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has spent more time on the road than at home with his family the last few weeks.

He has thrown his all into the roadshow to whip up momentum for the final verdict of his sodomy trial on Tuesday. The response to the roadshow has ranged from cool to enthusiastic, with crowds ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand.

He would have loved for those days when his ceramah attracted tens of thousands of people. But those days seem to be over and the sentiment out there is mostly a mix of sympathy, political fatigue and cynicism.

Anwar has taken his case to the more rural parts of Malaysia, away from the metropolitan to smaller towns where the oral culture still predominates and where people are prepared to come out and listen to political speeches.

People do want to hear his version of events and they sense that this may be the last time they will see him in the flesh if he fails in his appeal.

The small town crowd is there to be informed as well as be entertained and he does not disap­point with his on-stage energy and witty rhetoric.

It is often hard to believe that Anwar is 67. He is in great shape and his casual Jokowi-style of dressing – open-necked shirt worn over trousers, sleeves folded to the elbow and open-toe sandals – has set off a trend among other party leaders.

His looks have led to speculation that he has had plastic surgery and reporters are always peering at his face for signs of nip and tuck. But it is probably in his DNA because his late father was a handsome man and so are his brothers.

Anwar’s roadshow would have covered a total of eight states by tonight. He is probably disappointed at not being able to attract a bigger audience. But even PAS and DAP ceramah have not been pulling in the numbers. There has simply been too much politics and people are tired.

The sodomy verdict is also taking place at a time when Pakatan Rakyat is being held together by a thread. The differences between DAP and PAS have blown up into open squabbling. They are like an incompatible couple on the verge of divorce except that they cannot decide how to divide their joint assets.

Azmin: ‘Sembahyang hajat’ at his official residence.

The ulama figures in PAS who had previously lent their moral authority to Anwar’s case are no longer with him. The withdrawal of their support has dealt a big blow for Anwar, especially among the rural Malays.

The only top ulama from PAS who commiserated with Anwar was PAS vice-president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man who said that he believed Anwar would be released and that he was praying for the PKR leader.

The finale ceramah in Shah Alam tomorrow night will hopefully attract a larger turnout, otherwise it will be a loss of face for the man who still aspires to be Prime Minister. He needs the vali­dation regardless of whether he will be set free or found guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhary Azlan.

There will also be a 200-table Chinese dinner in Petaling Jaya although no one can quite explain why the dinner is targeted only at the Chinese when PKR is a multi-ethnic party.

PKR deputy president Azmin Ali will be holding special prayers or sembahyang hajatfor Anwar at the official Mentri Besar’s residence tomorrow evening.

Dr Afif: Planning to bus in supporters from Penang.

Dr Afif: Planning to bus in supporters from Penang.

The Selangor Mentri Besar has been rather measured in his support for Anwar’s plight. He was badly played out by Anwar during the PKR election last year, and it happened again when Anwar tried to make his wife the Selangor Mentri Besar. Some said the back-to-back incidents completely broke the trust that he had in Anwar.

Azmin turned up in court a few times during the appeals hearing and was even seen solicitously helping Anwar down the grand staircase of the Palace of Justice. But the sense is that Azmin is merely going through the motions of what is expected of him as the party’s No. 2. The love and respect is no longer there.

PKR leaders have been holding press conferences pledging to deliver the crowds when the Federal Court convenes to deliver the judgment.

The party’s deputy Youth chief Dr Afif Bahardin has pledged to mobilise some 20,000 supporters from Penang on Tuesday. That is a massive number and if 20,000 from Penang do turn up, it will certainly boost the spirits of their ketua umum.

Politically speaking, the job of rallying the crowds is that of the Youth chief but Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad has legitimacy issues because of the way he won the post and he has been unable to get much support from the Youth wing.

Nik Nazmi: Struggling with legitimacy issues in PKR.

Nik Nazmi: Struggling with legitimacy issues in PKR.

PKR treasurer Datin Paduka Tan Yee Kew wrote a passionate article arguing that the sodomy case is of paramount national importance. She equated the case to a test on the future of democracy in the country. Many people would agree with her but there are also many who think that the one-time Wanita MCA leader from Klang was trying too hard to be more PKR than the true-blue PKR person.

“The average layman is not very aware. It’s mainly people like us who are counting the hours and the days,” said a Johor PKR politician.

What is apparent is that there is no air of panic in PKR unlike the time when the High Court was about to decide in January 2012. Back then, PKR members were in despair at the thought of Anwar going to jail because they could not visualise the party without him.

So much has changed in the party since then. PKR people still wish him well but they also believe that should Anwar lose his final appeal, the party will not crumble.

PKR will survive, new leaders will emerge and the party will become a more authentic political organisation without interference from Istana Segambut, the term used for the powerful Anwar family.

The international response to his situation has also changed. The United States used to be his big ally but the State Department has been quite circumspect about the case. Back then, Indonesia’s President B.J. Habibi was a vocal advocate but President Joko Widodo, who was here last week on a three-day state visit, has adopted a hands-off approach.

In the run-up to the Federal Court hearing, Anwar had painted himself as a victim. He said at one ceramah after another that he would be going to jail because it was not a fair trial and there was no justice in the judiciary.

It did not draw the response that he had expected and he switched to telling his audience that he is confident he would walk free on Feb 10.

Unfortunately, his expressions of confidence have also sparked off all sorts of conspiracy theories. One theory has it that he had struck a pact with his rival Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. According to another theory, he was back in Umno’s good books especially after he appeared on TV3 saying that he would cooperate in any corruption investigation against Tun Daim Zainuddin.

Some have described these cons­piracy theories as “catching mosquitoes” type of stories, meaning that they are stories cooked up by people who have so much time on their hands that they sit around trying to catch mosquitoes.

More recently, when speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia, Anwar said he was “cautiously optimistic”.

But he warned that a guilty verdict could backfire on Putrajaya. He said it would make him a martyr and drive more support to Pakatan. His hardcore supporters have claimed it would make him the Nelson Mandela of Malaysia.

“Whether inside or outside, Anwar will still be a factor,” said PKR politician and academic figure Dr Aziz Bari.

The High Court had found him innocent. But the Appeals Court had reversed the decision and sentenced him to five years jail. The Federal Court could go either way, so “cautiously optimistic” is a good position to take for now.

In an immediate response following notice of the judgment day, Anwar said he was confident he would be freed. He said that slander should not be a political tool or be used to cause chaos in the country.

“I pray that justice will prevail and I will be freed,” he said.

The accuser, Saiful, has often been forgotten amid the shock and awe of Anwar’s political juggernaut.

Saiful, who has kept a low profile throughout, has his rights too and, legally speaking, he is the victim of an alleged sex crime committed by his employer.

Saiful also responded to news of the judgment day with a couple of brief but meaningful postings on Facebook. He noted that the case has taken seven years and that “whatever the decision, I leave it in the hands of Allah”.

Anwar’s chameleon nature makes him hard to read.

Those around him said he has been cheerful, upbeat and even cracks jokes about his situation. But, as one PKR politician pointed out, he was just as optimistic and confident when assuring them that his wife would be the Mentri Besar of Selangor.

He has said that he will not run away. He will be there on Feb 10 for his date with destiny.

The celebrity ulama Dr Asri Zainul Abidin who was recently reappointed mufti of Perlis has been following the case quite closely and his advice to all is to “evaluate without too much emotion”.