Pakatan’s tai chi misstep to get Anwar for Parliament sitting

Alyaa Alhadjri

Alyaa Alhadjri, The Ant Daily

Pakatan Rakyat seems to have made a grave error in their tai chi to push for Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s temporary release from prison to attend the upcoming Parliament sitting.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has managed to execute a master-level tai chi dodge of his own to avoid being the one that has to decide on the Permatang Pauh MP’s possible release.

The Chinese martial art of tai chi is most known for the beauty of its stylised movements – slow and methodical and almost effortless in defense yet potentially deadly on the offensive.

The basic principle behind this ancient practice is to ‘pull’ the enemy’s energy and ‘push’ it back to them in the form of lethal damage. The idea is a play on manipulating the yin (soft) and yang (hard) energy of Chinese lore.

Its moves depend on redirecting and annulling hard energy and amplifying and focusing soft energy.

Colloquially speaking, the term “tai chi” in Malaysia has taken on the connotations of wordy misdirection, skillful manipulation of issues and blame shifting as is common in our political arena.

In any case, the tai chi of 87 Pakatan Rakyat MPs trying to magnify their soft move that Anwar “must be allowed” to attend the sittings despite him having no absolute right to do so due to his status as a convict, may be a misstep instead of a skillful move.

In a joint statement on Feb 27, the MPs stressed that Anwar’s presence “will ensure that the people’s interests are vigorously fought for and safeguarded” and so he must be allowed to attend the sittings and perform his functions as federal opposition leader.

“On March 9, the king will address the Dewan Rakyat. On March 10, the nation will want to see Anwar Ibrahim rise from his customary place in the opposition front bench and begin his debate on the royal address.

“In the interest of the rakyat, the government must ensure this debate takes place by allowing Anwar Ibrahim to attend the sitting,” they said.

Their soft tai chi here is to imply that Anwar’s presence in Parliament is for the advantage of the rakyat, but indeed it is but a half executed move as they fail to dispel any doubt that the opposition leader’s presence only serves Pakatan more than it would the rakyat.

Anwar’s presence would probably be more a boon to the opposition to generate moral support for the campaign to challenge his imprisonment, especially by drumming up support from already critical visiting foreign dignitaries.

Additionally, some of the Pakatan MPs also brought up the matter of that Anwar as opposition leader must also attend the Agong’s invite to tea as is his right.

Another failed tai chi as the invite is not from the Agong but from the Speakers of both the Houses of Parliament. The king is there as the honoured guest.

Pakatan not so slick tai chi also seem to accentuate BN’s master level tai chi in managing the clashing statements that came out of the Home Ministry.

While more known for his brashness than gentleness, Zahid’s response to Pakatan Rakyat’s request for Anwar’s presence as opposition leader in Parliament is akin to a tai chi master.

Zahid had on Feb 26, despite being the minister in charge of the Prisons Department, claimed that such a request can only be decided upon by the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Patail.

“I beg to differ with my deputy minister who made the media statement, the case must be referred to the AG.

“There is no need for individual opinions, whether among ministers or politicians, we have to leave the responsibility to legal practitioners especially the AG to interpret based on the provisions in the federal constitution, and other clauses in related laws,” the Umno vice-president reportedly said at a press conference.

His master-level tai chi was obviously designed to avoid having to decide on the sensitive matter and transferring the buck to the AG, as a party not likely to be favourable to Anwar’s release.

In response, online portal The Malaysian Insider had on Feb 27 quoted Anwar’s lawyer N Surendran as asking “since when is the Prisons Department under the AG?”

“Zahid should not beat around the bush but should instead facilitate Anwar’s request,” said the PKR vice-president.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and several other legal experts had also previously pointed out that the final decision on whether to facilitate Anwar’s attendance in Parliament should lie in Zahid’s hands.

In one cunning move, Zahid could potentially absorb all the energy and ’kill’ Pakatan’s chances of seeing Anwar released from his Sungai Buloh prison cell to attend the next parliamentary session.

The internal force behind Pakatan’s protests against Anwar’s incarceration this time may not be as strong as it was during the 1998 Reformasi period but there have been mounting international outcry against what they believe to be a politically motivated charge against him.

On Feb 10, the Federal Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s 2014 ruling that reversed Anwar’s acquittal of sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan and sentenced him to five-years in jail.

Anwar’s position as Permatang MP and opposition leader will however remain valid until the outcome of his application for a royal pardon is made known.