Inconsistency of Pakatan leaders over Anwar’s conviction


Kua Kia Soong, Malay Mail Online

I have already pointed out the sheer opportunism of the ‘Save Malaysia’ gambit by some of the Pakatan leaders in their Anti-Najib Coalition with Mahathir (7 Mar 2016) and their vain attempt to justify this move as a “united front” (2 April 2016). My description of this unholy alliance as “an audacious naivete” seems to ring a bell in Anwar’s recent letter from prison when he said: “I can’t help feeling flabbergasted by the simplistic assertions that with Najib’s removal we will be able to usher change towards democratic accountability.”

Anwar’s letter also raises another glaring mistake in this unholy alliance with Mahathir, namely, the gross inconsistency in the stand by these Pakatan leaders on Anwar’s conviction.

Despite the generous gestures shown toward Mahathir by his former detractors, including Anwar, Mahathir has not displayed any remorse for his past record and instead, repeated his scurrilous attacks on Anwar’s character.  Naturally, Anwar was hurt when this “humiliation, sadly did not elicit any response from my trusted colleagues.”

Let this also be a lesson to Anwar for initially falling for this opportunistic gambit: “It’s baffling to note that after working with Pakatan Harapan civil society and my trusted colleagues, he continued to pour scorn and venom against me!”

Thus, if these Pakatan leaders could be forgiven for their “audacious naivete” in working with Mahathir, there was no excuse for their continued alliance with the latter AFTER he repeated his prejudiced comments against Anwar. As to who is calling the shots in the Anti-Najib Coalition, this terse admonition by the Pakatan de facto leader says it all:

“But I resent the insensitivity in pressuring the president and in particular Nurul Izzah to pay respects to Tun M or attend his functions. You may want to appease him, but to demand such a sacrifice from my family, particularly after the recent scorn is the unkindest cut of all!”

No excuse for being unprincipled

Defence of their de facto Pakatan leader is only part of the equation; even more serious is the abandonment of their principles regarding Anwar’s conviction by the state.

Throughout Anwar’s sodomy trials, the Pakatan leaders had maintained that he was a “victim of political conspiracy and fabricated evidence”. When he was sent to jail for the second time, senior opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang said: “It’s a day of infamy. It’s a shocking decision.” The PKR deputy president Azmin Ali labelled Anwar’s jail term “perverse”, an “injustice” and an “absolute disgrace”, while former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenavasan likewise slammed the political conspiracy against Anwar. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have also condemned the charges against Anwar.

Hence by not condemning Mahathir for repeating his scurrilous attacks on Anwar’s character even AFTER the formation of the Anti-Najib Coalition, it exposes the Pakatan leaders’ inconsistent stand on Anwar’s innocence in his political trial.

What do we want and when do we want it?

First, the Pakatan leaders should demand an apology from the man who initiated the prosecution of Anwar in the first place when he was Prime Minister. Mahathir should be asked to forthwith withdraw his scurrilous attacks on Anwar. Failure to do so should result in him being booted out of the Anti-Najib Coalition.

The reform movement should then be redefined to target not just an individual but the political regime and political economic system that oppresses, divides and exploits the people.  The aim would not only be to call for Najib’s resignation but to change the racist and exploitative regime. Furthermore, reforms should target the neoliberal economic policies that were set in motion by none other than Mahathir in the early Eighties.

Najib has merely made more extreme the structures created by Mahathir to entrench the powers of the Executive, emasculate the democratic institutions and provide the means for private enrichment of the elite in this country. Racist and racial discriminatory policies were also entrenched by Mahathir in the early Eighties and further manipulated by Najib until today.

Thus, Anwar’s recent letter from prison should not be brushed aside as “an internal PKR matter”. It stirs up questions surrounding the Malaysian rakyat’s continuing struggle for truth, justice, dignity, consistency, democracy and human rights.

*Kua Kia Soong is Suaram advisor.