Friday Jottings: In need of experienced scoundrels

They were not labelled as Mat Sakau by Anwar but a noun of similar vein and meaning – penyamun – and Anwar, together with his supporters, sang a song specifically composed to demonise to the hilt the penyamun party.

Shamsul Akmar, The Malaysian Reserve

SOME on the other side of the divide were upset when Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim condescendingly labelled his political opponents as Mat Sakau, a collective noun which English equivalent can be, among others, looters.

Apart from looters, other nouns that would strike a similar chord would be brigands, plunderers, pillagers, robbers, marauders, bandits and so forth.

Mat is a common name among Malay men, shortened from Mohamad, as in the case of Mat Sabu, a member of Anwar’s Cabinet.

Anwar’s introduction of Mat Sakau is not something extraordinary, it only adds to the lexicon of colourful labels used by opposing Malay politicians on each other.

Even Anwar himself had recently been labelled as Mat Retorik, a Malay word derived from English and its meaning is quite obvious.

Nevertheless, those upset being labelled as Mat Sakau should probably try to look at the positive sides of things.

It may not be too bad a thing to be labelled as looters given Anwar’s recent treatment of those who committed such acts, including members of Umno led by one facing multiple dozens of such cases in court.

They were not labelled as Mat Sakau by Anwar but a noun of similar vein and meaning – penyamun – and Anwar, together with his supporters, sang a song specifically composed to demonise to the hilt the penyamun party.

The term penyamun can simply be changed to Mat Samun. It doesn’t change the meaning nor the context. The English equivalent that can be used is probably plunderers so as to distinguish it slightly from Mat Sakau which had been defined as looters.

When Anwar was condemning Mat Samun in the 15th general election campaign trail, the dislike, or at least what was publicly displayed then, was mutual.

The Mat Samun, in turn spewed vitriols and unsavoury labels at Anwar and promised their supporters that they would never, ever, have anything to do with the latter.

In fact, a year before polling, a much more binding commitment of rejecting Anwar was made, presumably because mere promises were insufficient.

A senior Umno member, Ahmad Maslan, better known as Mat Maslan, had then vouched that the leader of the Mat Samun party had uttered the sumpah laknat or the curse oath to never work with Anwar and the DAP, a component of the PH.

Some may say that all these are in the past and is now water under the bridge.

But they are a very recent past and for those aggrieved of being labelled Mat Sakau, they should probably look at the way Anwar dealt with the Mat Samun. It should give them context and even a grasp of what to expect.

Mat Samun was abhorred and central in Anwar’s PH campaign in the 15th general election, and yet today, they are occupying important positions and one among them is second only to Anwar.

Despite being Mat Samun, they are given pivotal roles in determining the direction of the nation and its people, at least for the next four years, unless the equation changes.

How did Mat Samun get to such a coveted position after being treated like political lepers, one might ask.

All they had to do was renege on their pledge to their voters and supporters and ensured that their numbers would make Anwar and PH become the government.

In return, the decibels on the Mat Samun label are lowered daily and eventually muted and today replaced with Mat Sakau.

As a bonus, Anwar’s and PH’s supporters who were strident in their vilification of Mat Samun are now their apologists and to save face, they justify the collaboration with Mat Samun as a response to a royal decree.

If that was insufficient, they seemed to have successfully created the “green wave” bogeyman, at least among their followers to believe in better embracing the plunderers than those they themselves paint as religious extremists.

By any measure, Anwar and the PH should be more concerned about having the Mat Samun in their midst rather than the Mat Sakau at the fringes.

Simply put, surely the fox inside the chicken coop is a greater threat than the one outside.

If any comparison needs to be made, in the PH 1.0 under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, those labelled as Mat Samun and kleptocrats were charged in court and suffer the ignominy for plundering the nation.

To be fair, the subsequent backdoor Governments, to their credit, did not allow the kleptocrats to any position though these Governments fell shortly, merely for taking the plunderers into their midst.

Regardless, the Anwar, PH and to a certain degree Mat Samun’s playbooks are for Mat Sakau to mull and analyse.

If they are prepared to emulate and ensure that Anwar and the PH grip on the Government remains firm, they themselves can look forward to a reversal of fortune and a prosperous one at that.

And if they are still not convinced with the reversal of fortunes enjoyed by Mat Samun, an individual whom Anwar and PH “tarred and feathered” for abusing his position for personal gains has his contract extended figures importantly in combating corruption.

Cliché as it may be, the silence of the PH component leaders, once stridently opposed to corruption and abuse of power, is indeed deafening.

There is great potential and hope for Mat Sakau if the Mat Samun travails is of essence. In fact, it seems being Mat Sakau may very well be the key to open doors to exalted political plateau.

There is still hope yet, for the Mat Rempit.

Shamsul Akmar is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.