The stark realities of the Anwar regime

The Anwar administration can’t claim it represents the interests of the poor and marginalized

Murray Hunter

After more than Ten months in office, it is becoming very evident what the realities of the Anwar Ibrahim administration really are. For more than two decades, Anwar’s struggle to become prime minister, was portrayed as the struggle for ‘reformasi’, by supporters around him. However, some Malaysians are coming to realize that Anwar is more representative of the Malay polity and keeping the racial and kleptocrat status quo, than embracing any semblance of a reform agenda.

The Madani government is not a government of the poor

When Anwar introduced the concept of Madani in January 2023, with the principles of sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust, and compassion, many thought his government would make a high priority of enhancing the position of the poor and marginalized in Malaysian society.

The government’s policy actions since January show little indication of that perception.

The Madani government is not a government of the poor. The pattern of seats Pakatan Harapan (PH) won (and lost) in the last general and state elections, coupled with the seats UMNO managed to hold onto, shows the current support base is centred upon middle-class urban and semi-urban voters. The Anwar administration is very much bourgeoisie in its outlook, and clearly doesn’t have any real support in the poorer states in the north and east coast of the peninsula.

The Anwar administration can’t claim it represents the interests of the poor and marginalized voters of the peninsula. Many within the marginalized Indian group have deserted PH. In fact, the poor Malay groups in the peninsula have been inherently labelled as backward and extremist because of their support of PAS. This “us and them” mentality is dividing the identity of Malaysians on the peninsula even further than it has been for generations. The nation is now more divided than it has ever been.

The poor credibility of PH with the poor was reflected in the loss of Nurul Izzah Anwar in Permatang Pauh, Penang, Saifuddin Nasution Ismail in Kulim-Bandar Baru, Kedah, and Fuziah Salleh in Kuantan, Pahang, by large margins to Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidates.

The real issue of social-economic status has been covered up by race and religious based political rhetoric, which leaves these economically deprived groups in the B40 (bottom 40 percent of national incomes) of Malaysia at a disadvantage. This is the group the Anwar administration is failing to assist.

Foreign influence

Since the Anwar administration took over the running of the economy, policy has been very much orientated towards the principles advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). In addition, Malaysia is supporting the amendments to the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR), which will potentially infringe upon the sovereignty of the nation. Its also evident, Malaysia is working in cooperation with US intelligence agencies in the South China Sea.

Many of these policies have just been carried on from the Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration. Both the Ismail Sabri and Anwar administration boasted a large number of ministers who were also members of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The moves to digitalize health records, enlarge the use of digital identification in society, and increasing crackdown on what the government defines as dis-information, are consistent with WEF policies.

Undisclosed electoral campaign funds from organizations like the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have not been disclosed by members of PH. No one in government is talking about amending electoral campaign laws to force political parties to divulge the identity of those who donate to them.

Malaysia, which was once admired for having a partially-non-aligned foreign policy, has not engaged with the movement that is exponentially expanding the BRICS framework, which is rapidly becoming a major economic block. The potential of BRICS is not even being discussed within think tanks around the nation.

Rise in GLCs, crony capitalists and corporate totalitarianism

Since the formation of the unity government last December, government linked companies (GLCs) and crony capitalists have rushed to undertake projects with state governments, in exchange for land-swaps, that escape any public scrutiny. In addition, the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) is under attack by critics for the use of an intermediary company in land deals it has carried out with private corporations. These unorthodox transactions had until now evaded public scrutiny.

Prime public lands are disappearing into the hands of corporations very quickly.

Rather than monopolies being dismantled through economic reform, they are being extended by the unity government. Today, Malaysian consumers are suffering from rice and sugar shortages, due to a restricted economic regime being allowed to continue. Anwar administration policy appears to be supporting the profit potential of these monopolies, rather than act on behave of supporting consumers during these harsh economic times.

Signs of cronyism and fraudulent practices are also evident in poverty eradication projects like the RAMLAH initiative. These are fraudulent acts are potentially costing taxpayers millions of Ringgit, and benefitting a small handful of corporations.

The influence of GLCs and cronies has certainly risen over the last 10 months, without any sense of fairness and compassion. The eviction of homeowners by Ritzy Gloss Sdn Bhd, with the assistance of the Federal Land and Mines Department is indicative of the new corporate totalitarianism that is quickly developing in Malaysia.

Media suppression

After Malaysia rose from being ranked 113 in 2022 to 73 in the Media Freedom Index in 2023. After being touted as a success story, there is now renewed criticism of the clamping down on press freedom over the last few months.

The Anwar administration has put fear into the media, where self-censorship is now the strongest it has ever been. Investigative journalism has been pulped into near extinction, through intimidation by lawyers, who act from corporations involved in government contracts. Lawyers are only too pleased to have the business, without any concern for ethics.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Council (MCMC) now acts extra-judicially spasmodically blocking media websites, where formal paths to challenge these blocks don’t exist. The police now haul up activists as a means of intimidation, and sedition has become the tool of choice in silencing those who politically challenge the government.

Madani is just more of the same

The stark reality for Malaysia is that the Anwar regime is just another recombination of the same political parties that have shared power for generations. Consequently, different governments just yield the same old policies, with the same old crony capitalists hedging their futures with the current leader. Anwar is no different here. He is the choice of the Malay elite, and must work in their interests.

Pro-Bumiputera policies still prevail, and monopolies still exist, in an old partially-Soviet era type economy, based upon central planning, price controls, and five-year plans. The legal system has been stretched beyond recognition. Never before has any Malaysian government been subject to the level of foreign influence, it is under today. The draconian SOSMA Act allowing for detention without any legal oversight, and defamation laws that covers up corruption are still intact.

The Anwar administration has moved away from secularism by empowering the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) to become involved in economic plannings, and censorship on the internet.

This is the true nature of the Anwar administration.