Friday Jottings: Going down the rabbit hole
Shamsul Akmar is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.
WHETHER many Malaysians are aware or not, several video clips featuring Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) are making the rounds on social media platforms.
One, in particular, is about him promising to bring down the price of fuel the very next day after he took over the Government. But it is not a stand-alone clip.
It is juxtaposed with another of him, explaining to a crowd of students from a local varsity why the fuel price had not been brought down despite him having become the PM for almost a year now.
In that clip, Anwar told the student that he had made the promise in 2008 when the price of fuel in Saudi was much, much, cheaper than Malaysia’s which to him, warranted the promise to lower the fuel price in Malaysia.
He then said that now that the price of fuel in Malaysia is cheaper than that of Saudi’s it did not justify the lowering of its price anymore especially when the subsidy paid for fuel had ballooned to more than RM30 billion.
But another clip followed, showing Anwar speaking at a Parti Keadilan Rakyat convention in July 2022 in which he was explaining why the fuel price was not lowered despite Pakatan Harapan taking over the Government in 2018.
He said it wasn’t lower because he was not the PM.
Other video clips in a similar vein had also emerged including one in which Anwar promised to abolish loans taken by students from the National Higher Education Fund, locally known as PTPTN, if he became PM.
Then there was another about his criticisms of previous PMs over the weak ringgit against other currencies which he said happened due to incompetence and corruption.
Tagged to the clips are usually the display of a currency board, usually one that could be observed at money changing booths – showing how badly battered the ringgit is today and comments expressing fear that the currency is in for a freefall.
Popular too are clips which showed Anwar’s promise of “no Umno and no Zahid” with him singing to the “Hoi, hoi ya hoi” tune, a cover of an old song directed at Umno Kleptocrats.
There are also other clips which may not feature Anwar specifically but allude to his failure to keep promises he made when he was the opposition leader.
One example is the deafening silence over the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) RM 6 billion scandal. Along the way, Anwar is also frequently reminded of Azam Baki’s continued leadership of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The commissioner was a target of Anwar and his ilk prior to him becoming PM for alleged financial improprieties.
Another bone of contention among Anwar’s critics is over the sharp increase in prices of essential goods and more recently, the shortage of local rice. Some pointed out such a situation had never occurred before.
MCA’s suggestion that in the event of a Cabinet re-shuffle, apart from dropping some members who were obviously disappointed, the demand that Anwar drop his Finance portfolio triggered another reminder of a volte-face.
That Anwar and his close associates had in the past demanded that the PM does not hold the Finance portfolio after the experience with the Najib Razak administration when it was mocked that the PM had consulted the Finance Minister who then consulted the 1MDB board chairman when deciding on making the investment into the scandalous entity.
Of course, Najib was then holding all three hats.
However, one aspect which his critics seem to miss or have yet to highlight is that Anwar’s present Government is nothing different than that of the one realised after the Sheraton Move.
It was only a case of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin got to it first, nothing more nothing less.
Then PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad refused to be part of the Sheraton Move because he was not willing to work with Umno which, with its substantial number of seats, would be able to hold the government at ransom.
He warned Muhyiddin that working with Umno would be akin to riding the tiger but the latter was willing to take his chances. And true to form, when Muhyiddin refused to accede to Umno’s dictates, its president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi demanded Muhyiddin to step down and failing which, Umno would withdraw its support.
Optionless, Muhyiddin stepped down and in his place, Umno’s vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob took over. Being Zahid’s subordinate in the party’s hierarchy saw him becoming the subject of ridicule and criticism by his own party.
Pressured and obviously unable to stomach some of the demands made by his party, Ismail agreed to an early dissolution of the Parliament, paving the way for an early general election.
With a hung government and despite Umno’s pitiful outing, it had enough seats to swing the pendulum to either side of the divide.
It chose Pakatan Harapan, the DAP and Anwar, finally fulfilling Anwar’s near-three-decade dream of becoming PM.
Dr Mahathir refused to be part of Sheraton Move because it meant having to work with Zahid and Umno which was saddled with scandals and led by kleptocrats.
Muhyiddin agreed to work with Zahid and Umno but his PM-ship was short-lived when he refused to accede to their whims.
Anwar and his ilk foamed at their mouth in condemning the Sheraton Move and promised that never would they work with Umno and the corrupt.
Today, he is working with them and even bettered Muhyiddin’s Sheraton Move by making Zahid his Deputy and along the way, saw his court cases dropped.
Based on Anwar’s and PH’s standards, these manoeuvres are indeed unethical, evil, unacceptable and an anathema to good governance.
On that basis, it is time they move aside.