There is mounting fear that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim might be arrested soon, with Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling Umno party charging him for allegedly masterminding the Lahad Datu intrusion.
Members of Anwar’s PKR party fear the worst may happen, based on information received from high-level sources as well as from reading a recent chain of “orchestrated” events they worry are aimed to create hate towards the 64-year-old leader.
A resurgent Anwar is widely expected to form and lead the next federal government, and if he is ‘taken down’, the Opposition’s advance could well be stymied.
“I think it is my duty to at least not to underestimate any of this possibility because the stakes are very high. If you talk to anyone, it is clear to all that there is every likelihood that Pakatan Rakyat is going to win,” PRK strategy director Rafizi Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.
“I think initially we dismissed it but once you start looking at how the orchestration has taken place in the last 2 weeks and the whole message seems to converge on implicating Anwar Ibrahim as the person behind the whole thing, I don’t think it is far-fetched for us to take that precaution because this country has seen things worse than that. If they had subjected Anwar Ibrahim to two cases of made-up sodomy charges, I don’t think it is beyond them to implicate Anwar Ibrahim one way or another as political capital this close to election. So we are monitoring, we do our best to gather as much information but I think the public also has to take vigilance if there is any attempt to implicate Anwar Ibrahim with what is happening in Sabah, I think it should be rejected immediately because it is nothing more than Umno’s political ploy.”
Stirring up enough public anger against Anwar, Tian Chua
The heat on the beleaguered Najib has intensified following the death of 2 soldiers on Tuesday, bringing to 10 the total death toll so far for the Malaysian security forces deployed to control the Lahad Datu crisis. And with the timing of the country’s 13th general election imminent, the 59-year-old Najib will have to his move soon.
“I think they are trying to gauge the level of public anger they can create towards Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat. The pattern is clear, you can see on TV everyday how Anwar’s words are manipulated, even his song about Umno losing Sabah is twisted. Old photos of his meeting with Nur Misuari (the Moro National Liberation Front chairman) are shown to insinuate there was a conspiracy with the Sulu Sultan to invade Sabah. And even though Anwar has denied it and the Sulu Sultanate has denied it, they will just ignore and twist everything to suit their purpose,” Tan Kee Kwong, a senior leader in PKR, told Malaysia Chronicle.
“The same tactic applies for Tian Chua. He is the Chinese element for Umno to use to get the Malays all upset and worked up over so as to drive home Mahathir’s accusation Anwar will sell the country to the Chinese if he becomes PM. They are forcing the ‘police mati katak’ (police died unnecessarily) comments on Tian even though he has proof he did not utter those words. For the Umno elite, there is no rhyme or reason. When they are desperate, anything goes.”
Not the first time
PKR may have grounds for its concerns. Comments issued a day ago by Defense Minister Zahid Hamidi that the government would monitor the Philippine media for information on who was the mastermind behind the Lahad Datu crisis, sparked suspicion something was up.
“I believe the Philippine media will publish more information. I do not want to implicate any individual. Let the Philippine media say it,” Bernama reported Zahid as saying on Tuesday.
If Anwar is indeed arrested and charged for what would be tantamount to treason, the implications for the Malaysian elections may not necessarily be as Najib hopes or Umno forecasts.
But while it may convince the rural Malay voters to stand by Umno, it could also trigger a massive wave of protest votes towards the Opposition. The 2008 election is a good testimony, revealing a surprisingly independent-minded Malaysian electorate, capable of forming their own opinions.
And going by the sharp downtrend in Najib’s popularity since taking office in April 2009, he would do well to remember that if past gung-ho tactics had failed to stem the public’s loss of confidence in him, arresting Anwar on such overtly political grounds is more likely to backfire than not.
Among the conspiracies that Najib has been accused of hatching to derail the Opposition include the launching of a second round of fabricated sodomy charges against Anwar in2008, triggering a coup d’etat against the PR-led Perak state government in 2009, as well as the BN media-led Datuk T sex scandal in 2011.
To nab Anwar for having plotted the Lahad Datu intrusion is hence not outside of Najib’s capability.
Najib is also bound to find support from former premier Mahathir Mohamad, whom many say has the most to lose if PR won GE13 and Anwar became the next PM.
Not only did Mahathir sack and jail Anwar in 1998 on the first round of trumped-up sodomy charges, Anwar has warned that Mahathir’s sons, who are listed on the Forbes’ index of the world’s richest, would have to pay back any money corruptly carted away over the years.