Hornbill Unleashed

January 5, 2013

Heading into the future

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Praba Ganesan

2013 means elections to Malaysians, at home and abroad.

“Elections” or more specifically the general election can be readily replaced with the words future, change, hope or courage — perhaps all of them.

America has decided (in its last November polls), Europe has gone boring for a while and the Arab Spring is now a thesis fixation for many a political science student anywhere in the world.

Eyes can turn with little distraction on Malaysia, this quirky nation separated by the world’s largest sea, invisible association and indivisible identities.

Malaysia to many is a study of contradictions.

However, front and centre in this decision matrix within a convoluted Malaysia is Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the opposition and the most colourful politician in our nation’s history. Mahathir Mohamad tops the bill for most impact on all our lives but when it comes to flavour and curious aftertastes, there is only one Anwar.

Love him, hate him but don’t lie as a person living in this country that you are ignoring him.

The decision

shared a few years ago my misgivings concerning the early Anwar, and after taking different paths over time how now I support him as the next prime minister of my country.

That has not changed. Though, today I work for him as do thousands of Malaysians across this nation working to re-chart the course for Malaysia.

Anwar made some major decisions leading to his ascension as Umno deputy president including a humiliating outflanking of the man he replaced, but they all pale to that one he made at the tail end of the country’s boom period in the last millennium.

The decisions as student leader, the marrying of activism and Islamic politics, the dramatic entrance into Umno and his reinvention as a broader centrist, on their own continue to be talking points but when he denied the only man he had to please to keep himself certain to be his heir, he rocked the foundations of certainty in Malaysia.

In 1998, Mahathir sacked and imprisoned his very hope of upping Umno’s Islamic credentials, and promptly set out an elaborate stratagem to destroy Anwar’s moral and religious credentials, in short to destroy the man.

Into the 15th year of this fracture, Anwar remains standing for the count. But he has confessed, it is tough living in a country where you are leader of the opposition and every day the mainstream media demonises him daily with unparalleled vitriol. As a father and grandfather, intermittently a member of the family grows up old enough to learn how vicious the world can be by how it treats him, but surely none wishes such a manner of learning.

He may not have known how deep and long the wounds would be in 1998, but he would have expected the worst.

The common attack that never goes away is that Anwar would do anything to become prime minister. If he was indeed that Machiavellian creature, what type of calculus would have backed his decision to piss off the most vicious politician the country has known. He was also at the peak of his powers.

Surely, he was better off biding his time.

That side of the coin is rarely discussed by the critics.

Anwar and his 16 Umno years

And then there is the discomforting question for the Anwaristas: are you going to hide the man’s role in Umno all those years? He was after all longer in Umno than the time Keadilan has existed.

While his family connected to Umno, no level of connections can easily explain his election as Umno Youth chief in the same year he joined the party.

Vice-president within five years, stayed loyal to Mahathir in the party split of 1987, left a heavy footprint in education, the Malay degree holder balanced the books as finance minister and, as mentioned earlier, beat incumbent Ghafar Baba as deputy president.

While he may have had his own style and principle, he was an Umno man for a long time.

Last year, facing a luncheon hall filled with the city elites, he admitted that he cannot wash his hands of the past. He was part of the regime, and he did his part to defend it as evidenced in the fall of the Party Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government in Sabah and then United Sabah Nationalist Organisation (USNO) marrying into Umno.

The symbol, with the contradictions

How many of us can say with a straight face that we would be this close to ending Umno’s monopoly of Malaysian politics if Anwar did not part company with Umno?

Anwar is the torchbearer of believable change.

This is not to undermine the wonderful and selfless sacrifices by a slew of leaders inside Pakatan Rakyat, like Lim Kit Siang and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

But the vituperative nature of local politics for decades, the labelling and attacking of those traditionally in the opposition bench has rendered them unacceptable to other segments.

This is not their doing, but in politics perception rules. The first past the poll dynamics of a Westminster parliamentary system compounds the electoral math.

Kelantan had enough Muslims to render an Islamist party viable, and Penang enough Chinese for the DAP to have a fighting chance to win. PAS and DAP had and still have much more to their “value proposition” but Umno’s monopoly was built on disinformation, and they the victims of the character assassinations.

Which is why Anwar’s record as Umno’s ex-number two, while inviting permanent criticism, gives enough Malaysians confidence that Pakatan has leadership to match Umno.

It is the 16 years in key positions inside the party that runs the country that pumps up his CV.

He who is now where all before have fallen

Two last things then.

Anwar has led the longest and most potent challenge to Umno’s rule. Onn Jaafar’s experiment for multiculturalism ended abruptly and turned him into a recluse. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah lit up a fire of rebellion based on being an Umno mirror party, and after two general elections folded.

The Keadilan story has gone past three elections, even if almost on life support in 2004, and today is poised to be the party contesting the most number of seats after Umno.

Second, symbols take a life of their own, after some time.

Anwar has become the symbol of change, as Cory Aquino was in the Philippines in 1986. Every fight has to have a central figure, and Election 2013 will gravitate around the leader of the opposition.

In some ways, those who were supporting Umno for decades, and now staunchly lined up to lead the lines, find comfort that the man they back has also gone through a transformation as they have.

Are there no flawed leaders? Or is it their flaws and how they choose their present that appeals them to the masses? That which provides the connection with the many?

Abraham Lincoln’s history to most people revolves around him being a US president, ending slavery, getting killed by an actor and having a beard.

Historians may rue the oversimplifications, speak of Lincoln’s centrist inclinations despite his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act over the Missouri Compromise, and even point out that he only grew his “defining” beard late in his life.

But symbols overwhelm explanations. In a country historically short of inspiration and radically vacant of fair play, Anwar is the missing puzzle piece to change.

Don’t buy it? He has been on tour for more than five years, often to the same localities, and the crowds show up. To hear him speak.



  1. Every true blooded Malaysians regardless of their political leaning, race or religion must ensure and demand the EC keeps GE13 clean, free and fair. This is our national responsibility as citizens of Malaysia to make sure illegal immigrants imported by greedy political party shall not be allowed to hijack our national interest and future through cheating in the ballot boxes and our votes be manipulated by unscrupulous individuals within our institutions.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — January 5, 2013 @ 9:52 PM | Reply

  2. An article published in Wikisabah News and the Borneo Herald this week.

    The clear and present danger facing Sabahans is also happening here sleepy Sarawak!


    The new year brings with it one clear and present danger to the peace loving people of Sabah.

    They are facing the likelihood of the electoral system being changed in such a way that the legitimate Sabah voter will be outnumbered by “illegals” instant voters created by UMNO rigging of the electoral system.

    Last year (2012) PM Najib’s many visits to Sabah were more than just to show his love and concern for the welfare of Sabahans.

    In fact he was discussing with Sabah UMNO and organising the re-arranging of the voting pattern in Sabah.


    The rumours are out that many “illegals” are being “moved” on paper into constituencies where UMNO is weak to ensure its winning these seats and also into areas of Opposition domination to weaken the opposition numbers and win those seats. This is also happening in Malaya.

    This means UMNO can engineer a landslide victory for the Sabah side of the elections. This will ensure that UMNO will retain power and get back its majority seats in the Federal Parliament.

    Sabahans if you have not yet woken up- this plan to dis-empower and disenfranchise you is a clear and present danger to your freedom as citizens in your own country.

    If UMNO succeeds, then the illegals effectively have been used to take over Sabah in terms of numbers. Whether this is constitutional or not is another question. With their two third majority UMNO can further change the constitution and totally disenfranchise us.


    This will complete the implementation of UMNO’s Malay supremacist religious apartheid system imposed by stealth on Sabah oevr 50 years as part of its Melayu Raya (Greater Malaysia) agenda.

    The “Melayu Raya” concept was specifically excluded by Point 5 of the Sabah 20 Points Agreement with Malaya. It says: “Malaysia” but not “Melayu Raya”. But it has become reality.

    It explains the thinking behind the UMNO and Perkasa pronouncements that all non-Malays or Muslims are “pendatangs”. But Muslims who are illegals and pendatangs are welcome into Malaysia to bolster UMNO’s numbers stacking game.

    We all feel angry over disenfranchisement in our own country in all areas spelt out in the 20 Points Agreement.

    One of the most important Points is on “Borneonisation” which was to put genuine Sabahans in charge of not just the civil service but embraces the control of our resources and finances.

    Over 50 years Sabahans were sidelined and Malayanisation took place whereby Malayans were put in direct charge of our government machinery.

    Then the people were disenfranchised when UMNO seized control of our oil and land resources. All these had been done with the help of the local collaborators called “traitors” by many Sabahans and we know who they are.

    Sabahans now have also to compete with illegals for jobs as in the oil palm plantations.

    Sabah was turned into a one crop colonial oil palm plantation just as the former colonialists had turned Malaya into a one crop rubber plantation as a main source of the country’s income dependent on the mercies of the world economy.

    With over supply caused by the glut of oil palm plantations everywhere in Malaya Sabah Sarawak and Indonesia and other parts of the world competing for markets, it is no wonder that there is a rampant fear in Sabah of a crash in this industry.


    All these disenfranchisements will pale in comparison to what will happen. It is a certainty that UMNO will do anything to stay in power.

    Short of another declaration of emergency rule, using “illegals” to out vote local Sabahans will look “legitimate” and “democratic” at home and abroad.

    So think seriously on how we can stop this UMNO move.

    If UMNO wins we all have to endure another 50 years of colonial domination and it will be worse as in 50 years time the children of illegals will take over Sabah.

    A simple fact can clarify a lot. The 1960 Census showed that Sabah had only 0.4% Brunei Malays (and they do not claim close relations with Malayan Malays). There were no other Malays in Sabah then!

    The book “Lest We Forget” by Dr. Chong Eng Leong has figures showing that the “illegals” are now everywhere in Sabah.

    Now more than half of Sabah’s population are instant “Malays”. Where did they come from? Like instant noodles, the “illegals” were manufactured by UMNO! It is all part of UMNO’s power game and agenda for “Melayu Raya”.

    This is not to scare any one but to alert them to the danger that is staring at them.

    Comment by SARAWAKIANS — January 5, 2013 @ 7:42 PM | Reply

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