Partyforumseasia has argued since the 2013 election that UMNO and its crony coalition, called Barisan Nasional (BN) or National Front, cannot afford to lose and simply and honestly hand over to the opposition if it should win the next election. Too much money sits in its political and business networks, and the public has long started to believe that the many known corruption scandals are only the tip of an iceberg.
Knowing well that everybody knows that, and that self-cleansing is impossible in such a system, the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition, as disparate as it may be, is a deadly challenge for the BN. So the only logical way out is a strategy to destroy the opposition, and first of all its charismatic leader Anwar Ibrahim who seems to be the only one able to hold it together.
Who can help here? Right, good old Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) the expert on ruthless politics has enough recipes how to crush an enemy. Here is one suitable quotation:
“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”
And jailing 67 year-old Anwar for another five years is so severe an injury that his vengeance, at least, cannot be expected in the parliamentary arena. But the question is whether it is severe enough to neutralize him completely.
The sodomy saga about Anwar and the legal procedures around it are so unappetizing that few people outside Malaysia can take is as serious, thus effectively denting the image of the country: “Malaysia is once again in the international doghouse” says the DAP opposition (The Malaysian Insider, Link here)
The history of Anwar’s political destruction since Mahathir fired him in 1998 has already backfired against the UMNO government by the formation of a reform movement and growing strength of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition as a result.
The new imprisonment may unify the shaky PR coalition and give new energy and hope to many Malaysian voters that Barisan Nasional can be finally defeated. Prime Minister Najib is alraedy under heavy internal pressure in his own party and “Anwar the martyr” may be as dangerous from inside the prison or even more so.
I believe that the prison sentence brings an end to Anwar Ibrahim’s career .This was the intended consequence of the UMNO-Barisan Nasional coalition (BN coalition) there being no defacto separation of powers in Malaysia. The Malaysian judiciary functions as another government department.
Of course, if there is a change in leadership in Malaysia –(as what occurred in Sri Lanka -the collapse of the Rajapaksa regime and the pardon of Sarath Fonseka by the new leadership of Mahithripala Sirisena), Anwar Ibrahim may be back in the game. But that is unlikely for the time being.
However, It may be a blessing in disguise for the opposition (that Anwar Ibrahim is out of the game), as the vacuum will reignite the internal squabbling in UMNO for power and galvanize a younger breed of leaders who will confront the BN coalition.
Anwar Ibrahim’s legacy will be a new generation of Malay leaders carrying on the fight for plurality, transparency and good governance in Malaysia’s democracy.
It would be prudent to note that circumstances have changed since 1969. After May 13, 1969, “race” and ‘religion” were major issues and the country was divided along those lines. While this still continues, it is now being overshadowed by the Malay community realization that UMNO-the so called “stewards of Islam and the Malay race” exist for its own members, cronies and supporters. Corruption has swamped Malaysia and with all democratic safeguards disbanded since Mahathir’s reign there is no accountability. Malays have found themselves unable to even get a taxi license which was granted to ministers, their families or cronies. What Malaysia has now is a class war.
Today, a large percentage of Malays/Bumiputras are unhappy as they have been excluded from benefits promised under the New Economic Policy, and blame the present leadership. The Malays community sees that the present course is unsustainable. The arrest and detention using draconian legislation like the Sedition Act (used by the British against Malaysians) demonstrated that Malays are also not exempt curtailing their freedom of speech. Some of the Malays arrested were Nijar Jamaluddin , Khalid Samad, Rafizi Ramli, Azmi Sharon, Ali Abdul Jalil and Safwan Awang to name a few. More recently a cartoonist named Zunar.
So while Anwar Ibrahim is in jail, his legacy continues!