by Tim Newton
Don’t be under any illusion what has just happened in Malaysia. The country hasn’t been freed from the bonds of a corrupt and draconian long-term government and about to soar into a new era of democracy, growth and prosperity.
That a 92 year old former premier, who nurtured both his current deputy Anwar Ibrahim and the ousted PM Nazib Razak, can win an election is more an indication of the country’s problems than a prospect of new hope.
The current Malaysia, along with its political corruption and ethnic tensions, is as much Mahathir Mohamad’s fault as anyone else’s. His riding into history as the saviour of modern Malaysian politics is proof that Malaysians have a very short memory. Or perhaps they were just THAT desperate to get rid of Najib Razak, who never quite shook the stain of the IMDB corruption scandal.
A quick history. Anwar Ibrahim was Malaysia’s deputy PM and finance minister who has been credited, and lauded, for steering Malaysia through the 1997 asian financial crisis. In 1998 Newsweek magazine named Anwar the “Asian of the Year” but later that year things became very prickly between Anwar and Mahathir just before the UMNO General Assembly. (UMNO was the main party in the Barisan Nasional coalition that held sway in Malaysian politics for six decades.)
“At the General Assembly, a book, “50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister”, was circulated containing graphic allegations of homosexuality, as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar. The book was written by Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of the government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia. Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a lawsuit against the author for defamation. Police charged the author of the book with malicious publishing of false news. The police were instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims.”
He ended being tried in 1998 in what has internationally described as a ‘political fix up’. What was really happening behind these dramatic and salacious allegations? Anwar was pushing for a polite and respectful transition into the top job but Mahathir (who had already been Malaysia’s PM for 17 years at this stage) would have nothing of it and threw his deputy under the political bus.
Mahathir isn’t the new start that Malaysia craves and needs. Neither is the battered and bruised Anwar, who at 70 years of age, has born the brunt of the excesses of brute force and political expediency of his former, and now current, Prime Minister. He has a lot of past political baggage.
At this stage a royal pardon has been sought and, reportedly, granted, to release Anwar from jail. Anwar would still have to contest a parliamentary by-election (which he would easily win) and then, THEN, his former mentor/foe/friend/conspirator-to-topple-Najib has to step aside and allow Anwar to be the Malaysian PM.
This long political saga is a long way from being over but no one should believe that this is anything other than a power grab by an ageing ‘disruptor’ and political expediency-over-integrity for Anwar.
SOURCES: The Thaiger, Wikipedia
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