Which road will Anwar take?
Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin
Sep 21, 04 12:19pm
En-route to Munich on Sept 4, Anwar Ibrahim wrote: “I have often wondered whether there was a mystical reason for my being put out of circulation during one of the most turbulent periods of human history, at least in my lifetime. Given my contacts in both the Muslim and Western worlds, I would have been expected to play some diplomatic role in the so-called war against terrorism, and I would be loath to shirk it. I shudder at the thought of how complicated the job would have been and the agonies I would have had to go through in making some of the required decisions. I would definitely have convened the group of friends with whom I have been involved in the civilizational dialogue project”. (See Far Eastern Economic Review, Sept 16, 2004).
If Anwar’s lamentation of his role as a mediator between the Muslim nations and the West after the Sept 11 attack on America has anything to suggest, other than his conviction to civilizational dialogue as a means to bridge the East and West divide, that would be of his position as someone who was once at the corridor of power which still runs deep in his psyche. But given his position as an icon of opposition politics for the past long six years, one would wonder how would he get there again?
Few options are there for him to consider. He may choose to be with the opposition, strive to deal with their differences and then build a strong and cohesive front to unseat the Barisan Nasional. Soon after the Federal Court set him free, he pledged to do just that.
With his track record as a charismatic crowd-pulling Muslim youth leader and ex-deputy prime minister, Anwar is no doubt a ready-made asset for the opposition. His long six years struggle to free himself from wrongful incarceration would make him a powerful icon of justice in his own right. This would certainly be warmly greeted by the opposition leaders who have been at the forefront in the struggle for his release and in support for reformasi.
If Anwar chooses to stick to that, he would in one way return their favor. But politics is not about returning one’s favor. What matters the most is how to wield political power. Given the BN’s hegemony and its institutionalised political control, Anwar must be ready to take a long bumpy road to his final destination. He knows this very well.
The second option is to work towards national reconciliation and a full closure to the divisive Malay cultural revolt which has plagued Malaysian politics for the past six years. He may remain as an icon of justice, of reform and of national unity without aligning himself to any side of opposing political parties. It is imperative for Anwar to work hand in hand with an array of civic groups, the opposition and the leaders of ruling party to realize this goal.
This option is not too remote in Anwar’s mind as he himself had mentioned shortly after his release that he was willing to engage wide range of people and groups, including Umno leaders, for the country’s sake Anwar may then, as a populist and statesman, galvanize popular support for political reform and national reconciliation
Given Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s current reform initiatives, a meeting point can be reached somewhere along the broad political spectrum. In this regard, Anwar is an asset to the nation. However, not only would this option be of chagrin to those who want Anwar to fight their war, his road to political power would be as long and bumpy as it would if he chooses to be with the opposition.
The third option would be to rejoin Umno, the party which once brought him so close to the helm of power. His return to Umno would invite mixed reactions though. As a taxi driver remarks, “if Tengku Razaleigh, the man responsible for the dissolution of Umno, could be readmitted to the party, why not Anwar?”. Anwar’s “sin”, he said “could not match that of Razaleigh”. Anyway, “given the fact that Anwar is a victim to political conspiracy, it is not unreasonable to reinstate his position”.
This could be the sentiment at the grassroots. But will Umno leaders, particularly those who have been working very hard to keep him out of politics, do nothing to stop him from resurrecting his political career? To do so would amount to digging their own graves. Even the warring factions within Umno will certainly close ranks and make sure that Anwar will not make his way into the party. They are too frightened to let him in. What more, prison seems to be a good incubator for world class leaders. They cannot imagine having to face another Mandela on their own turf. Suffice to say that Anwar could not be guaranteed of a smooth sailing in Umno too.
Having considered all the three options, what else is left for Anwar? In the light of the Federal Court’s decision to uphold his conviction for corrupt practice, Anwar will have to wait until April 14, 2008 before he can hold any political post. This would somewhat narrow down his options. But this too would leave much for political astrologers to predict. Which roads will he not take? Does this politician par excellence have something else in mind?
SHAMSUL ISKANDAR MOHD AKIN is the Vice-Youth Chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and currently works as a Legal Practitioner.
*This article was published by Malaysiakini.com