Anwar Ibrahim speaks
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5 Cara Dapatkan Info Terkini Kes Fitnah 2 Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim:
February 4th, 2010
Author: Ernest Z. Bower, CSIS
For anyone watching Malaysian politics over the last five years, the message is clear – people want their political system to move on to represent a modern Malaysia and more sophisticated electorate. The old ways and anachronistic political structures, as well as some of the personalities that have become inextricably identified with those structures, are being encouraged by fed-up voters to make way for new politics.
This week has seen the start of the second trial of former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat Party (PKR), Anwar Ibrahim. It is a sad day for Malaysian politics because the fact of the trial itself is a result of the old politics of Malaysia panicking in the face of the inevitable – change. The most recent allegations against Anwar came amidst clear signals that voters were dissatisfied with governance and would no longer rubber stamp the ruling coalition at the ballot boxes. Whatever the mechanism was, the old system blinked and snapped him up on new charges of sodomy.
The trial can rightly be seen as part of a tragic last stand by those who fear change and reform. That group no longer seems to include Prime Minister Najib Razak. Recent statements and moves to begin serious reforms of his ruling party, the United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO), suggest that he has internalised the need for the party to change to survive politically. The Anwar trial will not be helpful in that regard, because to enact real change, a viable opposition is a helpful if not necessary condition. Najib has to convince a majority of the UMNO faithful that they must adapt to survive. That argument won’t come easy to a generation who had become addicted to politics of entitlement.
Even from a Machiavellian UMNO political perspective, prosecuting Anwar risks making him, once again, a political martyr and beacon for those seeking a new way. Left to his own devices, Anwar promised to be a strong opposition voice, but unlikely to wrest control of the political leadership of the country. He is leading an unlikely coalition of conservative Muslims, left-leaning Chinese and vibrant reformers.
Most countries in Southeast Asia are in the process of working through historic political evolutions. Indonesia’s path to change is playing out most clearly, with the downfall of Suharto and the breathtaking audacity of the introduction of democracy in the region’s largest country. Thailand is going through a less linear but no less dramatic change where forces are aligned similarly in some ways to those in Malaysia – one side wanting to preserve the status quo and others demanding new political structures and broader engagement. Vietnam is deep into its political cycle ahead of the January 2011 Communist Party Congress, with conservatives pushing hard on the reform-minded government of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. The Philippines has elections coming in May. Even Singapore is undergoing a quiet challenge to its post-colonial political structure dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP), with indications that younger voters want new channels for political expression including, perhaps, an opposition that can speak freely and make the case for alternative approaches.
Putting the course of political evolution in Malaysia in a regional context, the country has a great opportunity to move ahead by implementing needed reforms, regaining full political stability and concentrating on its competitiveness and economic growth.
However, victimising Anwar is as counterproductive for Malaysia’s political progress as it is for the efforts of his political adversaries in UMNO to reform and regain political dominance. Therefore, the start of the trial this week was a sad and ironic benchmark in Malaysian political history.
Ernest Z. Bower is Senior Adviser & Director of the Southeast Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.