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Anwar Ibrahim – Saviour, or the Wooden Chameleon?

In Malaysia on September 22, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Most readers realise I’m highly sceptical of Anwar Ibrahim.

His rethorical skills delivered in commanding oratory does make him unique in Malaysia today. But his appeal, I will suggest, is very much for narrow-minded Malaysians, absolutists following the Piper down the drain.

Most Malaysians can see only one side of the man. Our side, the one for Malaysian masses. When he’s outside Malaysia, his preference for conservative organisations – from newspapers to think-tanks such as the Council of Foreign Relations, has always shielded Anwar from scrutiny.

(For those unfamiliar, conservatives are Bush, Cheney, McCain, Palin – “there’s WMD, let’s kill Iraqis”).

To paraphrase his speech of July 2006, in a Brisbane City Hall, he is certainly free to “throw caution to the wind and seize the moment while he still has the image of reformer (not just the podium) “, yet, keen Malaysian watchers would do well to note his arguments for constitutional liberty a mere 3 months before.

In March of 2006, during his globe-trotting days to shore up international support, Anwar published an eloquently written article in LA Times, and said:

The true cultivation of democracy requires more than simply the introduction of elections. It also requires the establishment of democratic processes and a leveling of the political playing field. It needs the guarantee of a separation of powers and the liberation of the judicial system from the stranglehold of autocrats and tyrants. Most of all, it requires the protection of fundamental liberties and a free press.

It is in these prerequisites of democracy that the U.S. and the Muslim world need to invest, with far more significant effort, for the causes of liberty to truly prevail.

If it sounds typically populist, it is – as Hamish McDonald of the The Herald (a Melbourne daily) found out recently. Hamish’s recent article of 20th Sep concluded with this:

So who is he?

[ANWAR:] “They say I’m a chameleon because to the Western journalists I sound liberal, to the Muslim crowd I echo the Koran. It’s true. I don’t go into the little village and quote Shakespeare, and when I talk to Chinese I use a few words of their language and quote Confucius. But the fundamental pillars remain unchanged … I am still a Malay, a committed Muslim, and very much a Malaysian.”

Anwar’s unabashed use of political rhetoric is exactly how he got this far – by saying what each audience wants to hear.

So, what exactly did Anwar say? He said he is Malaysian. That’s all he did? Yes, he admitted that he is chameleon-like in his politics, but such honesty is not high-minded at all, it’s a simple necessity.

In the face of real investigative reporters – does he have a choice and deny it? Alas, foreign correspondents have only so much interest in Malaysian affairs – enough for their conscience to say they raised the lantern. We Malaysians must follow through.

Has Anwar ever admitted his ‘chameleon’ qualities, and his failures to any reporters or interviewer in Malaysia – is he even willing to?

I doubt it because, when he was dismissed by Mahathir – Anwar, in July 2006 told his audience in Brisbane City Hall that, he “found himself in a dark wood, for the straight path was lost“.

Pray tell, Anwar, how was it a straight path with Mahathir? Dismissing judges, incarcerating citizens for disagreeing with government policies, robbing the nation with corrupt practises?

That’s a straight path?

Recounting his incarceration, he nearly got me misty-eyed when speaking of his prison cell experience, comparing it to wood:

Ah, how hard it is to tell what that wood was, wild, rugged, harsh: the very thought of it renews fears! It is so bitter that death is hardly more so.

My dear Anwar, could I say your cadence is not quite right (actually, mine too) but we are not here for literary wit but to consider the fate of the nation – your nation, mine too.

And I will be damned if I don’t speak of your wooden heart when you had the chance to!

If this stuff is not your cup of tea, go for one of the clearer home-spun post about Anwar, by a Malaysian blogger: Quo Vadis, Anwar. She’s much better and not so long-winded.

Have a good Monday evening!

PS. The ‘woody quotes’ are from Anwar’s speech (PDF), ‘Between Tyranny and Freedom: A Brief Voyage with the Bard‘ – Plenary Paper by Anwar Ibrahim, VIII World Shakespeare Congress, July 2006, at Brisbane City Hall, Queensland, Australia.

PS… Hamish McDonald thinks DAP is a ‘Chinese-based Direct Action Party‘. Huh?

  1. Anwar is a politician. And as such, I think it would do us more good than harm to be highly skeptical of politicians.

  2. Yes, su. Particularly this politician. His record require further scrutiny.

  3. Thank you for the link, Mike. But, in all honesty, I think your commentary has more perspective than mine. Good day, Sir!

  4. Hi, Mike. It’s been quite some time since I’ve heard from you. Yes, am aware that you had mentioned about taking a “one week break”. But I’m a bit concerned that you have become silent; in seeing the RSS feed at my Cendana Blues site not changing. I hope everything’s okay, and that this silence is due to having too much things to catch up with at work instead of “something else”.

  5. Things are hectic for me right now. And I do wonder what has become of you for it’s been quite some time since I last read of any posts here. But anyway, all your previous posts are worthy to have second reads – which is what I’m doing now… when I have the time that is.

  6. Hi Mat,

    I’m around but as I said in my last post, “Anwar Ibrahim’s Style Revisited: Never Stop Asking“, I stopped posting on politics in Malaysia. As Otis would sing, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.

    Anyway, good of you to ask and appreciate your comments. You keep going tho’ and I will read you posts.

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