Sunday, 10 April 2011

Anwar Ibrahim: An international chameleon, but in Sarawak it is not so easy!

lifted from Sarawak Reports via Malaysia Instincts

Anwar Ibrahim is a man of many resources. He is also an excellent communicator.

He has spent years building an international network of friends and allies in Washington, London, Canberra and Hong Kong in political, media, and in think tank circles, and he behaves like a man who has a large team of international advisers working for him, whether he does or not.

Outside of Sarawak and outside of Malaysia, Anwar has a wonderful tool kit of messages and sound-bites that he deploys from time to time. He uses them where and when he needs them, and always with a single and overpowering opportunistic goal in mind: of trying to poison the reputation of his domestic rivals, and of trying to find a way to unseat the democratically elected Government of Malaysia and get the job of prime minister for himself, a job that he was once promised by his mentor, Tun Mahathir Mohamed, back in the 1990s (before Anwar made the mistake of trying to unseat Tun M and trying to launch a palace coup that ended up with him losing the battle).

In a very effective series of PR moves, in the international arena, Anwar has leveraged the dropping on appeal of his original sodomy conviction back in 2003 into what he hopes will be lifelong martydom and he is now trying to do it again, playing for sympathy with the world media. If you believe Anwar’s spin on events this has made him into the Malaysian equivalent of Aung San Suu Kyi, or Nelson Mandela, two figures that Anwar tries to co-brand himself alongside.

But Anwar is dreaming.

He conveniently forgets a few relevant details, the first being that his conviction for corruption, for which he served prison time, was not overturned in 2003. The second is that his current trial is different from his first was, and it comes at a time when his leftwing political allies in DAP, and his conservative allies in PAS are beginning to have serious doubts about his own leadership of the fragile opposition coalition he has fashioned.

Even some of his own people have run away from him, such as Zaid Ibrahim, the respected lawyer and former deputy to Anwar who resigned last autumn with a strong attack on Anwar. “Over the course of the party elections,” said Zaid Ibrahim last November, events have shown that the leadership actively condones malpractices and electoral fraud to achieve its designed objectives. I am certain that any political party with such hypocritical and false values will not be able to offer meaningful reforms to the people of this country.”

Or more recently, take the case of the Sarawak state elections in eastern Malaysia,. Here Anwar thought nothing of trading away the seat of state assembly PKR member Dominique Ng, who promptly went public attacking Anwar’s party and accusing them of “betrayal and treachery.”

When Anwar does deals with Chinese politicians in Sarawak, or at the national level, is he more interested in the Chinese ethnic community and their interests, or is he more interested in his own hopes for national power?

The pattern repeats itself over and over again, with some critics in Washington having said that Anwar Ibrahim is really a “chameleon” and an opportunist who will use anybody and say anything, in Malaysia, in Washington, or in Sarawak, as long as it helps him to achieve power.

Now you could say, well Anwar is after all, a politician, so of course he will make a lot of promises to lots of communities, be they the Malay conservatives or the Chinese ethnic community of Sarawak. How can he keep all these promises? A chicken in every pot? Everyone a winner? Will the Chinese community really be favoured and get new benefits from Anwar’ and his allies?

Anwar’s opposition has been promising to reduce the cost of petrol, saying it is too expensive. But do the people of Sarawak realise that petrol prices in Sarawak are much, much lower than in Australia and in many other countries? Do they realise that the promises on petrol prices by Anwar’s allies are not achievable, not realistic?

But this is precisely the reason Anwar is such a brilliant spinmaster. Somehow, on the international stage, he has always managed to spin things his way. Notwithstanding scandal and domestic accusations of treachery by some of his own people, Anwar has persuaded friends in America such as Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz to come forward on his behalf, that he alone is the “voice of democracy”.

Whenever there is a pause and resumption of his court hearings in Kuala Lumpur he tends to hop a flight and rush to Washington or Singapore or London or Canberra or Hong Kong, making speeches, trying to charm local left-wing politicians and journalists, and inevitably using his appearance to launch invective against the Government of his native Malaysia, which he has been trying to defeat for the past few years.

But now, Anwar may think (wrongly) that he has another public relations coup: The sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears to believe that she is saving the tropical rain forests of Borneo by attacking the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Her web site in London often contains information on deforestation and supposed corruption allegations that have already been refuted.

For the opposition parties led by Anwar Ibrahim, however, Clare Brown-Rewcastle was seen at the start of the Sarawak campaign as some kind of hero. But do Clare Brown-Rewcastle and her brother-in-law Gordon Brown have any idea who Anwar Ibrahim really is? Do they really know what they are doing, as they wade into Borneo politics?

The ultimately ineffectual interference in Sarawak politics, colonial-style, of a political loser such as Gordon Brown is very odd indeed.

This former prime minister of Britain was a man so despised by the British electorate last year that the feeling of many voters in the UK was that “anyone” would be better as Prime Minister as long as Gordon Brown left public life. As for Anwar Ibrahim, his opposition coalition is torn by inner strife, and his top lieutenants have been leaving him.

Attempts, meanwhile, by Anwar’s opposition allies to suggest that the Government and Chief Minister of Sarawak do not care about the Chinese population have now been well refuted as well.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has asked the Chinese community in Sarawak to think rationally in deciding for their future and not to be taken in by the false promises made by the opposition.

He said although the sentiments of the urban voters was different, the Chinese community must have their representatives in the state government to ensure that their interest continued to be looked after.

“We need a government that represents all the communities in Sarawak. That’s why I hope they (the Chinese community) will not be taken in by the political game and pleas of the DAP because they actually are only interested in winning votes.

“The Chinese community will also not get more benefit from political uncertainties and instability,” he told journalists a few days ago.

So at the end of the day, Anwar Ibrahim can try his best to challenge the government of Sarawak, although he is beset by very confusing conflicts among his own opposition “coalition” allies, and a certain sense of confusion about which promises he can really deliver and which are just the words of a politician.

Both the Chinese community of Sarawak, and everyone else probably, will make up their own minds on April 16th. And then the real voice of democracy can be heard, at the ballot box.

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