Dennis Ignatius: Anyone but Anwar

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As far as Mahathir is concerned, any government – no matter how extremist, incompetent or corrupt – is better than one headed by Anwar.


Dr Mahathir Mohamad charged recently that the negative portrayal of the so-called “Green Wave” was simply an attempt to spread fear about Malay rule. Mahathir said that the Malays had dominated the government for 60 years; during that time, the country progressed rapidly and non-Malays did well. There was, therefore, no reason to fear another Malay-majority government.

Mahathir is, of course, being disingenuous in conflating the genuine concerns that Malaysians have about PAS with anti-Malay sentiment.

The issue here is not about whether non-Malays have a problem with a Malay-majority government. As Mahathir noted, Malaysia has always had Malay-majority governments. Even the present unity government is a Malay-majority one. In fact, there are more Malays in the cabinet today than there were during Mahathir’s second term as prime minister.

The real issue is whether the so-called green wave – a reference to the rising power of PAS – is good for the country or not.

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of PAS which is led by a man whom Mahathir himself has, at various times, called confused and dishonest amongst other things.

PAS has promoted religious extremism at every turn. PAS also insists on sidelining non-Muslims and depriving them of their rights as citizens in the name of religion. On top of that, PAS is incompetent and incapable of running a modern state. As Mahathir himself noted, Hadi Awang has ““zero political knowledge and is unfit to lead any government”.

Just look at Kelantan where the people do not even have decent drinking water despite decades of PAS rule. PAS-ruled Kedah is also having similar problems. When they were in power in Putrajaya following the infamous Sheraton Move, their performance was just as dismal. They enjoyed all the perks of office but did nothing of any substance for the people or the nation. PAS president Hadi Awang, for example, was paid thousands of ringgit as a special envoy but did next to nothing to deserve it.

If PAS takes over the federal government, investors will flee and the economy will go into a tailspin. And of course, Malaysia will begin to look more and more like a Taliban-ruled country.

PAS has also shown itself disrespectful of the institution of the Malay rulers. It has defied the rulers’ edict on politicians preaching in mosques, defied the Sultan of Selangor on the Bon Odori issue and is now accusing the sultans of being, in effect, manipulated by the DAP. Such an accusation is both insulting and deeply disrespectful.

Clearly, this isn’t a party that champions ‘bangsa, agama dan negara’, as it claims; it is a party that will trample upon everything that makes Malaysia unique, including our system of constitutional monarchy, in order to win power. No surprise then that Malaysians remain wary and distrustful of PAS.

Mahathir likes to pretend that he is a Malay nationalist but really all this grousing is simply about his own deep-seated personal animosity towards Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. As far as Mahathir is concerned, any government – no matter how extremist, incompetent or corrupt – is better than one headed by Anwar.

If Mahathir really cared about the Malays and the country, he should be supporting Anwar’s unity government not fighting it. After all, it is a Malay-majority government and is upholding Islam, the Malay rulers and the special position of the Malays as per the Federal Constitution. It has also taken a clear stand against corruption, something that other Malay-majority governments, including his own, were lax about, to put it mildly.

If only Mahathir could get over his own personal animus towards Anwar, he might see that the unity government is now the best hope we have for rebuilding Malaysia. Close cooperation between Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional and parties from Sabah and Sarawak (unthinkable until now) offers the possibility of a strong and stable government, one that has the potential to uplift all Malaysians.

By all means hold Anwar’s feet to the fire if he does not perform; behaving like a flag bearer for PAS, however, just looks like the antics of a man who simply can’t get over the fact that his nemesis in now prime minister despite all his efforts to block it. – Dennis Ignatius