It’s a case of damn if you do and damn if you don’t.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is in an unenviable position over Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s appeal for a royal pardon.
One the one hand, Umno, which is holding the Unity Government together, wants its ex-president and premier Najib to be freed from a 12-year jail sentence for corruption and abuse of power. The party’s Supreme Council has called on the Federal Territory’s Pardons Board, which is chaired by the Agong, to release the country’s sixth PM.
On the other hand, Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition partners and associates, like Amanah and MUDA, have reservations or strongly oppose a possible royal pardon for Najib.
Amanah’s communications director and ex-Minister Khalid Samad who issued a statement calling on the Pardons Board to reject Najib’s appeal last week, was immediately met with fury from Umno, some of whom have asked to cut ties with Amanah.
In no time, top Amanah leaders distanced themselves from Khalid’s statement, with party president Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu saying Khalid’s views were not the party’s collective. Khalid himself apologised for “hurting Umno’s feeling” but stood by his earlier statement.
MUDA, whose sole Parliamentary representative is its president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, took a stronger stance, saying that it “would not apologise for opposing Najib’s pardon bid”.
Meanwhile, parties like the DAP, which has for decades vilified Najib and his involvement in the 1MDB scandal are keeping an uneasy silence over Najib’s attempt for an early release from Kajang prison where he’s serving the sentence.
They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are having problems explaining to their supporters why they do not oppose Najib walking out of prison when party leaders have been telling their followers how the ex-PM looted the country dry in the past.
But on the other hand, they know that openly opposing Najib’s application will invite strong opposition from Umno, which has 26 MPs and see the unity government implode before their eyes.
Clearly, Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, who himself faces 47 corruption charges, is holding Anwar hostage. The PM is walking a tightrope of placating Umno as well as those opposed to Najib. A misstep on Anwar’s part will see him and his fragile government fall to the ravaging wolves below.
But as each day passes, Anwar’s acrobatic act has become more challenging as more burden and baggage are added to the extreme ends of his balancing pole.
Will Anwar and the Unity Government fall, making him the shortest ever PM in the country? Only time will tell. But if he does, Najib’s pardon bid has only expedited the process.
The views expressed here are strictly those of David Leong from Klang.