Anwar Ibrahim: The Right Leader At The Right Time
M. Bakri Musa
The conventional wisdom, as well as the constitutional mandate, would have the Agung select from among current Members of Parliament (MPs) the next Prime Minister to replace the hopelessly inept outgoing Muhyiddin Yassin. The Agung has to pick someone he believes could command the confidence of the House.
In the current political circus where MPs’ “Statutory Declarations” could be changed on a whim (after suitable “inducement”), that would be a tall order if not impossible. One does not have to be an astute observer to realize that no MP today could command a majority of Parliamentary support. That is why Malaysia is now in the current mess.
The Agung has no special divine powers to ascertain which candidate would command the confidence of Parliament. He goofed once with Muhyyiddin. We have no reason to expect that the Agung would be any wiser this second time around. So abandon that wishful thinking.
Instead the Agung should heed the counsel of former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim. Zaid suggested that His Majesty resolve this political impasse by selecting someone “good” to be the next Prime Minister. This “good” leader would then through his display of leadership and management skills command the respect and confidence of Parliament.
Zaid is no ordinary statesman. He remains the only cabinet minister to have resigned on principle, and then saw his reputation enhanced!
To have the Agung first pick a leader who he thinks would command the confidence of the House is putting things backward, akin to putting the cart before the horse. Picking that “good” leader from among the current MPs, as per Zaid’s wise suggestion, is not as difficult a task as it may seem.
First eliminate the bad ones. That is easy. All those MPs who had served in the outgoing Muhyyiddin Administration would by definition fall into this category. That would include ministers, assistant ministers, and other political appointees such as Special Ambassadors together with heads of government-linked companies or statutory bodies. They were all part of the problem and thus cannot now be part of the solution.
That one criterion alone would eliminate about 70 to 80 MPs. Then exclude those convicted or facing (or had faced) criminal charges. Do not bother with the likes of Zahid, Tengku Adnan, and Najib Razak. That would get rid of a dozen more.
That leaves about a hundred MPs or so for consideration. From those pick only the leaders of their parties, reducing the field to about a dozen candidates.
Once the Agung has picked his choice, then use all his and the citizens’ persuasive powers to dissuade MPs from having a parliamentary vote of confidence right away. After all, the Agung’s earlier choice (Muhyyiddin) did not face any despite being in office for nearly 18 months. The new Prime Minister should also be given that same courtesy. If after 18 months he has not proven his ability as with his losing the confidence of Parliament, then the Agung could dissolve parliament and call for a general election. We hope the Covid-19 pandemic would have dampened down by then. To call for an election during this pandemic with many Malaysians not fully vaccinated would be madness.
Parliament must not be allowed to degenerate like the Lebanese one.
Applying those criteria, there are only three candidates to lead Malaysia – Anwar Ibrahim, Shafie Apdal, and Tengku Razali. Tengku’s negatives include his not being in any senior leadership position for his party, UMNO. That however could be a plus, what with characters like Tengku Adnan, Najib Razak, and Ahmad Zahid as your peers. Beyond that, his age does not favor him.
Only megalomaniacs like Mahathir think that they can still perform in their 90s. Look at the mess he had created. If only he had stuck to his promise of giving way to Anwar in February 2019, Malaysia would have been spared this terrible political crisis. It could not have come at the worst possible time. Yet this old Mahathir pariah still thinks he can now be part of the solution. Some chutzpah!
Tengku has many positives. He is among the few who dared take on Mahathir when the latter was at the peak of his power and popularity. Tengku nearly toppled Mahathir in the 1980s but for some last minute shenanigans by Najib Razak. Tengku’s integrity and competence are unchallenged. As head of Petronas he took on the mighty global oil companies. He remains the only statesman who sued the venerable Financial Times and prevailed when the paper implicated him in the Bank Bumiputra debacle.
Sabah’s Shafie Apdal had once been Chief Minister. Meaning, he has some executive experience. However his tenure at the federal level in Najib and Badawi’s cabinet had been lackluster.
That leaves Anwar Ibrahim. Many Malaysians still remember him from his ABIM days and during his years as Mahathir’s Deputy. However, the Anwar of today is a far different person. No leader has been tested in adversity, physically and in many other ways, more than Anwar. Yet he has emerged stronger, like well-tempered steel. Like Tengku Razali, Anwar dared take on Mahathir in 1997. Unlike Razali however, Anwar suffered all the terrible consequences not only to himself but more significantly, to his young family.
After spending years in prison on some trumped-up charges, Anwar, like Nelson Mandela, emerged stronger and his reputation enhanced. Also like Mandela, the fate of the individual who imprisoned Anwar is today tattered. Mahathir’s glorified legend of himself remains only in his own small egotistic mind. He does not even acknowledge that this crisis emanated from his earlier decision to resign.
Anwar Ibrahim is the leader Malaysia desperately needs today. He is committed to Islam and democracy, but his Islam is far different from the variety espoused by the Talibans and their local counterparts in PAS. He is the only Malaysian leader who commands international respect and confidence.
Anwar is the right leader at the right time for Malaysia. The Agung would be doing the nation a great service by naming this great patriot to lead the nation. The Agung cannot afford to goof this second time around. Malaysians pray and hope that he would be wiser this second time around. [MTN]