BY PHLIP RODRIGUES – When Anwar Ibrahim stretches out his hand now, he can already feel the contour of the seat of power resting in Putrajaya. The thrills and excitement that come from the realisation of his ambition to become prime minister must be overwhelming.
The PKR president is probably picturing to himself that historic day when he will take over the exalted office from the old man who will hide all his misgivings and troubled thoughts behind limp handshakes and weak smiles. At last the much-talked-about transition has happened.
Anwar is now the indisputable leader who will bring Malaysia to a new era of untold prosperity and progress never imagined before. This is the story that Pakatan Harapan would dearly like to sell to a country still reeling from the unsettling years of the Umno-bungled rule.
But hold it! Let’s tear this script and rewrite another version. In this new scenario, Anwar is sitting uneasily behind the large desk in his Putrajaya office, biting his fingernails fretfully and shaking his head despairingly.
Only one year into his administration there is already a groundswell of disappointment and resentment over the state of affairs. The country is not moving forward because the office of the prime minister is preoccupied with fighting off fresh attacks on the character of the man holding the public trust.
In vain Anwar tries to behave like a statesman, brushing aside all persistent questions about his personal integrity and moral conduct. He even resorts to the age-old threat of legal action to protect his honour. Being the most powerful man, he has at his disposal various tools he can use to silence his vociferous critics or strike fear into them.
But the sniping continues, and intensifies, behind his back. Every function he attends, at home or abroad, is overshadowed by controversies. He hears sniggering, chuckling, whispering in the background about his past and there is nothing he could do to erase the unpleasantness of it all.
It hurts when news reports, local or foreign, inevitably mention that dark episode that saw him languishing in jail until he was royally pardoned. He was released only because Harapan came to his aid after a life-saving general election.
So, Anwar fidgets in his seat as he carries the burden of office on his shoulders. The country is also restless as it reads disturbing news of its prime minister getting embroiled in one trouble after another – and all centred on his personal conduct, and nothing about his grandiose plans for Malaysia.
He is the most-watched leader if only because his detractors are waiting for an opportunity to raise hell at the slightest sniff of a scandal. He cannot keep a straight face when rumours of his exploits, false or real, are carried by the winds to the four corners of the country. All his energy and time are wasted plotting counter-moves to ensure his political survival.
Is there really any hope for Malaysia? Let’s rewrite yet another version, and this time the seat of power is snatched away from Anwar because the country realises at the eleventh hour that the highest office in the land must go to a leader with an unblemished character. The dignity of the office cannot be compromised.
But Anwar will not go down without a fight. He rallies his troops and openly break ranks with his Harapan allies in his quest for the Holy Grail of politics. He uses his oratorical skills to great effect and, as a result, Harapan is no longer a force to reckon with.
Now let’s tear this second gloomy script and come up with a final uplifting draft: good sense prevails all around and Anwar decides it is best he quit politics altogether to spare the country from further political turmoil.
With Anwar’s departure, a fresh start can be made to redraw bold plans and reset attainable goals. It becomes glaringly clear that what Malaysia now needs is a new prime minister, a new deputy prime minister and a new cabinet.
PHLIP RODRIGUES is a retired journalist.
*The opinions expressed above are those of the writer or publication and do not necessarily represent the opinions of New Malaysia Times.