By P Ramasamy
Anwar Ibrahim’s letter from prison cannot be easily dismissed as his personal opinion. There is more to this letter than meets the eye.
While Dr Mahathir Mohammed might disagree with the contents of the letter, members of Pakatan Harapan (PH), whether they like it or not, must take the contents expressed in the letter seriously.
It is not only directed at PKR members, it cautions those who have been too accepting of the objectives of the Citizens’ Declaration and to what extent the movement behind the declaration will strengthen the objectives of PH for a comprehensive reform of the Malaysian political system.
Anwar might be in prison but his absence is no indicator that his influence in shaping alternative politics has waned. He is still a figure to be reckoned with in the Malaysian political arena.
Mahathir might be focused on the removal of Prime Minister Najib Razak to strengthen Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) but for Anwar the “menace” is Umno itself.
Anwar wrote the letter fearing that the sole preoccupation of the removal of Najib, although necessary, might divert the long-term trajectory of the PH.
Anwar is right in warning his friends that an uncritical participation in the movement to remove Najib might paradoxically lead to the strengthening of Umno and BN. This is what Anwar wants to avoid and for the moment he is leaving it to those in PKR, Amanah and DAP to decide.
It is not that Anwar wants Mahathir to take a back seat from providing leadership to the citizens’ movement. Mahathir might have done damage to the country in the past and his current objective of removing Najib might be problematic. However, Mahathir, given his popularity in certain Umno circles might be the person needed at this critical time.
There is no easy road for PH. In fact, political turbulence is starting to build up and to what extent the coalition will be able to weather the storm remains unclear.
However, right thinking Malaysians, who are fed up with corruption, abuse of power, scandals and a host of other problems need political change that Umno or BN cannot bring about.
In this respect, Mahathir’s presence may be needed. He is not ambitious and there are no grounds to suspect that he wants to ensure the rise of his sons in the hierarchy of Umno. He did not do it when he was in power, and there is less likelihood he will do it now.
Anwar might be in prison, but his heart, mind and eyes are with PH. We cannot forget Anwar for his herculean sacrifice. There would not have been Pakatan Rakyat earlier without Anwar and PH would not have materialised without Anwar either.
One letter is not enough, Anwar should be writing more letters to advise members of the PH on whether they are doing the right thing or not. Whatever the motive for Anwar’s letter, one thing is clear: it has introduced a critical dimension in the move to remove Najib.
For any movement to succeed, critical reflection is of utmost necessity. Anwar’s advice has come at a critical time.
Terima Kasih, Saudara Anwar Ibrahim.
P Ramasamy is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.
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