The man who stands to lose the most from the appearance of Anwar Ibrahim at an awards ceremony for army veterans is Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu.
Despite the protests from both men that Anwar’s presence was unplanned, many have their doubts. When quizzed by reporters, Mat Sabu also denied that public resources had been used to campaign for Anwar.
The rakyat may, however, disagree. From their vantage point, Mat Sabu may appear to have given Anwar an unfair advantage. This is wrong. Malaysians voted for change in GE14. They want fairness, principled politicians and a stop to Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN)-type practices.
Anwar should have been barred from the event, but Mat Sabu was perhaps too polite or too well brought up to turn him away. As both are leaders of their respective parties in Pakatan Harapan (PH), Mat Sabu would not want to seem rude, either, or appear to be snubbing Anwar. But he was probably seething inside as Anwar’s actions appeared to show little regard for his position.
Now, Mat Sabu’s detractors will criticise him for politicising the event and using government machinery to help Anwar’s campaign.
Anwar, meanwhile, will only reinforce the belief that he is so desperate to get ahead in the polls that he is prepared to jeopardise Mat Sabu’s reputation by making his surprise appearance at the awards ceremony.
The event at the Army Museum Port Dickson was arranged so that Mat Sabu could present veterans with the Malaysian Service Medal. This award was for members of the armed forces who fought against the Communist Party of Malaya and the North Kalimantan Communist Party.
Anwar occupied a VIP seat at the event, which may not go down well with many people. He should be treated like any other by-election candidate in Port Dickson. If he is given special treatment, so should the other six contenders.
Anwar may have wished to meet the army veterans to placate them, especially as their former MP, retired rear admiral Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, resigned to make Anwar’s dreams come true. This has had an impact on Danyal’s reputation.
Just recently, Anwar warned against abuse of power by government servants. A few weeks ago, he said he would not take advantage of government resources to campaign. But his appearance at the Port Dickson event has compromised Mat Sabu and perhaps undermined the people’s trust in the defence minister.
Mat Sabu, too, shot himself in the foot when he made promises on behalf of Anwar and said the welfare of army veterans would be ensured if Anwar becomes the Port Dickson MP. What will happen if Anwar loses? Only make promises which you can keep.
As defence minister, the welfare of army veterans is under Mat Sabu’s purview. He should fight on their behalf. He should promote their demands and advise Parliament on how to help them after their selfless dedication and service to the country. Their well-being is his responsibility.
Anwar’s actions in Port Dickson have cast doubt on his ability to selflessly represent the people in the constituency. More such acts will only turn the rakyat away from him.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.