From P Ramasamy
No other prime minister has had such high expectations placed on him by the people than Anwar Ibrahim, the nation’s 10th prime minister.
The post eluded him for more than two decades. If everything went according to plan, he should have succeeded Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the country’s fifth prime minister.
The fact that he was denied the post not only then but even after the last general election (GE14) in 2018 is subject to many interpretations. But simply put, he was twice denied the chance to lead the country by Mahathir.
The high expectations that people have placed on Anwar as prime minister is not because he is Anwar or because he is the leader of Pakatan Harapan (PH) but because of the reformist ideals that he cherished and embodied.
This is the reason why it was so important for Anwar to become the prime minister.
The majority of Malaysians voted for PH so that Anwar could become the prime minister because they believed in him to bring the much-desired changes for the better.
The announcement that Anwar would be the prime minister brought hope and joy to Malaysians.
The country really needed a change of leadership to ensure political stability and economic development.
These elusive qualities were missing in the previous governments, whether it was led by Perikatan Nasional (PN) or Barisan Nasional (BN).
Before Anwar was installed as the prime minister on Nov 24, amid the uncertainty of which coalition would get to rule, the people were also feeling down, wondering if there was any hope for Malaysians and the future generations in Malaysia.
Ridicule and harassment
The prime minister’s post eluded Anwar for a long time. For more than two decades he was subjected to ridicule and harassment. He was also imprisoned twice on trumped-up charges.
But Anwar persevered with the reformist agenda behind him. He defied the predictions of racist and religious bigots that Anwar could never become the prime minister of the country.
It was his indefatigable struggle against the odds that eventually landed him the present position.
It is a pivotal position where Anwar can now think of what needs to be done for his beloved country, Malaysia.
Never before in history had there been hundreds, thousands and millions of Malaysians irrespective of race and religion coming together to support Anwar.
Anwar is a mere mortal, there is only so much he can do. But the high expectations that have been placed on his shoulders is something considered normal.
In the coming days, weeks and years, Anwar has to take stock of things that were articulated in PH’s manifesto to ascertain their gradual implementation.
The number of ministers and deputy ministers should be reduced in keeping with the promise not just to save on government expenditure but also to ensure effective implementation of government policies and measures.
Reforms to the political and economic system cannot be done in a few days.
There is a need for a gestation period for the proper formulation of policy measures.
Unsound policies and ad hoc measures implemented by the previous government should be done away with.
Ultimately, Anwar’s performance will be measured in terms of whether he will have the political will to carry forward the badly needed reforms necessary to stabilise the political economy of the country.
Most importantly, Anwar should start off by unburdening the economic and social burdens on the rakyat brought about by the unsound policies of the former government.
P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.