What is wrong with this picture: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim debating with convicted former prime minister Najib Razak before a 400-seat, capacity-full hall with opposition leaders seated in the front row? Is anything wrong at all with this picture?
To Najib’s supporters, this is another successful PR campaign legitimising Najib’s comeback to politics and they will see nothing wrong with their Bossku exchanging ideas with another politician. It affirms their Bossku’s credibility.
But, what do discerning voters see? Firstly, they see opposition leaders — Anwar and the others who attended the event — as thumping their noses at the judiciary which convicted Najib. It is the same message sent at the Hari Raya event at the Istana where Najib was seated at the high table with the Agong.
Some people may argue that Anwar is in a similar position to Najib. After all, he was pardoned by the Agong and Najib may want a similar pardon. There is, however, a huge difference between the two. Anwar didn’t mess with government money; Najib did. So, how can we trust the words of a convicted criminal? And, why is Anwar giving credence to Najib’s words when the latter’s actions are questionable?
Very clearly, both and those who attended the debate are disrespecting the judiciary. Should we support such leaders?
Secondly, the presence of Najib’s supporters at the debate is expected. They follow him wherever he goes to provide the carnival feel to his presence and removes the guilt of his conviction and makes him more endearing to his support base.
The presence of opposition leaders at the function, however, indicates that Anwar has their support but to do what? That is the other disturbing message that this picture sends. Opposition leaders are willing to go along with Anwar even if what he is doing is objectionable.
It appears, too, that the media is going along with this clear breach of principles. They played up the debate when nothing new was stated by either participant. The fact that Najib is a convicted criminal is downplayed. Even when he sneezes, it gets media space. The criticisms against Anwar are few and so protectively mild.
There should be much greater objective investigation in the media of Anwar’s antics than has been demonstrated so far, and Najib should be ignored. This is extremely important because Anwar’s current course of action very clearly facilitates the return of Najib/Umno to head the government with Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties on its coattails!
Why else would Anwar sign a Memorandum of Understanding with an Umno prime minister and engage in a pointless debate with a convicted former Umno prime minister?
To the discerning voter, it appears as if Anwar is playing a double game. If PH can form an alliance with other parties that would be considered. But, apparently, Anwar is doubtful that would happen especially since PKR and DAP, both in PH, have been losing their seats in all the recent elections. Hence, his openness to negotiating with Umno.
If Umno wins enough seats in a general election and if PH joins it to form a majority even with fewer seats, PH gets to be in government. The price for it is Najib’s political legitimacy!
That is the reason why I have painted the above picture as it sends a very dangerous message — Najib’s comeback is being facilitated by PH knowingly or unknowingly. Urban voters who form the vast bulk of support for PH now have to be very careful to think whether to vote for PH.
We don’t know what Anwar is up to because we can’t rely on the media which tends not to investigate him. But if the MoU and the recent debate are anything to go by, voters need to be extremely wary of PH parties.
More than ever now there’s a need to form a new coalition in which PH is no longer central to provide the alternative to an Umno-centred coalition. Until such a coalition emerges, a general election may be detrimental to Malaysia as it may bring Najib back with the help of opposition parties.