The Tragi-Comedy of a Patriot

There is something aside from his own personal ambition that Anwar Ibrahim clearly loves – his country. Like the late professor Syed Hussain Alatas, we may deplore the timing of Anwar’s revolt against his mentor, Tun Dr. Mahathir, since it cost him the prime-ministership itself.

And we may deplore the current second round of alleged crimes with yet another young nobody. Nevertheless, we should still grant him the same respect Americans of all political persuasions grant Obama – tenacity. These men do NOT give up. They battle fiercely and sometimes dangerously for their principles, whatever they may be.

Here is how tenacious Anwar has been in the past. During his sojourn in the Sungai Buloh jail, certain of his friends (who must remain nameless, of course) among the Malaysian military offered to set up an escape for him, from police custody into a helicopter waiting to transport him across the border into Thailand, where he could form a government-in-exile. Anwar refused. Instead, he suffered seven long years in the second incarceration of his long career.

What are the values which keep landing him in jail, and may yet again? Perhaps Anwar’s principles have been too deeply influenced by the liberal, humanist secularism of the West, in which certain immutable Islamic values are distorted or resisted. And we must reject such distortions, and even reject Anwar if he continues to pollute our ideology with such “universalized” beliefs.

It would be nice if he stated these beliefs, so numbers of his former supporters did not have to abandon him without clear explanation. If he supports freedom of gender choice, he should say so. It he supports the IMF-World Bank domination of the global economy, he should say so. And so on. One wonders whether he himself is as sufficiently TRANSPARENT, as he implores everyone else to be.

What does it mean to have such a figure leading our only viable opposition here in Malaysia? First, let it be clearly understood that an intelligent, respected opposition is absolutely essential to any democratic process. Winning elections is not necessarily their only function. Opposition’s function is to counter tendencies to what Indonesians call “KKN” – korupsi, kronisme, nepotisme, – among any majority party long imbedded as self-proclaimed winners in the political process.

However, the interesting question is, if not Anwar, who? Or, more interesting, WHY has no potential replacement for this controversial figure arisen? And until such a one DOES arise, we should be careful about attacking Anwar. A one-party democracy is called “fascism”. We need an opposition to guarantee we do not lose our hard-won democratic freedoms to date. It would of course be all the better if such an opposition were free from all blemish, as Obama seems to be so far.

So, with reservations, we applaud the tenacity of Anwar’s patriotism, if nothing else. He could, after all, live the rest of his life as a visiting professor in the USA or perhaps Australia, with honor, respect, and the security of his person. Yet, he says no to all these escape plans. Does he know something we do not know, or is he simply a bit obsessed with his political ambitions?

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