The one who refuses to fade

By RK Anand | May 10, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

“Scary isn’t it? One minute, you’ re revelling in all that pomp and pageantry and then suddenly, zilch.”

Although it was a remark made in jest, the prospect of facing such a situation had obviously sent a chill down his spine as the politician squirmed uncomfortably in his chair.

And as if to distract himself from such a ghastly premonition, he reached for his coffee, never mind that it was piping hot, and took a gulp. His eyes registered alarm as the simmering dark liquid made its way down his throat, and he stuck out his tongue to let the cool air salve the stung muscle.

This is why we need the rehabilitation centre, he continued when his tongue returned to its normal temperature, mustering a nervous smile in between his words.

The topic was about political casualties, leaders who suddenly found themselves cast out from the corridors of power onto the streets.

So the politician had joked about the need for a rehabilitation centre exclusively for politicians whose careers meet a premature end.

These people, he said, should be psychologically re-programmed to lead ordinary lives and for those who were once at the peak, the rehabilitation must also include lessons on dealing with the stress of being stuck in traffic jams with no police outriders.

Humour aside. From a politician’s perspective, especially those from Barisan Nasional, who had frolicked in the spoils of being part of the ruling government for decades, this prospect would be nothing short of daunting. And in the 2008 election, many experienced it first hand.

No ordinary feat

As the Election Commission’s solemn-faced officers announced results after results, official cars, perks, power and respect started to vanish . Also disappearing were the retinue of apple polishers who once trailed behind, closer than their shadows. In a blink of an eye, these politicians were reduced from heroes to zeros.

But there was one man, who had refused to die with his career and fade into oblivion.

He was not voted out, but booted out, and that too in the most unceremonious manner. But like a phoenix, which rises from its ashes, he emerged stronger and rattled his adversaries to the core. Till this day, he remains a force to be reckoned with.

Anwar Ibrahim’s mental fortitude is definitely worthy of admiration – from deputy prime minister to prisoner, he managed to overcome all the odds designed to pin him down. From being a leader on this side of the political fence to becoming a leader on the other side of the fence, is no ordinary feat.

During that fateful month of September in 1998 when Anwar was given the marching orders, many political pundits believed that his political career had been laid to rest. It was the tragic case of a man in a rush, who underestimated his mentor, and now had to deal with the fact that he would never become prime minister.

On the night of his sacking, Anwar arrived fashionably late for the Umno supreme council meeting, which had convened to decide the fate of its deputy president and quipped to journalists that he was caught in a traffic snarl since he no longer had police outriders.

Hours later, he emerged from the iconic building and addressed his supporters. Standing on a plastic chair, he bellowed: “They asked me to resign but I refused. If I am to go down, I will go down fighting like a warrior.”

Anwar left after uttering those words but not before sending his supporters into a frenzy and ushering the birth of a powerful force, which would eventually be named as “Reformasi”. What happened next, in the absence of the alternative media then, did not make the news here.

Tarmac street fighter

Despite the heavy police presence, Umno’s top leaders, including its then president Dr Mahathir Mohamad, were verbally abused and pelted with mineral water bottles as they exited the building. One prominent politician, fearing the wrath of the crowd, had to bolt through the back door.

Anwar, on the other hand, drove back to his home and immediately transformed from a red-carpet deputy prime minister into a tarmac street fighter. A lesser man would have cracked. But not him. Even the possibility of landing behind bars and being separated from his wife and children did not deter this man.

Instead of locking himself in a room and sulking over the reversal of his fortunes, Anwar took to the streets, tearing Mahathir to shreds with his razor-sharp oratory skills and setting the town ablaze with protests. He shamed Mahathir and his government on an international scale, and opened up the democratic space for dissent. The once impregnable fortress called BN suffered its biggest crack, and Anwar single-handedly altered the Malaysian political landscape.

Being socked in the eye, leaving it blue and black, also failed to dampen his spirits whereas six years in prison did not silence him either. This man, unlike his contemporaries in Umno, appeared to be cast in a different mould, a sturdier substance for sure.

Ironically, almost all of those who were accused of playing key roles in the alleged conspiracy to oust Anwar in 1998, save for its chief architect, Mahathir, had fizzled out. But even then, Mahathir is now considered by many as a bitter spent force, who only makes news for the wrong reasons. One wonders if it would be the octogenarian’s curse to see his once heir apparent-turned-nemesis conquer his brainchild, Putrajaya.

While the rest disappeared one after the other, Anwar remained relevant. He even outlived Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s political career. The latter had made the biggest mistake of setting this political tiger free. He ended up being mauled and was forced to retire to a quiet life of agricultural pursuits with his new wife.

Sacked from his job, convicted of sodomy, stripped of all pride and dignity, assaulted and imprisoned, Anwar still managed to lead the opposition to seize five states and rob BN of its two-thirds majority in Parliament, just four years after Abdullah had secured the biggest mandate ever for the ruling coalition.

Now, Abdullah’s successor and Mahathir’s protege, Najib Tun Razak, is faced with the same ferocious animal. Another sodomy charge had surfaced which could land the tiger back in the cage and a sex video was recently thrown into the mix, for good measure.

Three years had passed since the epochal 2008 general election, and support for the opposition, riddled with infighting and defections, had been waning.

But for many, Anwar continues to be the political messiah who would deliver Malaysia from the clutches of tyranny and corruption. As far as his critics are concerned, he is a charlatan, hoodwinking the public to achieve his goals.

Love him or loathe him, one undeniable fact remains: This man has guts! And without guts, there is no glory.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 - 6:10 pm

    Where’s S. Augustine Paul? Abdul Rahim Noor?

  2. #2 by raven77 on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 - 11:39 pm

    UMNO and Mahathir made a horrible mistake…..they thought stealing money while conning the generalpublic will go unnoticed…

    The internet changed all that…..UMNO’s days are numbered…..just look at Sarawak…it is essentially PBB and DAP ..period. No MIC, MCA or UMNO there….it will be the same in the peninsular soon…

    The days oftipu orang kampong beramai ramai is long over….

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