An alliance made by necessity

COMMENT | The late Barry Wain was right.

In 1984, when he first encountered Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, the New Zealand journalist who covered Southeast Asia for the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review and later for the daily, Asian Wall Street Journal, both now defunct, predicted that the impact of the two Malaysian politicians on their country’s future would be pivotal.

Yesterday, the prescience of that prediction was confirmed when the former allies turned bitter antagonists – and now expedient allies – combined forces in pursuit of an objective they reckon they cannot achieve separately.

This is the termination of the hegemon Umno’s now 61-year lease on Malaysian governmental life.

This is a span which, if extended at the fast approaching 14th general election (GE14), would almost certainly go on to overtake in longevity the tenure of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Mexico, holder of the world record of 71 uninterrupted years of national governance.

PRI’s tenure (1929-2000) in one of Latin America’s largest countries has had disastrous long-term consequences for Mexico; GE14’s probable extension of Umno’s lease would have catastrophic effects on Malaysia.

For that reason the Mahathir-Anwar compact, announced at the Pakatan Harapan convention in Shah Alam yesterday, is not only in the national interest; it has, as support of its necessity, the wisdom of a couple of political maxims to commend it.

These are that politics is indeed the art of the possible and that the interests of its principals can be depended upon to override whatever enmities happen to obtain among them.

The authors of this symbiotically linked maxims bear more than a passing resemblance to the principals of the current Malaysian drama.

Germany’s ‘Iron Chancellor’ Otto von Bismarck was a skilled deployer of Machiavellian statecraft, like Mahathir, in both their long careers at the top of their game; about the French statesman Charles de Gaulle, who limned the paramountcy of interests in affairs of state, there palpably clung a sense of personal and national destiny similar to Anwar Ibrahim’s, though in the latter’s instance, an unseemly haste tended to spoil the aura.

Anwar is short of the sangfroid – a suitably French term of particular relevance to our politics now – that distinguished de Gaulle.

‘Sangfroid’ is exactly what the Harapan principals must now show en route to their goal of upending the Najib Razak administration.

The cool spawned by a due appreciation of realities, that which was exhibited by Amanah’s deputy president Sallahudin Ayub when commenting on Amanah Johor’s disgruntlement with their meagre seat allocation, ought to be de riguer among Harapan’s leaders in the immediate prelude to GE14.

All attempts will be made by the Umno-BN to trip Harapan into committing the lapses that its predecessor, Pakatan Rakyat, made in the lead-up to GE13, which were PAS’ overt unease with Anwar as PR’s PM-designate, and the re-ignition of the Allah issue by dint of a 2012 Christmas Day faux pas by Lim Guan Eng.

Hence verbal propriety and rhetorical restraint ought to be standard operating procedure for Harapan.

Leave BN and Najib, not to mention Hadi Awang (photo) of PAS, to commit the infelicities such as the latest from the prime minister – that the opposition practises the politics of hatred which does not reflect the good values of society.

Here we have to reference Oscar Wilde’s definition of hypocrisy: the respect vice pays to virtue.

Yesterday, the respect that Mahathir and Anwar paid to the highest secular value – a nation’s salvation – made statesmen of them both.

But don’t tell Hadi Awang that. He’d say all this is man-made and therefore divinely impermissible.

The problem with that is that the principal gets to define what’s permissble and what’s not. That, democratically, is not permissble.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others.


Artikel disiar pada January 8, 2018 - 3:32 pm oleh Susan Loo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Terkini Archives