Jumaat, 6 September 2013

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Justice without equality

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 04:33 PM PDT


If you disapprove of any injustice, do not keep quiet. Your silence encourages evil people like Bekir and Taib to continue plundering. When you are reluctant to criticise the inept syariah courts, the moral police and religious institutions, they neglect their responsibilities. 

Mariam Mokhtar, FMT 

Although the circumstances are different, both Shahnaz, the ex-daughter-in-law of Sarawak's Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, and the majority of Sarawakians have two things in common – the link with Taib and the fact that, for decades, all have suffered abuse in silence but are now fighting for justice.

Shahnaz A Majid, the former wife of Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, used to be part of the elite circle swarming around Taib. With private jets, yachts, unlimited cash reserves and homes around the globe, Taib and his scion want for very little.

Most companies treat the people as their main resource, but Taib thinks differently. His main asset is the country of Sarawak. He treats it like his personal fiefdom, to do as he pleases. The people are only useful in that they are a source of cheap labour and votes. In certain areas, the people are a hindrance as they make valiant but futile attempts to slow Taib's rape of the interior.

Taib has buried the last of the ancestral heartlands under several man-made lakes. Like a man possessed, he converts virgin forest, with their diversity of flora and fauna, into a mono-culture, with oil palm stretching into the horizon.

He has stripped away the country's riches just as he has robbed the indigenous Sarawakians of their dignity and self-respect.

The treatment meted out to Shahnaz is no different. Revealing details about the breakdown in her marriage was like reliving her torment twice – once in the past and again in court. It is humiliating for her to describe the physical and mental abuse, and the display of Bekir's infidelity, in public.

Shahnaz filed for divorce at the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court in February 2011. The reasons she gave were irreconcilable differences and the denial of sexual intimacy (nafkah batin) for 12 years. Apart from RM100 million in compensation, she has also sought RM300 million of the marital assets, accumulated in their 19 years of marriage.

Malaysians were given a glimpse into Bekir's worth. In court, it was alleged that he was a director of 150 companies and had stakes in 51 companies. The equity in 21 of these companies amounted to RM1 billion.

Bekir's salary, in the year 2000, was RM2 million. Today, he is probably earning more. His allowances for car, travel, entertainment, flights and hotel accommodation, were borne by the various companies.

The list of assets for Bekir runs like the latest government slogan – 'endless possibilities', his bank deposits are around US$100million. An EPF witness said that Bekir had about RM1.4 million saved in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), more than 400,000 units in the Amanah Saham Nasional (ASN) and he had RM6 million in his current account at CIMB and over RM3 million in a fixed deposit.

System fails women and children

In an earlier testimony, Shahnaz, said that Bekir had around RM700 million deposited in banks in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Jersey and Hong Kong. She listed seven luxury cars, thousands of hectares of land in Sarawak, land in Bukit Tunku in Kuala Lumpur and shares in 15 companies including Cahaya Mata Sarawak and Sarawak Cable Bhd, to be declared as joint property.

In London, he owned a RM60 million terrace house and an Aston Martin. She said she wanted a trust fund of RM40 million so her son could continue his education.

Anyone going through the list will be disgusted at Bekir's hoard, most of which is alleged to have been at the expense of the ordinary Sarawakian. One political pundit said, "Like father, like son. Both the financial abuse and the domestic violence."

Sarawakians of modest means must save and scrimp to provide their children with a decent education. The most deprived, like the Penans, have few schools at their disposal. Where transport links to schools in rural areas are poor, girls, who hitch rides on timber lorries, risk being raped.

The long list of Bekir's properties is an insult to Sarawakians. Other news sites allege that Taib's cronies and family members obtained Native Customary Rights (NCR) land by dishonest and fraudulent means, before reselling them for millions of ringgits. Taib's family have houses littered around the world, and yet the deprived Sarawakians have run-down shacks to call home.

There are many parallels between Shahnaz and the average Sarawakian. The circumstances may be different but both were treated shabbily – abuse, beatings, humiliation and threats.

Shahnaz may not be destitute, but like many Muslim women, she has found that getting justice in the syariah court is a battle.

Women who have experienced the syariah court system know that men will evade summonses, so they can avoid a court appearance. Court schedules are fraught with delays and postponements. The men try to avoid paying maintenance to the wives and children, and also for the child's education.

Claims take years to settle, but the father knows that when the child reaches 18-years-old, he will no longer be responsible for the child's education.

It is common knowledge that many Muslim women give up halfway through their syariah divorce claim because it is stressful, expensive and time-consuming. The system fails these women and their children.


The ‘Allah’ case at a glance: Part 1

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 03:36 PM PDT

Bob Teoh, The Malay Mail Online

Following a High Court decision on 31 Dec 2009 to allow Herald, the Catholic weekly, to refer to God as Allah in its Malay language edition, ten churches and a Catholic school were attacked.

So, too, were a few suraus, a Sikh temple and a Catholic girls' school. Only one of the churches firebombed or attacked was extensively damaged and rendered unusable.

The rest suffered just superficial damage. But the fact remains they were attacked mindlessly.

The attacks sent shock waves through the nation and set race relations back by a few generations. All because of one word—Allah.

In 1980, the Umno-led Terengganu government became the first state to enact laws to control or restrict the propagation of other religions among Muslims. It decreed a list of 25 Arabic words and 10 phrases that are deemed exclusive only to Islam. One of these words is 'Allah'. Other states followed suit.

The following year, the Alkitab or the Malay language Bible which uses the word 'Allah' was banned under the old Internal Security Act 1960 (now known as SOSMA 2012) on the basis that it is a threat to national security. This ban came five months after Dr Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister on 16 July 1981.

Subsequently, the Alkitab was allowed restricted use in churches only, but otherwise, the ban remains in force even till today.

But the Customs and Home Ministry continued to confiscate not only the Alkitab but also other Malay language Christian publications at entry points at ports and airports as well as from general bookshops.

This caused considerable losses to importers as well as an acute shortage of the Alkitab and other Bahasa Christian publications.

The confiscations were not made under the ISA nor the respective state Islamic enactments but under the Publications and Printing Presses Act 1984.

One gazette or cabinet decree after another continued to be issued to prohibit use of the Allah word by non-Muslims.

All of them serve only to reinforce the prohibition on usage of the Allah word for the past three decades.

Such gazettes actually contradict the Cabinet decision of 1982 where the Alkitab, or the Malay Bible, containing the word 'Allah' itself is not banned but restricted to Christians.

Things came to a head a few years ago, when the Home Ministry imposed a condition on the annual printing permit for Herald — The Catholic Weekly — in its Malay edition where it is now prohibited from using the Allah word.

After prolonged disputes over its printing permit, the Titular Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur as publisher of the Herald took the matter to court for a ruling on the constitutionality of the prohibition.

As soon as the High Court allowed the Herald to proceed with its case, seven state Islamic authorities decided to intervene on the basis that the matter involved Islam and the Malay rulers, therefore, the civil court has no authority to hear it.

The court rejected this intervention on the basis that the hearing had nothing to do with Islam or the Malay rulers.

It was all about whether the government made a bad decision in law or was acting unreasonably when it imposed a condition on the printing permit of the Herald to prohibit it from using the Allah word in its Malay edition.

The case involved Federal law and not state legislations.

When the court ruled against the government on 31 Dec 2009, it sent shock waves through the nation.

The attack on churches followed but died down as quickly as it had started, leading some to observe that the outrage was either stage-managed or not as threatening to public order as initially presumed.

In any case, there was no unanimity among Malays and Muslims. PAS as well as Keadilan supported the right of Christians to use the Allah word. Even Umno Youth favoured allowing Christians to use the Allah word.

Meanwhile, the government immediately filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal against the High Court judgement. Two similar cases are also in the courts over the use of the word Allah.

One is brought by Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Church) Sabah over confiscation of their Bahasa Christian education publications from Indonesia while it was on transit to Sabah in 2007.

The other is brought by Sarawakian Melanau Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland, for confiscation of her audio CDs containing the Allah word also in 2007 at the Sepang LCCT airport. Both cases are part-heard.

Out of the two million Christians in Malaysia, the majority are Malay speaking pribumis or indigenous peoples from Sabah and Sarawak who use the Alkitab as their Holy Bible.

They would continue to refer to God as Allah no doubt. They know of no other word for God than Allah.

In addition, history, liturgy, etymology and theology favour the use of the Allah word as there is no substitute available.


Mukhriz Mahathir: Will he? Won't he?

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 01:31 PM PDT


Mohsin Abdullah, fz.com 

IT seems there's a "big move" to get Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to vie for the Umno vice presidency.

Said an Umno insider:"I wouldn't say there's a movement. But there certainly is great effort to pressure, so to speak, Mukhriz to take a shot at the VP slot." And the "pressure" is exerted by supporters of the Kedah menteri besar.
"His supporters want him to contest naib presiden. Their campaign line is Umno needs new blood, young leaders," said the insider. But the man himself is said to be undecided and still mulling the idea.
Years ago, there was something called the "Menteri Besar Club" factor in Umno elections. It was a pack actually, "invincible" and unofficial'. Something not cast in stone.
Anyway under the MB Club pact, all menteris besar from Umno would decide the one among them who should go for the vice presidency. Once decided, all menteris besar would throw their weight behind the candidate of choice using all their resources to ensure victory. 
But the MB Club is no more in existence in the party. Not long ago there was talk of a "revival" but nothing came out of it. Therefore to state the obvious, Mukhriz, should he decide to contest the VP race, will not have the advantage of being supported by a powerful political pact. 
Still supporters are saying he can bank on the reputation of his father. Dad is none other than Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former PM, former Umno president.
"Yes Tun is still influential in Umno and respected even in government. Definitely the Mukhriz campaign team will use that," said the Umno insider who is quick to add: "When Mukhriz contested the Ketua Pemuda position in 2009, he came in third behind (the winner) Khairy Jamaluddin and (Datuk Seri) Khir Toyo .
At that time, anti Pak Lah sentiment was high in Umno following the dismay performance of the BN in the 2008 general election. Mahathir was hitting Pak Lah really hard as well as whacking Khairy who is Pak Lah's son in law.
In not so many words, what the insider is driving at is this. Even at a time when many in Umno were listening and taken up by Mahathir's onslaught against then PM and president (Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mukhriz cannot or rather did not win. And cannot better former Selangor MB Khir Toyo. 
"So this," said the inside, "Mukhriz must take into consideration in making his decision with regards to the VP contest," while admitting that many in Umno still listen to Mahathir.
Whether Mahathir will campaign directly for his son is open to speculation. The fomer Umno president has not commented on the possibility of his son contesting. At least not in public although detractors "believe" Mahathir  wants his son to be one of the vice presidents of  the party he led for 22 long years.
The Mahathir factor apart, supporters of Mukhriz say the Mukhriz who lost the Umno youth fight in 2009 and the Mukhriz now is different. The Mukhriz now, they say,  is more politically matured compared to four years ago and has won the May 5 general election.  

In search of lost truth

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 11:02 AM PDT


People tend to believe what favours their preconceived notions. It feels comfortable and gives them a sense of security as it is compatible with their existing beliefs. They'll remain in their own echo chambers, selecting news and opinions on  May 13 which fits their own emotions. This is called confirmation bias. 

Aerie Rahman, TMI 

The polemical Tanda Putera was screened a few days ago to mixed reviews. I dislike reading reviews before experiencing the said movie/book/concert myself as it conditions my mind to see things according to the reviewer.

However, since Tanda Putera didn't make it to any cinemas in London and probably won't ever, I read and listened to reviews to get a glimpse of all the fuss.

What piques my interest about this film is the brouhaha surrounding it. Some people are angered at the RM4.5 million grant it received. Some are angered at how it masquerades itself as a historical film when some parts are purely fictional. Some are just angry.

At the heart of the controversy there is actually a contest: a contestation of the truth as to what really occurred on that fateful day of  May 13, 1969, the contextual considerations that triggered the violence and the subsequent events that unfolded after that day.

Most people are unsure and uncertain about this black spot in our history. Materials on this topic are insufficient.

Since the truth is unclear, people start to formulate their own versions of the truth. I can't blame them; the truth is after all elusive and relative. The truth is liable to be subjected to various interpretations and manipulations to suit the ears of the hearer and wishes of the maker.

Films such as Tanda Putera are controversial because it is perceived as being intellectually dishonest by telling only one side of the story. The huge subsidy demonstrates the government's power in the production of a certain historical narrative.

Books such as Kua Kia Soong's May 13 and the Tunku's 13 May: Before and After tells the author's own version of what happened – not actually what happened.

These are not the authoritative truth. A single and authoritative truth must come from an independent institution comprised of a collective of individuals who have scrutinised and weighed every piece of evidence presented. This ensures credibility.

A lack of closure

Post-May 13, our leaders tried their best to restore order and security. They were very deliberative and cautious in their actions. Emergency was declared and the National Operations Council was established. The priority was lives.

This was a sagacious course of action. The result speaks for itself.

The only problem is, no mechanisms were established to investigate what really happened on that day.

When a nation endures a traumatic event in its history, it can choose to inquire or be silent about it. The choice is between fact-finding, like in trials and truth commissions or a national amnesia, where nothing happens.

Malaysia chose the latter, employing silence as a means to construct our history.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established not only to decide on amnesties and listen to the stories of victims. It was formed to unearth facts and create a single authoritative truth. The truth was not only discovered, it was also constructed.

A single authoritative truth was needed so that it can be embedded within the collective memories of South Africans. The process has to be credible enough that people are unable to deny the truth.

While we've heard of many Holocaust denials in public, until today there's hardly a case of a public "Apartheid denial." People cannot deny Apartheid because the hard evidence points to Apartheid's existence and the evils it caused.  You'll look ridiculous if you deny that Apartheid and violence never happened.

Read more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/aerie-rahman/article/in-search-of-lost-truth 

Why worry about 20 sen?

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 10:59 AM PDT


The residential estate where I'm living has not had a bus service for the past ten years. You will need to walk at least three or four kilometres to the nearest bus stand. How many would actually be wiling to walk 45 minutes to catch a bus to work, and do the same the other way in the evening? 

Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily 

I have not yet finished with my "story" yesterday. Well; it took me two long hours to get through the immigration into JB, but after we drove into a housing estate, we saw long queues of vehicles in front of a gas station at a road junction.

My daughter reacted, "Why so many cars here? Is the petrol price going up again?"

She was indeed right, as the petrol price would go up again after midnight. RON95 and diesel would be 20 sen dearer and motorists jostled to fill up their petrol tanks before it struck twelve, a phenomenon omnipresent on the eve of each petrol price hike.

To be honest, the latest price hike is well within everyone's expectation. With the cloud of war looming over Syria and the ensuing energy market panic, it is natural that international oil prices will go up.

To make things worse, the recent depreciation of ringgit and downward adjustment of our sovereign rating have put the national economy on a real test. With the government now taking very tough stance on illegal migrant workers, life is not going to get any easier in near future.

Sure enough the rising costs of doing business will eventually be transferred to the consumers. Each and everyone of us has to face the the music. If you can save a few dimes, why not?

But, some of the costs simply cannot be saved. I would very much like to leave my car behind and take a public bus to work, but will it really work?

The residential estate where I'm living has not had a bus service for the past ten years. You will need to walk at least three or four kilometres to the nearest bus stand. How many would actually be wiling to walk 45 minutes to catch a bus to work, and do the same the other way in the evening?

Government people might tell you. "It's not that bad walking an hour each day. Treat it as an exercise!"

I would tend to think the same way too, but would instantly back off the moment I think about the public security in our city. It's simply not worth putting our lives at stake just to save those few cents.

It appears that we only have our perennially lagging public transportation infrastructure to blame. Our bus services are of undesirable quality; so are our rail services. As for the proposed high speed rail services, we only can pray it would get installed eventually.

Take a look at how other countries are doing their public transport. The public transport systems in Singapore, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have seen dramatic changes over the last two or three decades. Although they are still not yet perfect, at least the public could look forward to some reliable alternatives.

In Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Hong Kong, university students commute on high speed trains as their lecturers, while senior government servants and corporate executives line up for buses as ordinary wage earners. In these cities, taking public transport is something perfectly normal and common because public transport is so convenient and you do not need to worry about traffic congestion nor the rising fuel costs.

Unfortunately, our government pumped in billions of ringgit not on improving our public transport but the so-called national automotive industry, resulting in deteriorating traffic snarls. Our bus services remain as primitive as they were decades ago: belching thick fumes, frequent breakdowns and late arrivals.

Our rail services are not getting anywhere either. The rocky journeys at a top speed of only 80kph amidst derailment worries.

More and more cars packing our highways does not mean we are leading better lives today. On the contrary, it only highlights our underdeveloped and out-of-date public transport system.

If we are able to fix up our public transport system, no one would like to empty their meagre savings just to go behind the wheels. Nor will anyone be bothered about the 20-sen increase in petrol price or by how much will the RM500 BR1M be increased.

Anwar Ibrahim & Reformasi: From the eyes of an ordinary citizen

Posted: 05 Sep 2013 10:42 AM PDT


Moving forward post 13th General Election, we ask ourselves again, where do we go from here? The natural question now is whether Anwar should make way for the formidable line up of fresh and younger personalities in PKR and Pakatan Rakyat whom clearly have been gaining their own strong following.

Anas Alam Faizli

"No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones." (Nelson Mandela)

Growing up, I remember sifting through my father's collection of old newspaper clips. One reported that a certain persona by the name of Anwar Ibrahim was about to join UMNO. That paper clip was from 1982.

Many in Anwar's circles and followers at the time viewed him as their next hope for a leader that could strongly challenge the government. Needless to say that move to join UMNO was not welcomed by many; my mum, a member of JIM included. In 1996, while tabling the budget in Parliament – an annual event where I await with bated breath for him to introduce a new vocabulary – a practice he was famous for – Anwar was surprisingly spotting noticeable breakouts.

Mum responded "Baru nak matang lah tu… (he is probably just about to mature…)." The consternation she felt then remained.

The financial crisis a year later shook most of the tender South East Asian economies, while Anwar was at the pinnacle of his political career. I did not really understand my parent's remark then about how Anwar would soon "get it". I soon did.

I watched 2nd September 1998 unravel on television while I was on campus down south. I will never forget that moment; sitting down dumbfounded trying to gather my thoughts.

From then onwards, keeping track of Anwar's ceramahs around the country, news and developments, became daily affairs. Anwar's famous: "Ini adalah konspirasi dan fitnah jahat untuk membunuh karier politik saya" –  echoed in mind every day.

More arrests were subsequently made in that period, under the draconian ISA. The late Fadzil Noor then lead a coalition of political parties and NGOs known as GERAK. GERAK held massive protests to free Anwar. The Reformasi movement then gathered momentum, initially as an Anwar-specific cause.

But what it evolved into was something far greater. It united all opposition, NGOs and Islamic movements and revolutionised to become something bigger. Amidst major differences, opposition parties then realised that there existed transcendental values that they all fiercely subscribed to – such as justice, liberty, and freedom. This realisation had major uniting capabilities. Activists made up of PRM, ABIM, JIM and men who left UMNO then decided to form ADIL, an organization which eventually graduated to become the Parti Keadilan Rakyat that we know today.

At the height of it all was Sunday 20th September 1998, where the largest ever demonstration took place in Dataran Merdeka, under the Reformasi umbrella. The crowd that had gathered at the National Mosque for Anwar's landmark Reformasi speech, rallied on to Dataran Merdeka for another speech, then on to Jalan Raja Laut and ended up in front of EPF.

The energy and conviction I felt and witnessed being among the crowd at the time reminded me of our next-door neighbour. Only five months prior, Indonesians ousted their own President Soeharto.

Malaysia had never witnessed such resolute. But the important thing to note is that it was not all for Anwar alone. It was a show of deep unhappiness towards the grave injustices that the government seemed to be able to inflict against someone as high up as the deputy premier. What then was left for the ordinary rakyat.

We finally realised then how deep and structural were the extent of the government's tentacles controlling the country's police force, state media and the entire judicial system.

That very same night, balaclava-clad commandos stormed into Anwar's private home and roughly seized him. Nine days later, he made his first public appearance with a black eye. Malaysia had just witnessed the death of democracy.

What happened after, we all knew and followed. Anwar was put on a controversial trial, found guilty, and sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment. How could the once number two Malaysia, be politically imprisoned, brutally beaten, and emotionally vilified to beyond any human extent, I wondered. Anwar Ibrahim became Malaysia's most controversial prisoner of conscience.


Reformasi breathed new life into Malaysian youth of the 1990's, at a time when youthful zeal and activism spirit had diluted in favour of material wealth and pleasure. This was a contrast from the youth of the 70s, whose idealism were more pro-poor, intellectually-driven, and in line with the spirit of merdeka, fitting of a recently liberated nation. It is a mass movement that was manifested by rakyat from all walks of life, whose birth was spontaneous, honest and pulsing of the rakyat's aspirations. It still very much is; it belongs to everyone, within and out of political parties, young and old.

Fifteen years on, Malaysians have perhaps experienced an unconventional politically maturing process witnessing Anwar and our Reformasi. We inherit a Malaysian with various realities to embrace; a rigged election system, highly racially sensitised plural society, a government who has overbearing control over all economic, judicial and social aspects of the country, and spatially and demographically unequal standards of living, amidst many others. It is not easy to change status quo, a system that has deeply entrenched for the past 50 years. Not easy, yet not impossible.

The Man Who Triggered Reformasi

The Reformasi movement was borne out of the struggles of many political personalities, without whom it could not have materialised as it did, too many to credit without risking injustice. This piece is not about Anwar Ibrahim, as many will easily be led to believe, but it is about the man who triggered Reformasi.

A revolutionary varsity student leader in his UM days, Anwar later co-founded one of the pioneering civil society organizations of late 1970s Malaysia, known as Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM). His tendency to highlight the plight of the poor and vulnerable, and criticise the government vocally booked him a 20-month stint ISA stint in 1974 after the Baling incident.

Post 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, Malaysia felt the heat from the rise of Islam in the global scene. We witnessed for the first time the proliferation of Islamic-based civil society organisations. This proved a bonus to PAS, whom at the time was welcoming home waves of new young professionals from abroad who embraced the idea of new dynamism in the party. It helped raise the party's profile amongst foreign-trained barristers, doctors, engineers and economists, posing a significant challenge to UMNO's political hegemony.

Anwar Ibrahim seemed like the viable solution and heir for Tun Mahathir and UMNO; a man seen and known for his sound Islamic principles and honorable background, coupled with remarkable literacy in occidental thought and philosophy. Anwar was about to become an influential political figure, climbing the political ladder up to some of the most important positions in a country; as the finance minister and the deputy Prime Minister. Known to be neither unwavering under pressures of corruption nor compromising to cronyism, he had a political career that was not easy to bring down. That fateful September, the sky fell down onto him in a political and economic saga that forever scarred the face of Malaysian political history. But not all was lost. As widely remarked, cleaning sewage water is almost impossible when swimming in it; rather it has to be done from outside the gutter. The man probably needed to learn that. A lesson that he had been paying dearly since.

Building Blocks Towards A New Age Reformasi

In November 1999, Malaysia saw the nascent opposition force leading to the 10th General Election known as the Barisan Alternatif. For the first time in history, the opposition garnered the highest ever votes from the Malays. That record had never been challenged even up to this day. Barisan Nasional was salvaged by Chinese and Indian voters, which perhaps at the time were probably politically and economically unready to seriously challenge status quo.

In 2004, Barisan Nasional (BN) turned the tables in a landslide victory. Re-delineation exercises had allowed for substantial gerrymandering, winning BN 24 out of 25 new seats, and more than 90% of the parliament. The retirement of Mahathir, who then already made enough anti-fans for himself, too ushered in fresh support for UMNO and Barisan Nasional. It was a personal struggle for me to believe that change was ever going to be possible in Malaysia.

The period before the next 2008 General Election saw the opposition making significant headway, building a forte. Anwar too was already a free man, and was beginning to truly attempt to unite the various parties to form a formidable opposition that the government had no choice but to reckon with. The introduction of needs-based policies also attracted significant new interest especially the non-Malays into its stable. It's only fair considering the vast new inequalities that were emerging from decades of favoritism-based policies, leakages and misappropriation of resources.

Leading up to the 2008 12th General Election, the waves of change was felt even earlier on. I actually took unpaid leave to come home for the voting and campaign period – from an overseas posting at the time. The opposition won five states and formed Pakatan Rakyat which includes PKR, PAS and DAP. Call for change had begun to creep up from the rakyat from all walks of life to show its teeth.

Knocking down the incumbent ruling party off of its comfortable two-third parliamentary majority was by no means a small feat. It prompted five years of the government launching various "transformative" efforts on the part of the government. As a result, we are now entering supposedly the next phase of growth with endless possibilities. Pun very much intended, if I may. Sure, we are building more highways and train tracks. Yet what is lacking is arguably the required political will power to undertake the softer and real transformation we so badly need.

That very same period provided the opposition time to reorganise and work with their differences to productively form a coalition with its own development plan, its own manifesto and its own budget proposition. It was the first time ever Malaysians could critically compare alternatives to these documents proposed by the government.

Rejuvenating Reformasi

Moving forward post 13th General Election, we ask ourselves again, where do we go from here? The natural question now is whether Anwar should make way for the formidable line up of fresh and younger personalities in PKR and Pakatan Rakyat whom clearly have been gaining their own strong following. Is the way forward now a post-Anwar Ibrahim era, which entails institutionalizing and strengthening of the underlying political system? Better structure will allow for the natural development of a continuous pool of talent and leadership, but is it enough?

Strong leaders have historically proven to be the ultimate source of unification to bring about waves of change that ripples above and beyond those laid out by an institution or system. That kind of strong leadership was the only way substantial malay votes in 1999 could have shifted, a two-thirds majority for the government in 2008 could have been denied, and a game-changing 52% mandate onto PR for 2013 could have been witnessed.

Anwar Ibrahim too is now a different man. From a youthful varsity leader, to a charismatic Islamic leader, to a Deputy Prime Minister, and even down to being an inmate, Anwar's bruises could have not been only physical. The wisdom and maturity could not have been without blood, sweat and tears.

Two general elections passed after his release and Anwar stuck to his guns. But to claim ownership of the Reformasi movement can only mean one thing; that he steps up to the presidency post of the party himself, to make reality the reforms that he himself had envisioned for the country. Time is ripe for him to take the mantle, step up the challenge again, be democratically elected and rise up as the President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat. It is the implicit hope of the Rakyat, for him to articulate his vision for Malaysia particularly on his young and future masses.

Anwar Ibrahim triggered Reformasi. Now he needs to rejuvenate it too.

*Anas Alam Faizli is an oil and gas professional. He is pursuing a post-graduate doctorate, co-Founder of BLINDSPOT, BANTAH TPPA and tweets at @aafaizli


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