By Pauline Wong
It is now 10 days to finding out whether opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will go to jail for sodomy, and while the former Deputy Prime Minister has left his fate to God, the fate of Pakatan Rakyat rests with him.
“Surely you exaggerate”, you might say, “Pakatan is not so easily broken!”
Perhaps, but look closer behind the fatigue in which Anwar met The Rocket recently for an interview and it tells a different story.
A visibly tired Anwar had just come off a gruelling one hour meeting with DAP leaders at the party’s closed-door national leadership retreat, and in that hour he had played a conciliatory role.
He was trying to convince increasingly agitated DAP leaders that PAS, the proverbial black sheep of the Pakatan coalition, would weather through the crisis and stick to the coalition.
The take-away from the meeting was that Pakatan Rakyat has to be strong enough to make the changes the people want to see in the nation, with or without its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, and it must remain a cohesive unit despite differences within component parties.
This is, of course, easier said than done, and it appears that nobody knows this better than Anwar himself, who (at press time) is a man who is facing a jail term of five years (or more) for sodomy — a charge brought before him once in 1998.
By now, his life story is well-known: a prominent Umno leader who fell out of favour with then premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, jailed and subsequently sent to political wilderness, before becoming the leader of the opposition coalition and leading it to the biggest gains it has seen since 1969.
However, perhaps it is not Anwar’s past that now sparks concern — it is the future of the opposition coalition in which Anwar has been seen to be the sole ‘uniting’ factor, formed as it is out of three fundamentally different political parties.
Can the coalition, which won 89 out of 222 Parliamentary seats with a popular vote of about 52%, continue without Anwar? Or will the rumoured cracks within this so-called ‘marriage of convenience’ widen?
Anwar is convinced Pakatan will stand.
“People tend to forget that I was already in jail when Pakatan emerged, of course not with the name Pakatan Rakyat, but this broad concept of a coalition. So this isn’t something new,” he says.
“Some say my entry to jail may even fortify and strengthen Pakatan, because there will be a rallying point. So I always view it in the positive,” he adds.
“I am optimistic. I feel there is still hope for change in my lifetime. There is a crack in our country, this racial and religious strife is a huge problem, and if we do not change this now, it will be a backward trend.
“People accuse politicians for politicising these issues but they are beyond partisan politics. This is the safety of our nation; because we have never seen this before, and I’ve been in politics for a long time. If you allow this unchecked there is no turning back, it will lead to an explosion. We (see it) as our duty to save the nation,” he says.
“Is Pakatan strong enough to do that? Yes we have to (be). We are gaining, and that’s why I think it is important to maintain the cordial relationship between the parties,” he adds.
However, one can only hope his optimism is not misplaced.
It is a known fact that its top leadership have not met for more than six months, something which DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang had mentioned in his blog several times.
The secular DAP maintains that it opposes hudud, but despite the fact that hudud is not part of Pakatan’s common policy framework, PAS in Kelantan had attempted to push through a Private Members’ Bill in Parliament to implement hudud in the east coast state.
No love is lost between DAP and the conservative faction within PAS, and even as both parties attempt to sort out their differences, the narrative provided by BN is: DAP is using PAS for Malay votes, and PAS is being weakened by DAP’s alleged anti-Islam stand.
Add to the mix the disastrous ‘Kajang move’ which led to an impasse on who would be the next Mentri Besar and things don’t look so rosy.
There are barriers to cross, and Anwar knows this well enough. He has answers to how these obstacles can be overcome for Pakatan to keep its promise to the 52% of Malaysians that voted for them. – The Rocket
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