Anwar’s SCRIPT for a new Malaysia

IN terms of literary output, by word or page count, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s far exceeds any other Malaysian leader. By content or intellectual weightage however, Anwar Ibrahim is in a class of his own. His latest proferring, “SCRIPT For A Better Malaysia–An Empowering Vision And Policy Framework For Action”, published by Institut Darul Ehsan, Selangor, lives up to its catchy acronym (for sustainability, care and compassion, respect, innovation, prosperity, and trust).

Buzz words like sustainability, innovation, and prosperity, together with the latest, climate change, are de rigueur in today’s manifesto, political and otherwise. Less emphasised or never mentioned is trust. At the book’s launching on October 2, Anwar emphasised the “T” in SCRIPT. I agree with him that trust is a poor translation of the much broader and deeper meaning of the Malay word “amanah” with its associated profound religious connotations. Fidelity, of being true to one’s self, mission, and responsibility, would be better.

Breaches of fidelity (“pecah amanah”) are rampant in Malaysia today, from the highest officials to the lowly traffic constables. It is the root cause of the Malaysian malaise, the genetic core of this virulent destructive social virus now plaguing the nation. By “highest official” I do not mean only former prime minister Najib Razak. His recent conviction is but the tip of a huge iceberg. Consider Johor Baru’s Forest City, approved sans environmental studies, or the clear cutting of virgin jungles in Pahang resulting in ravaging floods. No marks for guessing their royal backers. Both instances are gross breaches of fidelity, not only by the rulers but also those entrusted to enforce the rules.

“Pecah amanah” is the defining issue in the upcoming election. Anwar should be unrelenting and unsparing in pounding this. Targets abound, as with secular leaders in their Armani suits jetting to London to visit their country estates while the country faces devastating floods, or religious ones in their overflowing robes endlessly quoting the Holy Book while oblivious of their own sins of accepting bribes and makan “gaji buta” (undeserved income). They must be exposed for what they are – dangerous and destructive. They are but parasites sucking on the rakyat. Unlike their counterparts in nature, these political blood suckers do not even bother camouflaging themselves or their activities. They are blatant. That is the Malaysian tragedy.

Reformasi is right to focus on building trust among leaders as well as followers and in institutions as well as with personnel. With trust comes respect, and from there, compassion. Trust also encourages innovation which is key to prosperity.

Related to “amanah” but not its complete antonym is “munafik”, commonly but inadequately translated as hypocrisy. Being of Quranic origin, “munafik” too has deep religious connotations. If “pecah amanah” implies your knowing that what you are doing is wrong, “munafik” is your spinning it as otherwise, as even beneficial and praiseworthy! To wit, Abdul Razak Hussein exhorting Malays to enrol their children in Malay schools; meanwhile sending his to England. More sinisterly, ulama extolling the robbers of 1MDB and labelling the crumbs of the loot these ulama received to fund their haj as “borkat” (gift from Allah).

Anwar’s reach, intellectual and political, extends far despite his being out of power. His prescient The Asian Renaissance released just before the devastating 1997 Asian Contagion caught the attention of global leaders hitherto smitten with the yet to be exposed, flash-in-the-pan Asian Miracle facade. Anwar paid a severe price for his subsequent falling out with Mahathir, as did his then young family and the Reformasi movement. If Anwar’s coalition were to win the general election, then all the pain and setbacks would have been worthwhile, more so for Malaysia.

Anwar’s current critics are trapped by their inability or unwillingness to escape his image as a young ambitious and impatient ABIM leader decades ago, ignoring his subsequent and far more consequential experiences and development. Most transformative must surely be his incarcerations, including solitary confinement, not once but twice. Few have been tested as much, and fewer still have emerged stronger and wiser. Nelson Mandela comes to mind when I think of Anwar today. Like Mandela, Anwar has even forgiven his tormentor. That’s magnanimity!

Pardoned following the 2018 general election, Anwar immediately resumed his mission. His Reformasi initiatives following that electoral victory were sabotaged by Dr Mahathir. While Anwar did not physically suffer this time, Malaysia did and still does, cursed with Muhyiddin Yasin and later, Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Egregious corruption and blatant cronyism, not to mention gross incompetence, are once again the Malaysian norm.

Malaysians need SCRIPT. It is an effective message and must be messaged effectively. For that, learn from Ronald Reagan. Not gifted intellectually, he knew his limitations and thus corralled accomplished individuals to be on his team. Anwar already attracts many outstanding young talents like Rafizi Ramli, Sim Tze Tzin, and Nurul Izzah Anwar. His greatest challenge is not to take in the likes of that “semburit” renegade Mohamed Azmin Ali. He skipped on his bills and cannot even get along with his family. Anwar should pay attention to such details. Anwar and Reformasi paid a terrible price for that lapse. I am gratified that for this coming election Anwar had spurned gestures from Dr Mahathir to join forces. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

The future of Malaysia is with the young, not the has-beens, no matter how great they think they have been. Look forward, not backward in picking your team.

Visuals are integral to messaging effectively. Reagan was ever so conscious of his backdrops and the people he invited to be beside him during “photo-ops.” At the recent launching of SCRIPT, there were many foreign diplomats and journalists in the audience, reflecting Anwar’s aura. Alas the program, Anwar’s superb performance excepted, was subpar. The long introductions and salutations to extraneous personnel were unneeded and distracting. People came to hear Anwar, not his publisher or emcee. Anwar’s interviewer read from a script. Well, she looked scripted. Her fumbling with her microphone was a distraction. Anwar had to help her. The questions from the floor too were more commentaries. 

Anwar should do multiple book discussions with academics and opinion shapers, from the establishment as well as social media, from peninsular as well as West Malaysia, both in Malay and English, but please no rojak jumbling presentations that are now the Malaysian norm.

Malay voters are pivotal in this election. As such I was surprised that the participants, being all Malays, did not use Bahasa, at least in the introduction, and then switch to English for the main program out of respect for the many foreigners in the audience. Again, the visuals, as per Reagan.

“Pecah amanah” is Malaysia’s root problem. That consciousness has to be continually hammered among voters so they can vote out the current corrupt bunch. To that end, let’s have a free PDF or e-edition of the book as well as a Malay version, complete with its own cute acronym. Anwar did not write SCRIPT anticipating the royalty payments. The reward for all Malaysians, now and future generations, would be promising if they were to give Anwar and his team the opportunity to execute SCRIPT. – October 20, 2022.

* M. Bakri Musa reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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