There is a very real likelihood that when the history of Malaysia is written, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s story will not merely be a cautionary tale, but a footnote as well. His tale, since his unsuccessful attempt to finally leap over Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has been a series of almost-successes, with each one less eventful than the one before.
In the wake of his failure, once again, to capture Putrajaya, Anwar set out on his so-called ‘Black 505’ rallies, which utterly failed to do anything but remind the rakyat that Anwar’s only true focus is and has been street theatre.
Today, Anwar is – for now – the Leader of the Opposition in the Dewan Rakyat, where it appears likely he will end his career. His behaviour in Parliament has been – for a change – civil and remarkably well-mannered, and he has outsourced his usual proclivity for theatrics to Rafizi Ramli, his newest protégé.
We would applaud this change in attitude, if we thought it sincere and unforced.
Yet it is hard to imagine that this is so. Instead, it seems that Anwar has been forced by events beyond his control into a subdued, defensive position, reacting to developments rather than causing them:
His ‘Black 505’ rallies yielded him nothing except increasing estrangement from his own Opposition pact – and dissent from his eternal lieutenant, Azmin Ali. Although a fraction of Pakatan’s voters noisily appeared for those protests, they ultimately died out when a mass uprising failed to occur.
The DAP and PAS have been reported to be in negotiations with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for Ku Li to take Anwar’s place.
PAS have worked to distance themselves from Anwar in Kuala Besut, as being too associated with their nominal Opposition leader could jeopardise their already-slender chances in the by-election.
It has reached the point at which one only hears of Anwar when others bring him up. Allegations about secret finances in the Dewan Rakyat, the forthcoming appeal of his acquittal in Sodomy II, pre-emptive protests in Terengganu by PAS that they are not Anwar’s party – the man has become a stranger to the spotlight on which he thrives.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Anwar is now something of an irrelevance inside his own coalition.
For Pakatan and for Malaysia, few things could be healthier. Pakatan’s leadership are terribly old men – Anwar at nearly 66 years old is the youngest – and with Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat’s slow fade into retirement, it is finally time for the old guard to move on. A new generation not wholly obsessed with fighting long-gone battles with Dr M, now retired for nearly a decade, could yield a vibrant and capable Opposition.
Anwar shows few signs of accepting his own irrelevance. It has been clear for some years that Anwar has nothing to offer the rakyat save his own belief that he should be Prime Minister; yet he publicly broke his promise to retire to academia, and the pact he negotiated with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to accept the results of GE13.
If Anwar truly wishes to serve Malaysia, rather than his own ambitions, he should join Nik Aziz in retirement. His seat would very likely stay with PKR out of remaining affection for him, and it would be a powerful statement about his belief in his principles (whatever they are) rather than power.
It would spare him a final, humiliating turn, a performance for which the old actor no longer has the gift or even the heart. It would spare us inclusion in the last scenes of the melodrama of his public life.
Do one last service to Malaysia, Anwar. Take your final bow.