A Daughter of Destiny

A Daughter of Destiny

By any measure, Nurul Izzah binti Anwar is an impressive woman. With degrees in the hard and social sciences, two children, and a parliamentary seat she won from the popular Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil three years ago, all before the age of 30, her track record would be impressive in a woman twice her age.  Born just before her father took up his role as Dr. M’s right hand, she has stepped seamlessly into the family business, a telegenic face for a movement of uneven popularity. With her natural gifts and obvious ambition, we boldly predict she’ll have a more illustrious career than her father and mother have, and not just because she was not one to try and betray her former boss nor because the chances of her being accused of sodomy are next to nil. 

Of late, however, Nurul Izzah seems to be tracking PKR’s movement in her personal development as well. We’re not discussing the implausible calls for a “Malaysian spring”  that she and her father have been making in scripted unison since the early days of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt (that is, before military juntas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the broken election promises, and the violence against the protesters demanding an end to the military juntas). 

One has to expect a daughter to follow her father, especially when he’s the head of her party in all but name and married to the titular head.  We’re talking about her part in Pakatan Rakyat’s coordinated and sublimely demagogic assault on the repeal replacement of the Internal Security Act and other significant reforms of peaceful assembly and more.

“A shameful attempt at inserting old wine into a new bottle,” she called the reforms, a line her coalition is apparently trying out.  While the Government has moved with all possible speed here, and in many ways is producing precisely the kinds of reforms the Opposition used to accuse it of shying away from, we appreciate that Nurul Izzah is both trying to position her coalition for success in the upcoming elections and trying to fortify her party’s flagging standing in that coalition.  

The Rakyat does not want more of the acrimonious war-of-words that has so marked our politics for almost a decade.  If the Opposition really has something to put on the table, the internet is sitting there waiting, as is the Parliament. Put up a proposed law that drastically improves on the Prime Minister’s offering, and let us debate its strengths and weaknesses.

This episode belies the one downside to Nurul Izzah’s rapid rise:  She has the obvious skills to be a first-rate politician and leader, but none of the seasoning or hard-earned wit to apply them. She can tell us what she is against, but what she’s for is a trifle more elusive. On the other hand, given time, she may evolve into the kind of Opposition leader that is worth of a 21st century Malaysia.
As bright as she is, we have to assume Nurul Izzah knows about similar laws in the Britain — where, to take an obvious and pressing example, the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the UK allows for detention without trial in the fight against terrorism has and resulted in key arrests including, most recently, the capture of six men in Birmingham who plan mass-casualty attacks on the British mainland.
Malaysia has been blessed. We have had no Mumbai slaughters, no Bali massacres. But these things are on our doorstep. We cannot pretend that the outside world does not exist, no matter how pressing the electoral politics might be.

We believe Nurul Izzah knows this. While she appears to have taken a detour into supporting her family’s dynastic plans — holding all of the most important offices in one’s own political party will do that of course — we believe this is a woman capable of doing the right thing and offering Malaysia a choice. That is the duty of a loyal opposition — to keep the Government on its toes, to remind the people of their alternatives, and to responsibly help guide the state. We believe Nurul Izzah knows that, too.
The question then is this: Is she her father’s servant, or the Rakyat’s?