Anwar Ibrahim must have once thought he had foreign politicians in his back pocket. They regularly responded to his martyr stance (made on his 60 trips abroad playing the martyr) and duly echoed his mantra about oppression, the need for reform, and of course what a victim he is.
That strategy faltered when Anwar was acquitted on Sodomy II in January and world leaders lined up to praise justice in Malaysia. (Not that we needed or wanted their endorsement).
Now British Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived here and totally torn up the script.
Firstly, he has given interviews praising the economic performance of Malaysia, admitting that while the economy has soared in the 19 years since the last British PM was on Malaysian soil, his country has “neglected” us.
Cameron said: “Malaysia is becoming one of the great emerging powers of the 21st century with the 26th largest economy in the world.
“I want to continue developing a broad based partnership based on shared values and strong cooperation on education, skills, trade and defence,” he said.
These words must be painful for Anwar and indeed all the Pakatan politicians to hear except for the fact that they seem to be avoiding playing up economic issues as GE13 looms. In this area they know they will struggle to land blows on the government.
Next up, Cameron addressed the scrapping of the ISA, which as we all know, was actually a hangover from British colonialism.
Praising Datuk Seri Najib Razak directly he said our Prime Minister had shown “the right response in my view to the extremism and violence that has blighted so many lives around the world”.
He added: “Your determination to engage in political reform and tackle Malaysia’s outdated security law both are testament to your leadership.”
That grumbling sound you can hear in the background is Anwar Ibrahim, himself forced a couple of days ago to admit the ISA repeal was worth celebrating.
With only two days in Malaysia what Cameron chooses to do with his precious times speaks volumes about his priorities.
So it is telling that he agreed to attend Najib’s Global Movement of Moderates event at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus in Semenyih, Selangor.
He said he is responding to what Najib said on his trip to the UK last year.
“Both Prime Minister Najib and I believe that democracy is the route to economic prosperity…It is strong and vibrant democracy that guarantees our citizens’ safety, prosperity and religious identity.
“These are themes that Prime Minister Najib talked about in Oxford last year and which are embodied in his Global Movement of Moderates. We share the same ambition to reject violent extremism and to create prosperity for our people,” he said.
Cameron’s words go way beyond the normal courtesies of a visiting statesman. He was speaking as both the visiting head of a delegation of 20 businessmen not wanting to miss opportunities here and as a fellow leader who shares Najib’s global outlook.
International protocol says visiting leaders don’t get involved in domestic politics but whether he was trying or not, David Cameron has already given Prime Minister Najib a ringing endorsement.