By Jeswan Kaur
COMMENT The once-upon-a-time reformation led by dethroned deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim against the federal government then led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad did bring with it a glimmer of hope.
To the truth-seeking Malaysians, the desperately-needed reformation heralded the coming of change in Malaysia’s politically-cannabalised scenario.
Unfortunately, that zeal by Anwar, who is PKR “adviser”, to take the country out of the rut of vested agendas was short-lived, lacking the much-needed stamina to fight off the “powers-that-be”.
What started off as a revolution soon turned into political rhetoric, beginning with the Sept 16, 2008 promise by Anwar of conquering Putrajaya; nothing happened and the Barisan Nasional government continues to lord over the nation, having had a hearty laugh at the “all talk no show” promise made by Anwar.
Now, it is becoming obvious that the 64-year-old Anwar has little interest in championing the people’s cause, having veered off to fulfil an agenda of his own. So much for being the voice of democracy!
The irregularities as far as Anwar’s principles vis-à-vis the revolution disguised as reformation are clear. For instance, earlier on, in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation, he had said that the laws on homosexuality in Malaysia were considered “archaic” and “not relevant”.
But on July 18, during a High Court hearing of his defamation suit against Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, Anwar adopted a different tune concerning his views on the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
(Anwar had filed the RM50 million suit in January following Utusan’s front-page report published on Jan 15. The report referred to a BBC interview with Anwar and alleged that he had said that the laws on homosexuality in Malaysia were considered “archaic” and “not relevant”).
The “impressive” image post-the 1998 reformation Anwar resurrected to hoodwink his supporters both domestically and abroad is fast crumbling.
The fact that the law in 2004 declared Anwar a free man, enabling him to make his rounds lecturing at St Anthony’s College at Oxford, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and at the School of Foreign Service in Georgetown University, has maybe been taken for granted by this father of six.
Now, how will Anwar explain the decline in respect for all living beings – coming from someone who once claimed to respect the fundamental rights of one and all and now a homophobic overnight? What is Anwar up to?
Anwar’s lalang stand
The change in status quo where the LGBT rights go displays Anwar’s stand, which at best can be likened to the lalang, that is, swaying from time to time.
Take the recent High Court proceeding. When asked by Utusan Malaysia’s counsel Firoz Hussein whether Malaysia should “discriminate against homosexuals,” Anwar said: “Yes”.
“We do not give space to homosexuals,” Anwar said.
Anwar went on to say that Malaysian law must be “crafted in a way we must believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman…we do not promote homosexuality”.
This LGBT-bashing attitude of Anwar, whose disgraceful fall from power lives on in the minds of the rakyat, has irked Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch, the world’s leading independent organisation dedicated to protecting human rights, has criticised Anwar for advocating discriminatory practices against homosexuals, calling the opposition leader’s anti-gay position “shameful” and “fundamentally wrong”.
Human Rights Watch (Asia division) deputy director, Phil Robertson, accused Anwar of playing politics with civil liberties.
“Anwar is fundamentally wrong when he maintains that it should be permissible to discriminate against homosexuals.
“While this might be a good vote-getting strategy in some parts of Malaysia, his claim shamefully runs completely contrary to the central principle of non-discrimination in international human rights law,” he had said in a statement.
Anwar a disappointment
Robertson has rightfully pointed out that Anwar’s views on gay rights were a sad reflection of Malaysian politics.
“The UN High Commissioner issued a comprehensive report in November 2011 that clearly identified the need to protect the rights of LGBT people and called on all UN member states to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” Robertson said.
Anwar’s homophobic stand has also disillusioned his young supporters who dream of a nation with greater civil liberties.
One of them, Leroy Luar, expressed his view in an opinion piece posted in Malaysiakini on July 18: “A leader who makes a statement endorsing discrimination is no leader at all.”
“You, sir, who have built your cause around speaking for the downtrodden, the side-lined, the disadvantaged… [are gay rights] not a fight against discrimination?
“You, sir, are a liar. You, sir, are a disappointment. You, sir, are no different than those you vilify in your own defence. We have been betrayed,” Luar said.
Anwar’s refusal to accept the LGBT rights will in time to come put him on the guillotine board, bringing the curtains down on a “reformer” who promised much but delivered little.
It will come as no surprise, too, if the liberal minds in Anwar’s unregistered Pakatan Rakyat pact decide to bid him adieu, due to his discriminatory stance on gay rights.
Why the sudden change in beliefs? Whose tune is Anwar dancing to now and why?
Meawhile, Pakatan Rakyat’s partner, the Islamist party PAS, might find the about-face by Anwar on the LGBT issue a reason to rejoice, just like when Anwar had declared his support for the hudud law which PAS is bent on implementing should Pakatan lay claim over Putrajaya.
But then should Pakatan succeed in settling down in Putrajaya, it would mark a spell of nightmares for the rakyat, especially for the marginalised communities; for where PAS goes, Malaysia would become a fully Islamic state and homosexuals could face the death penalty.
Is that the vision Anwar had for this country when he revolted against BN or was he all along taking his supporters for a ride?
If indeed Anwar had been deluding his supporters all for the sake of achieving his personal goals, it is a shame that it was Anwar who was chosen as the honorary president of the London-based group accountability.
And it is a shame, too, that Anwar claims to have great knowledge on subjects like democracy, freedom, governance, Islam and democracy and the need for accountability, for when the push came to shove, it did not take long for this MP for Permatang Pauh to reveal his true nature.
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.