Focus on what we have in common, not our differences

A FRIEND posted on Facebook several photos of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim engaging in good-natured raillery during tea break in Parliament last Tuesday.

That day was the opening of Parliament, the first session after the 13th General Election, by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Such photos should warm the hearts of many and I had a good feeling after viewing them. Seeing the nation’s top two political adversaries engaged in friendly banter must surely make us feel something. Well, it did not make me feel sad, that’s for sure.

Why, that’s another way of saying that I actually felt much joy seeing Najib and Anwar chatting away like old buddies in Parliament last Tuesday. In fact, they were that – buddies in days gone by.

Back in their Umno days, Anwar and Najib were like sworn brothers with one common interest. Both were politically ambitious and they needed one another for the tumultuous climb up the Umno hierarchy.

Anwar was the senior of the two – in age and party position. When he was the Umno Youth leader, Najib was his deputy.

This was in the 80’s and both men were in their thirties. They were young, vibrant personalities and were very popular in the party. With party supremo Dr Mahathir Mohamad behind their ascension in the party ranks, nothing could go wrong for them.

When Anwar became vice-president of Umno, Najib succeeded him as Youth leader.

The ‘big one’ came in 1993 when Anwar decided to challenge Ghafar Baba for the deputy president’s post. That was the surest and fastest route to become deputy prime minister.

Anwar was unstoppable. With his powerful ‘Wawasan Team’ comprising Najib, Muhyiddin Yassin and Muhamad Muhd Taib in place, Anwar was flying high and ready to stake his claim for the Number Two post in Umno.

With Anwar’s juggernaut assembled before him and all ready to do battle, Ghafar knew his time was up. He stepped down without a fight and Anwar took over as Umno deputy president.

Now Anwar was just a heartbeat away from the premiership. Najib was just a step behind him, having been elected as Umno vice-president in the 1993 party elections.

There was no doubt to all, in and outside of Umno, that Anwar would be prime minister one day and Najib his deputy premier. But that was not to be.

Twenty years later in a strange twist of fate, Najib is now prime minister and Anwar is opposition leader. They are buddies no more but political adversaries.

They have battled each other in the political arena over the past decade and the rivalry intensified after Najib became prime minister in 2009. Oft times, their exchanges were bitter and unpleasant. Surely, we can expect the once-upon-a-time sworn brothers to know each other only too well, even their darkest secrets.

That is why photos of Anwar and Najib sitting down together, laughing and chatting like old buddies should exude positive vibes all around.

It’s a healthy sign for Malaysian politics. It shows that our politicians are mature democrats and that when it matters, they are able to set aside their differences and come together – even for a cup of coffee.

I’m glad that Najib and Anwar, the top two politicians in the country today, have taken the lead to engage each other – be it in banter or serious concerns of national interest.

That’s how it should be in politics. I believe that many of us would know of one or two political leaders who have not spoken to each other for years because of political differences. Aha, it’s worse when some of these sworn enemies are from the same political party.

Take a cue from this. The doctor friend who posted the Anwar-Najib photos on Facebook also commented “This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only permanent interests”.

Yes, permanent interests. To me, the only interests that should be permanent are the interests of the people and nation. I wish all our politicians, particularly those elected into public office, will bear this in mind.

All too often, politicians only work together in the pursuit of their common   interests – that is to advance their political careers.

In the case of Najib and Anwar, they have more or less reached their peak in politics. It may be a rung lower for Anwar. Now, I want to believe that both men genuinely want to do good for the people and country.

I honestly believe that if both men would be able to do wonders for the nation if they could find some common ground to work together.

They must focus on what they have in common and set aside their differences. The burden is heavy on the shoulders of Najib and Anwar and Malaysians are counting on them to deliver.

So many things are still not right in the country. We are only too familiar with the malaise besieging the nation.

We had heard about rampant corruption, abuse of power, increasing crime rate etc during the election campaign. Now, we are hearing more problems and issues with the ongoing debates in Parliament.

I am a proponent of a unity government between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. As a non-politician, perhaps I’m naïve.

The politicians and political scientists have a hundred and one reasons why a coalition of national reconciliation between BN and Pakatan is impossible.

They based their arguments on different ideologies and principles and the need for an opposition to provide checks and balances.

The naïve me then want to ask. So the interests of Malaysians will be best served for the next five years if both sides continue to bicker and quarrel because of different principles and ideologies.

Then I would say, “why not focus on the one principle and ideology which both sides have in common – the interests of the people and nation”.

In case they have forgotten, let me remind them of that all important principles they have proclaimed to all – they are in politics to serve the people.

If both BN and Pakatan can focus on that, perhaps we will see better days ahead.

Can we focus on what we have in common and not our differences? Seriously, two school kids will feel better talking about their common interests after quarrelling and fighting over their differences.

No harm in politicians taking a cue from school kids, what!

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com.

– Borneo Post

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