Stop shouting ‘Reformasi’, that era is over


COMMENT | I viewed the video of Anwar Ibrahim’s arrival at the Kuching Indoor Stadium for the Hari Raya/Gawai joint celebration on June 16.

A big crowd was present to welcome the PKR president and I congratulate Sarawak PKR for organizing a successful and meaningful event.

A joint celebration of two festivals among people of different races and religions depicts the true spirit of racial and religious tolerance and harmony of the people of Sarawak. This is the pride of Sarawakians.

As the PKR president entered the hall, a supporter shouted ‘Reformasi’ in an attempt to elicit a chorus from the crowd perhaps. But the response was muted. The chant ended feebly as soon as it started.

Perhaps PKR people are tired of the slogan, which was very popular at the height of the Reformasi era which began in 1998 following Anwar’s sacking as deputy prime minister, his corruption and sodomy trials and his imprisonment.

What is Reformasi about? The main focus was on Anwar and seeking justice for him. Anwar’s supporters, led by the family of the ousted DPM, insisted that a great injustice had befallen their man with trumped-up charges framed to destroy him politically.

Reformasi was a direct confrontation with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had declared that Anwar was corrupt and unfit to be PM. There were also claims that Anwar was about to make his move to oust his boss whom Anwar perceived to be corrupt and dictatorial.

The main issue was about the prime minister enriching his children and cronies at the expense of the rakyat. It was clearly about corruption and cronyism, not the Asian financial crisis at that time, as we understood during the Reformasi years.

While it was true that there were differences between the prime minister and his deputy on how to deal with the crisis, it was also true that Mahathir was getting increasingly uneasy with the growing ambition of his protégé.

For a sitting prime minister who was known to be strong-headed and a no-nonsense leader, it was understandable if Mahathir found his overly ambitious and impatient deputy, more than 20 years his junior, intolerable.

Then, we learnt of the “50 Dalil” book, probably published as a smear campaign against Anwar. The situation got more intense with the sodomy allegations which gave Mahathir the perfect opportunity to make his move against Anwar. The rest is history.

Twenty years later, the Anwar-associated Reformasi era is over. Anwar has paid for the wrongs he was adjudged guilty of with ten agonizing years behind bars. That’s all in the past now. It’s now time to look to the future.

Today, Anwar is firmly back on his feet. His political career has turned full circle. He won Port Dickson with an overwhelming majority, and he is just a heartbeat from the coveted premiership.

No one should deny him his ascension as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister. That is a Pakatan Harapan gentleman’s agreement cast in stone and many Malaysians would be devastated if that is not honoured, irrespective of whether they support Anwar or not.

Although some have argued that it was merely a verbal agreement, it must be noted that handing Anwar the premiership was the main pointer which drew the Reformasi-era parties to agree to work with Mahathir and his new Bersatu set-up.

Why is the Reformasi slogan irrelevant and redundant today? Because the man and his regime it was targeted at two decades ago is now back at the helm with the support of his sworn enemies of the past.

The results of GE14 last May 9 effectively ended the Reformasi era. The Barisan Nasional has been defeated and a new government is in place. The strange twist is that the chief target of Reformasi is still the prime minister.

This is Malaysian politics at its best or worst, depending on how we look at it. Nothing is perfect and it must be recognized that Malaysians are not totally happy with some of the new policies put in place by the Harapan government.

Nonetheless, there is general contentment that Harapan, with the support of Malaysians, managed to get rid of the previous BN regime and its kleptocratic leaders. Most would be prepared to give the new government the necessary leeway and more time to make good their promises.

Reformasi has been successful. That is an undeniable fact. Reforms have been put in place although there is still much more to be done.

Today, what is important for Harapan leaders is to acknowledge that the euphoria of GE14 is over. An electoral victory lasts only for five years. There will always be the next election.

There is a lot of hard work ahead and tough decisions to make and Harapan leaders must ensure that they are deserving of the mandate given by the people.

I believe the main concern of Malaysians today is the inability of leaders in a certain Harapan party to work together. Events have turned very ugly of late. The people are worried about the constant infighting and jostling for positions among its leaders.

Greed for power and posts is a cause of the downfall of a party or government, and the fact that the party has been split down the middle should raise the red flag for the Harapan coalition.

We have just said goodbye to 20 years of Reformasi. I hope that Reformasi 2.0 will not dawn on us too quickly.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.comThe views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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