FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT The Dr Mahathir Mohamad-Anwar Ibrahim relationship has always been an interesting subject for writers and will likely remain so for a long time to come.
Our historians will surely record the duo’s unique, long and difficult ties spanning over 40 years for posterity and our students, decades down the road, are likely to take a deep interest in the lives of these two most important and flamboyant political leaders in Malaysia’s modern history.
Of late, I have been watching closely the American 2020 elections where Donald Trump is seeking his final and second term.
As I observed Vice-President Mike Pence on the campaign trail rooting for his boss, I’ve also noticed a distinct similarity between Pence and our own Anwar Ibrahim.
I believe that the Anwar of the Pakatan Harapan era has always been patient and loyal to Mahathir. He has changed from his rebellious days as deputy premier in the 1990s.
Recently, I watched a live feed of Pence speaking at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nevada. The vice-president was in his element, declaring his unwavering support for Trump and listing his achievements of the past three years in the White House to the roaring crowds.
Pence is noted as a man with a calm and cool demeanour.
A polished speaker on the campaign circuit does not need to raise his voice, scream or shout to endear himself to his audience. The substance of his speech speaks for itself.
Perhaps, this was why Trump chose Pence, a former Indiana governor, as his running mate in 2016. Trump needed a calm presence to balance out his boisterous campaign style and outrageous statements.
Three years in, Pence has grown into the fiercely faithful deputy, displaying undivided loyalty to his commander-in-chief at every step of the way.
You need a personality like Pence to tame the “monster” in Trump, as some Republican acolytes put it.
Should the Trump-Pence ticket win four more years in November, Pence could well make a bid for president in 2024. From a relatively unknown state governor thrust into national politics just three short years ago, Pence surely knows his place for now. Patience and loyalty are the hallmarks to be well-preserved.
Anwar might have missed his chance to be prime minister for now but to Malaysians, the PKR president and Mahathir are still considered the key personalities to watch in Malaysian politics, for as long as they are still around.
Although Muhyiddin Yassin has out-manoeuvred Anwar via the backdoor, snatching the position of the eighth prime minister in the process, Anwar can be assured that the majority of Malaysians are behind him on this score.
In GE14, Anwar was the anointed eighth prime minister, not chosen by Mahathir or Pakatan Harapan but by the majority of Malaysians.
This is the people’s mandate and any attempt to deny Anwar the premiership should be rightly met with the people’s wrath in some forms of resistance.
I doubt Muhyiddin and his Perikatan Nasional (PN) government will have it easy in the weeks and months ahead. Already, we have heard voices of discontent against the new prime minister from some senior Umno warlords.
Looking back at the 22 months of Harapan rule, Anwar has done well in the face of countless devious manoeuvrings against him, the latest being his move to give Mahathir the space to decide when to step down at that fateful Friday evening on Feb 21.
Two days later, the dreaded Sheraton Move was set in motion with Mahathir and Anwar being outplayed by traitors from within Harapan.
Nonetheless, like Pence to Trump, Anwar has projected himself as a Harapan faithful, fiercely loyal to Mahathir, publicly at least, and the coalition. Pence stood by his president, Anwar stood by his prime minister.
Like Pence’s personality, Anwar is now seen as more calm and cool, wisely choosing to avoid arguments and prefers to diplomatically defuse tension at meetings. He has to be seen as a leader, at the same level as Mahathir, and stand above everyone else in the room.
And it is good that Anwar has continued to do so in recent days, even after Mahathir started talking down to him, saying that “Anwar is impatient to be prime minister” and “the Malays don’t support Anwar’s liberal stance nor his multi-racial PKR party”.
I consider Mahathir’s remarks unnecessary against an already wounded lion in Anwar. The old maverick has now made it known publicly that he has no love for Anwar.
But all of us remember it was Mahathir who first went to see Anwar in court to extend an olive branch in 2016 and visited him in the hospital many times later before GE14.
It was Mahathir who came “begging” from Anwar for help, not the other way round.
This time, I believe Anwar when he stated two days ago that his patience is legendary and that he has been loyal and respectful for Mahathir, even up to this day.
Mahathir can say all he wants today, including that he desired to continue the fight but I’m not sure how many pay serious attention to him now.
As for Muhyiddin Yassin, I doubt he can sleep soundly at night, despite having reached the pinnacle of his political career.
If he has a conscience, it will surely prick him for his treachery even as he waits anxiously for the blessing and endorsement from Mahathir for his government, which may never come.
As it stands today, it is quite obvious that the “wounded” Anwar remains the key leader who has the sympathy and support of the majority of Malaysians. Even the non-Anwaristas could see that a clear injustice has been done to him, being stabbed in the back by his own friends.
That’s a vindication for him for his “godlike” patience and loyalty to Mahathir, his Harapan colleagues and the people.
Like many, I hope to see better days ahead for Anwar.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.