BANGKOK: Malaysia, always in the shadow of its sparkling city-state neighbour, now seeks, it seems, to draw the spotlight of world attention upon itself but for entirely the wrong reasons.
The lacklustre Hobson’s choice premier Mohammed Najib Tun Abdul Razak, who has been struggling to be taken seriously and continues to struggle mostly, in vain, to try and restore the dwindling fortunes of his party, is behaving like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a fast approaching vehicle.
Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad’s wish to see Malaysia join the first world seems to become more and more of a pipe dream. The good doctor’s feelings towards Mr Najib’s predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, are well known, and the appetite for interfering with the judiciary is said to have started with the good doctor; so unsurprisingly there has been a tumult of criticism from human rights groups concerning the latest trial, as Anwar Ibrahim’s last conviction was so publicly overturned by Malaysia’s highest court after a lengthy delay.
The question all serious Malaysia watchers are asking is: Why is this happening again? The last bungled attempt to remove Anwar from the political landscape ended in utter ignominy, and the Malaysian state was most certainly the loser. Well, the best guess seems to be the analogy of a drowning man grasping at straws, however hopeless, in order to survive, because as a political strategy another trial is totally bankrupt.
Interestingly, the one factor the plotters appear to have totally overlooked is the present incumbents of the White House and State Department. Both of these current office-holders are unlikely to stay silent if history repeats itself in how Anwar is dealt with. Thailand has recently felt the new realism of the current American administration when the US ambassador in Bangkok wrote a letter to the English-language press deploring the forced repatriation of Hmong refugees to Laos, a most unheard of action in diplomatic protocol.
The Malaysian regime seems to lack the sophistication and good grace to deal with successful opposition as it desperately tries to cling to power. Voters have already punished it at the ballot box and are likely to repeat the process again. A suspect verdict on Anwar will draw nothing but opprobrium from the world at large and pigeonhole the current regime as only slightly more sophisticated than the generals in Burma in how it deals with its opponents, but not that much.—The Nation