On the eve of Anwar Ibrahim’s promised date for his takeover of the Malaysian government, it looks like all systems go. The takeover may not happen tomorrow, but judging from events in recent days, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.
First the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) started panicking and sent their MPs off on a “study trip” to Taiwan in a bid to prevent them from defecting on Sept 16th.
Then the Home Minister basically served the government on a silver platter to Anwar when he ordered the arrest of a young journalist, a prominent blogger and a senior opposition MP under the ISA. Journalists from normally pro-government newspapers arrived at the government press conference wearing black, in protest.
Even the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a component party of the BN has openly criticized the arrests. The Star, which is owned by the MCA, called them “most ridiculous”.
And finally, Zaid Ibrahim, the law minister today quit in protest at the ISA arrests.
Anwar has promised to dismantle pro-Malay affirmative action in favour of pro-poor affirmative action if he gains power. He has also promised to crack down on corruption, make government procurement more transparent, and free the judiciary and media from government interference, as well as ensure religious freedom.
If he manages to pull all that off, I have no doubt that Malaysia, with its vast natural resources, will have no problem catching up with its more prosperous southern neighbour in a matter of years. More interestingly, a politically liberal Malaysia could make staid Singapore look like a vestige of a past era.
I wish Malaysia and Malaysians all the best as they begin their next lap.