Since Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was chosen as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister, the congratulations he has received from world leaders have gained a lot of attention. Everyone believes that after the neck-and-neck 2022 general election, things will return to normal and the government will work as it should, with no more turmoil. But it appears that the tale will continue. Domestically, things appear different on the opposite side of the coin. It began with a few arrests conducted by SPRM against ex-Prime Minister associates, the trial of the Sabah government coup, and UMNO assemblies turning ugly. Despite this, Malaysia’s tenth Prime Minister looks to be a rock-solid leader who has earned local and international support, and his global reputation means a lot to Malaysian economic development.
UMNO appears to be baggage for the mixed government.
UMNO must do its own spring cleaning to guarantee it is singing the same tune as the current Prime Minister. They are no longer Malaysian politics’ big brothers, and they have nothing to bargain with. The present government has given them a new lease on life following their devastating defeat in the previous general election, but they must curb their vanity and restore their reputation.
Simultaneously, the president must ensure that its members are dancing to his music rather than being viewed as weak leaders incapable of directing them. To restore order, firm and disciplined measures must be done.
In a recent development, UMNO secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan announced the sacking of former Selangor UMNO chief Tan Sri Noh Omar and former UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin as party members due to alleged breaches of party discipline according to UMNO’s constitution. UMNO also imposed a six-year suspension of party rights on Shahril Hamdan, former vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Maulizan Bujang and Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Sharif.
Even the party believe it will benefit from the dismissal, in order to ensure that UMNO is free from internal betrayals as it gets ready for the upcoming state elections in six states. It also shows The President (Zahid) fired a stern warning to the party’s members that he will not put up with any opposition to his leadership. According to Zahid, the purge will ensure party allegiance and alignment among the party leadership prior to the party elections in two months and will create harmony in all levels of leadership.
Away from Peninsular Malaysia, the failure of the Sabah Coup shows that they are getting far from the right track and even their own member are not in their favour. They need to show they are team players and no longer opportunists. To add salt to the wound, their special assembly just passed a motion opposing any challenge to Presidency and his deputy in the next party general election, this is a signal of disrespect toward democracy. This act has been opposed by numerous prominent members of the party, but it appears that their voices are not heard loudly enough.
Corruption and Nepotism Still Rooting in Malaysia
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has previously detained the CEO of a private company for allegedly acting as a middleman in the allocation of government projects. According to a source close to the inquiry, the arrest is related to MACC’s probe into the suspected embezzlement of Covid-19 stimulus packages worth RM92.5 billion by the former Perikatan Nasional-led (PN) government of Tan Sri Mahyiadidin Yassin.
In other news, Perikatan Nasional (PN) secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin confessed that his coalition’s election candidates had paid money to voters, but only at the voters’ request. Previously, The Islamic Party (PAS) president, who is in alliance with PN, Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang allegedly that handing cash giveaways to voters prior to an election is not bribery. He called it “charity” instead, adding that although it was against the rules of the Election Commission, it was what some voters wanted.
On the other hand, the appointment of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter (Nurul Izzah) as his top economics and financial adviser stinks nepotism and creates a conflict of interest. It makes no difference if Nurul Izzah Anwar didn’t receive payment for her work.
I believe, if corruption and nepotism are believed to be acceptable in Malaysia, investors would flee the country. This must be addressed, and the authorities must take severe measures to prevent it from spreading.
The nomination of Nurul Izzah, for me, created a bad precedent and her qualifications to assume such a post are in doubt. He doesn’t have any particular training in finance or economics. While main political positions like ministers and deputy ministers do not require this, advisers and counsellors should be required to do so.
The actual cost of politics paid by the rakyat is not the cost of salaries, but the consequences of bad policies. Even with the best of intentions, bad policies may bring to the downfall of a country.
Anwar Making His Leadership Notice
Anwar Ibrahim has signalled his ambition to invigorate Malaysia’s foreign policy as he settles into his position as the country’s 10th prime minister Anwar will seek to restore Malaysia’s reputation for advocacy on international issues and proactive diplomacy in regional affairs. Indonesia President Joko Widodo and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei have both publicly expressed optimism that ties with Malaysia would improve under Anwar’s leadership. Their statements would have had positive impacts on the image of the Anwar government among Malay Muslims in Malaysia.
This could bring about greater confidence in asserting Malaysia’s national interests in foreign affairs, particularly in enhancing diplomacy in multilateral platforms, strengthening bilateral ties in Southeast Asia, propounding non-alignment vis-à-vis the United States and China, and improving relations with the Muslim world. Such an approach, if undergirded by domestic political stability, would be conducive to promoting international trade and investments, which are critical for Malaysia’s economic growth.
Is there any hope for Malaysia?
It seems that Anwar is aiming to put Malaysia back on the global stage. The new government’s foreign policy will be largely shaped by Anwar himself. Since Malaysia’s foreign policy is highly consistent and institutionalised, his approach to foreign affairs will be like that of his predecessors but with his characteristic energy and self-confidence.
For instance, Anwar could leverage his warm personal ties with Indonesia’s leaders to improve bilateral atmospherics and economic relations. Nevertheless, bilateral concerns such as border issues and the rights and protection of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia will take time to be better managed. And we still need them to provide us with the worker for a certain sector.
In fact, speculation that Anwar may have an interest in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in southern Thailand has already made media headlines.
Even though domestically some Malaysian may have their own criticism of DSAI but we can recognize his role, capabilities, leadership potential and charisma that few can compare. We cannot deny that he was instrumental in the 2022 victory.
The main question remains, is does Anwar’s standing as a globally recognised leader improve the dynamics of Malaysia’s international relations, and enhance bilateral negotiations and trade ties, especially when the world is expecting a global economic recession?
As Malaysian we do hope so.
DISCLAIMER: Air Times News Network is not responsible for opinions expressed through this article. It’s the columnist’s personal view and doesn’t necessarily reflect our stance.