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Anwar with his wife Wan Azizah
If you want to bring a politician down, Malaysian style, aim from the navel down.
That seems to be the tenor of the campaign against Anwar Ibrahim from as long ago – it has to be pointed out – as September 1998 till now.
Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim: Hemmed in on All Sides
If you thought soap operas have a decidedly limited run-time, the Malaysian variety is more durable. Peephole politics, the strand of voyeurism that had brought down some Malaysian politicians, has not received a more melodramatic display than when a ‘Datuk T’, in a more hi-tech exhibition of the style common to medicine sellers along Chow Kit Road, unveiled his wares at Carcosa Seri Negara, no less.
For several hours, he had our netizens on the edge of their seats, with dramatic foreplay.It seems nothing can be counted on to get Malaysians salivating more certainly than when told they are about to view the carnal escapades of the prominent.
In the end, this Datuk T’s (not Twit, I am sure, though his refusal to disclose his identity invites derisive conjecture) main play fell like the plop of a pebble dropped in a distant well.
You wondered why if his tape was authentic he did not just circulate it on YouTube, like purveyors of such items as the tape on the lawyer VK Lingam, on the phone to a former judge, and that of the hijinks of Dr Chua Soi Lek, in his Batu Pahat eyrie.
No; Datuk T, in suitably melodramatic, Bollywood style, had to issue an ultimatum: the exposed politician supposedly caught in flagrante delicto, and his long suffering wife, must withdraw from political life, or else he would dump the incriminating evidence, like confetti, on the national concourse for the prurient entertainment of the hoi polloi.
In the event, Anwar Ibrahim, the assumed subject of the tape, pointed to his stomach and said his simulator had a bigger belly. There was some irony in this. Metaphorically speaking, Anwar has had to stomach a lot on his supposed sexual orientation since September 1998.
Purveyor, target and spectator
If you thought that the soap opera about his sexual predilections will have run its turgid course and cease to titillate, you would have to think again.
The phones were ringing non-stop when Datuk T began his overture yesterday. For several hours, news of what it was leading up to held the cyber-alerted in a paroxysm of expectation.
“What could it be now?” must have been among their thoughts. It did not take long for the gas to splutter out of the bag: anyone who had what Datuk T purportedly possessed would have launched it rather than engaged in a striptease and in ultimatum-setting.
For something like 12 years now, the Malaysian political scene has had to endure periodic obsessive fits about Anwar’s supposed sexual escapades.
Overall, the contretemps have cut a truly sorry spectacle, demeaning to purveyor, target and spectator. It is as if people have nothing better to do than to engage in an orgy of voyeuristic gratification.
Nobody in Malaysian political history has had to endure this kind of treatment.
An entire political party, a police force, and a judiciary have had to fixate on this one issue. Assorted lawyers, doctors and laboratory scientists have been dragooned as accessories to the drama. Why?
Because to impugn his sexual orientation would be the surest way for his adversaries to down him on the very platform he chose to construct his political appeal: religion.More than any other politician, it was Anwar who brought religion to be the alpha and omega of Malaysian political life.
His adversaries cannot apparently best him on the great issues of the day; so they choose to do him down on the one issue that if he is found to be guilty of, it’s perdition for him.
And they are prepared to scant the elementary restraints of common sense and due process in order to establish his guilt, all of which have conduced to a situation where the issue of his guilt or the lack, in its second edition more than the first, has become a suppurating wound on the body politic.
Not gay, but straight
Yesterday’s synthetic drama at the Carcosa Seri Negara only served to underscore the point that even if the sex is not gay but straight, the path to Anwar’s career-demolition would have to be sexual.
If religion had not been allowed to become a form of monomania, would this situation have arisen? This is not an argument for the rollback of religion from the national arena. Instead, it is an argument for the recognition that this is a genie that is best kept corked.
Once it is allowed out of the bottle, its gyrations can lead to the grotesqueries the Malaysian public arena has borne witness to in the last 12 years. This is simply contemptible.
All of which is grist for the point that the man who was largely responsible for uncorking the genie must be allowed the chance to coax it back into the bottle which only he can do, if for nothing else, from the power of his endurance of the whole gamut of nastiness visited on him.
Anwar never tires of saying that a Pakatan Raykat government would quite easily set right the major wrongs in Malaysian society. Cynics scoff at this claim but his boosters don’t have a scintilla of doubt about his ability to make good on that claim.
But if he does coax the genie of religion back into the bottle, he would sport what the philosopher Isaiah Berlin described as greatness in a leader: the ability to transform paradox into platitude.
He sprung the genie out of the bottle and to have to endure some of the more invidious episodes stemming as consequence, enough, perhaps, to have dredged up the experiential wisdom to want to put it back where it properly belongs.