Anwar Bid To Topple BN
The six federal members of parliament from his Sarawak People's Party are being stalked by Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader who has set tomorrow as the date Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional coalition of the past 55 years will fall.
To achieve that Mr Anwar needs at least 30 of the Barisan's 140 MPs to jump across and join the 82 MPs of his People's Alliance grouping of three parties, which rattled the Government with startling advances in federal and state elections in March.
The 31 MPs from Sarawak, all but one in Barisan, will be a critical block. Dr Masing says the Anwar group is trying to call him constantly. "I refuse to entertain them," he says, though he admits a sense that "Malaysia is changing".
But Mr Anwar's chief headhunter in Sarawak, Ng Kim Ho, predicts "substantial" numbers of MPs will jump. "We are anticipating even entire parties," said Mr Ng, a Kuching lawyer who became a state MP for Mr Anwar's People's Justice Party or PKR in March. "The numbers that will be coming from Sarawak will be no less than from Sabah and from West Malaysia."
After returning to parliament in a by-election on August 26, following six years of jail on contentious sodomy and corruption charges, former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim wasted no time challenging his former colleagues in Barisan. On tomorrow's anniversary of Malaysia's formation in 1963 from former British colonies in Malaya and Borneo, he would show the numbers to take power.
No Barisan MP has yet jumped ship. Parliament is not even sitting this week because of the Muslim fasting month, so much would depend on the attitude of Malaysia's king to any list of support that Mr Anwar presents. "The political situation is changing every six hours," admits the PKR's Mr Ng.
But the Barisan is showing signs of alarm and disarray.
Last week, 49 members of its "backbenchers' club" were sent on a fact-finding mission to study agriculture in Taiwan, with a reported 50,000 ringgit ($18,500) each in pocket money. On Friday, four Anwar representatives flew to Taipei to keep working on them.
The Government also showed off its most powerful weapon, the Internal Security Act, which allows detention for up to two years without trial. Late last week, police arrested a prominent political blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin, an opposition MP, and a journalist under the act. Mr Anwar said it was to "engineer an atmosphere of fear and instability".
Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's position was meanwhile undercut from within his own party. Trade and Industry Minister Muhyuddin Yassin, who is also an UMNO vice-president, said the agreed post-election succession plan, whereby Mr Abdullah would hand over to his deputy Najib Tun Razak in June 2010, was "too long".
In another threat, the former prime minister of 21 years, Mahathir Mohammad, who disavowed Mr Abdullah after the March election setback and quit UMNO in May, said he wanted to rejoin the party.
But this week, it's Anwar Ibrahim's political game from the outside. "It's a psychological battle, though we are now playing for real," said Sarawak campaign chief Mr Ng. "Without setting a target, that date would never come. Without also trying to get the members of parliament to jump — to persuade them, use all kinds of technique — they will continue to sit and wait." (The Age, Australia)
***** Hopefully the era of true democracy, totally devoid of the pernicious evil of Umno's institutionalised racism and uncontrolled corruption, isn't too far off.