I had a good lunch.
A sort of epiphany occurred. Someone asked me, why Anwar? Why indeed.
I believe the people in PWTC have got things quite wrong. They believe Anwar is the movement. He is not, he is the symbol of the movement – the movement remains above the scrutiny of those in power, since it is the culmination of 60 years of suppression.
Of those trade union workers whose names have been blurred by skewed history books. Of fathers, mothers and children who fought a war against British imperialists, while those who eventually inherited their toil were the civil servants serving their White Rajahs. Of writers, teachers and labourers who were deemed too blue collar for a place with the feudal class.
It is no miracle their descendants have decided to stand up finally. The only miracle is that it took so long for them to make that march.
And for that you must credit the genius of Umno – they do know how to divide a society to its core and make a master-servant relationship the most natural thing.
In the 1930s, as the world was both in an economic slump, and the errors of poor wealth distribution was plaintively there for everyone to see, trade unions and other groups worked for the rights of the oppressed.
Your Kesatuan Melayu Muda or your Malaysian Communist Party (MCP). The British Empire beat them down.
Post-war Malaya, of the 40s. The trade unionists, MCP and Malay leftist were on their way to force the freedom issues. It is important to note, the Malay leftists opposed Malayan Union, but they did not oppose the idea of those loyal to the nation being Malayans – or Malaysians now.
The British only wanted to deal with their vessels – the senior civil servants, the Umno boys. Ignored the submission for the Federation of Malaysia 1948 constitution, by the multiracial AMCJA-PUTERA – who went on with their Hartal as a response.
A nation shut down for a whole day – all businesses and activities ceased for the Hartal, October 1947
A panicky British regime decided to shut the people’s resistance yet again. Darurat followed.
The people of Malaya had to pick Umno and its posse ( read: Alliance) since all other viable groups have been systematically removed from the equation. The nation was ready for independence, and was one of the last British colonies in Asia getting it. So Brits wanted to give it, and made sure only Umno were there on racing track to win it.
First two waves over.
The third wave, in some senses crippled the nation, and gave way to the anti-Alliance movements of the late 1960s. The script is known to all.
But it is amazing Umno are exempted from their gross inability to gracefully allows others to win. The fires of the limited riots in KL and other parts of the west coast, let Umno pursue a more rigorous policy of divisive politics.
The tricky part is to extricate the benefits disadvantaged Malays gained from the programmes – FELDA, university entrance etc. As a fair number of poor non-Malays have benefited from the moves – which is the right thing.
The upper middle class and professional Malay class then should not have gained free rides at the behest of the farmers and fishermen – who did deserve their hand up. This is when the benevolence to the poor was used by the viciously connected to pick their own fortunes to the skies.
The fourth wave was the reformasi movement in 1998, after Anwar’s sacking. There was broad support and appeal, and the economy was in a slump, but we lacked the organisation, and line did not hold strong without Anwar.
The media attack and Mahathir’s belligerence coupled with a relentless police force put paid to that effort. Always the movement was associated with violence, hate and danger – which is eerily similar to what is happening now in the country.
The undecided bought the government version of the truth, the movement thinned down.
The wave today
This fifth avatar- is the one that will topple this government.
This wave is stronger than just the general elections of March. This is the culmination of the courage lost over the years facing a British government and now an Umno government.
There are three parties – PKR, DAP and Pas. There are various interested parties – the bar council, human rights NGOs, Makkal Sakti etc.
However the power comes from the people. The parties and groups are just conduits, just as Anwar is.
Umno has shut up so many people for so long, and their pain and hopes are finally coming through – no number of FRU personnel can counter that.
The tipping point was dual. The Bersih and Hindraf rally. Bersih because there was a build-up, groups were galvanised and the people showed up. And leveraging on the King – in that they were presenting the memorandum to the Agong – leaving the BN unsure on how to react. There were only sporadic incidences of police brutality.
The idea that people cannot express themselves was broken. As Baroness Margaret Thatcher put it, “ You cannot go back to the time of not knowing.”
Malaysians know they are powerful, and they can hurt Umno – that reality is here to stay.
Two weeks later, in the KLCC zone, when the Hindraf supporters showed up, the police do as they have been oriented to – violate the human rights of Indians indiscriminantly.
A psychological barrier was broken. Indians realised no matter how nicely they asked the Umno government, they are just going to be beaten down until they submit to the ruling class. You may have left the estate or the municipal council housing projects, but Umno wants you to remain subservient.
BN just lost the Indian voter base. The sense of purpose the Makkal Sakti blokes feel today is not easy to breakdown – because it comes from deep inside.
Anwar the symbol
But all I have said, are concepts and lengthy progressions. People understand it, because they feel it. They may not understand the historical origin of this angst, or the divisive strategy employed in its spirit or the challenge remaining – but they feel the need to act.
In this Malaysia is no more unique than those people in Romania or Zimbabwe or anywhere the population’s dignity has been reduced by systemic control policies.
Our lesson – our example is close by, in the Republic of the Philippines.
Knowing the fractured nature of Philippine politics even at the height of Marcos’ regime ( 1965 – 86), it was hard to turn the collective angst and need for change through complex dogma. All movements need a face, not text.
Benigno Aquino represented that. And at his death, they turned to his politically disinclined wife, because without a picture, a human story, the move to end a corrupt regime is near impossible.
The 1986 EDSA revolution was exactly that. Many players, with their own contributions, but ultimately all revolutions are like movies – they need a main actor.
Our actor is Anwar Ibrahim. His human frailties do not erode his commitment to the change. And there lies the relationship between Anwar and the millions. They support Anwar, because he has said what we all want to be said, and he has walked the walk.
More so, we have a symbol, a rallying cry.
And we never had one. Thanks to the internet – the alternative media and bloggers who act as the cavalry no breach is likely. The general troops can march unfettered.
That was my epiphany over lunch, that is why Anwar will win.
When Anwar wins, we all win, even those in Umno who want a better Malaysia. As V puts it in V for Vendetta: “ You cannot kill ideas, because ideas are bulletproof.”