(four parts: part 3 , talking about the months of july to september)
Any casual reader of Malaysian newspapers for the third quarter of 2008 would be comprehensively confused. There were developments but they had to be seen through the lenses of the situation preceding and the players involved.
Easy for avid soap opera viewers, not so for the rest of us, however a recurring theme during those heated months was Anwar Ibrahim.
The state governments under the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat were about to just get going – marked by the appointment of new local councillors in those states – and then their biorhythm went to smittherins.
There were two issues pervading everything – and yes they were about Anwar – firstly if the Pakatan claim of forming government before September 16 will come through, and second the new sodomy allegations against the de facto leader.
The allegations did come at a time when there was visibly increasing support for Anwar and cohorts, and the attacks against Badawi unceasing. It was providence for the attention to be deflected from Umno and its leaders.
Alarming was the alacrity in which Pakatan dealt with the situation.
In the aftermath of the allegations, Wan Azizah was already providing pictures of Saiful Bukhari at the deputy prime ministers office, and revelation of meetings between the alleged victim and Najib Abdul Razak.
In quick time, the medical records of Saiful’s at a private Islamic medical centre were passed to all the media companies – by sources unknown.
The independent media went with it, and the drama enlivened no ends.
Overnight Saiful became the focus of examination as doubts increased. In response and in stages Saiful made legal testimony and then religious testimony to his victim status.
The mother of by-elections
Once the initial embarrasment of another round of sodomy allegations were contained in terms of public sentiment, it was PKR’s turn to turn on the heat.
The embarrassment involved the arrest of Anwar on July 16 and the initial charging of sodomy against the former deputy prime minister, and the inability of anyone in the party to explain how someone they suspect of setting their leader up was allowed to be in the position to begin with.
Anwar kept saying that he might be contesting the three possible seats of Bandar Tun Razak in KL, since it was under Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim or the two court challenged seats of Kuala Kangsar or Bandar Baru Kulim.
Therefore the announcement by Wan Azizah on July 31 that she was vacating her seat in Permatang Pauh for her husband to resume his old seat was a curve ball, and upped the ante of government change even more.
Some of the shade of this iniative was grazed by the unruly crowd that broke into a forum by the bar council at their building on August 9 – for hosting a forum to discuss about conversion in and out of Islam. Led by a PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin, the whole of PKR leadership went red faced with deputy president Syed Husin Ali asking for the syariah lawyer to be brought to the disciplinary committee.
Yet, it was dicey since it was flaring up non-muslims and his constituency bordered Penang.
The Election Commission ceded to a two week campaign culminating with the August 26 voting day and the whole circus went up north to the mainland Penang seat.
There were helicopters, police and free mineral water abound, with posters filling up quickly.
The result – and increased support for Pakatan – was a slap to the Najib who was leading the campaign for the BN.
Now, everyone can swear
There were a slew of people legally swearing the veracity of the facts they had.
There was the Saiful admissions, and on July 2 the swearing by the former PI for murder suspect Razak Baginda – P Subramaniam. He then retracted the statutory declaration and replaced with another which disowned the first, and the man and family fled the nation.
In the same period the Myanmarese doctor who issued the incendiary Saiful medical report, Mohamed Osman Abdul Hamid – came out with his own stautory declaration that the report was genuine after it was disparaged by his colleagues at his office.
Conspirary theorists had field day after another as anything started to seem possible in Malaysia
In the height of the Permatang Pauh by-election, a division leader from Bukit Bendera Ahmad Ismail made slanderous statements against the migrant communities in Malaysia, which led to various people swearing a different set of facts or ideas. A substantial number of people objected to Ahmad Ismail, and the voice of the minorities in Malaysia grew.
In you go
The Ahmad Ismail situation bizarrely led to the reporter who wrote the article being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA). She was in steady company as Raja Petra and Teresa Kok being arrested in the same operation.
The situation was quickly getting out of hand and the government finally relented in freeing all but Raja Petra.
The government was unable to circumspect on why they could arrest Tan Hoon Cheng of SIn Chiew for reporting Ahmad Ismail’s words, but not penalise the Umno leader for actually saying them.
The arrests led to the extreme unease and objection by the de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim – which in time led to his resignation from his cabinet post.
The Taiwan trip and no-change
The backbencers of BN forced half of their MPs to heads to Taiwan for an agro and service industry.
Pakatan screamed murder since it was seemingly planned to thwart the change of government they wanted to see through. Bizarrely they sent a high profile delegation to meet the MPs while they are still in Taiwan, with apparently no success.
At all the rallies, mostly following the fuel price increase by 78 sen on June 4, Anwar promised that everything was on track, yet on Sept 16 there was not power change.
The newly appointed leader of the opposition was building his present political capital on change occuring on the stroke of September 16. It did not happen, and the large traction built over the months since the general election went into a minor seizure.
Much of the shine was lost, and a new direction was drawn – keep the states in the peninsula and go and break the back of BN in Sarawak.