Anwar Ibrahim, who is still being touted as the ‘prime minister in waiting’ has again failed the test of moderate leadership.
An innocent attempt by a government school, last week, in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur to celebrate the diversity of Malaysia’s cultural heritage, raised racial and religious fervour to a pitch that was reminiscent of the previous regime’s rein.
The school, SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong, located in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, had put up decorations, including lanterns, to usher in the upcoming Chinese New Year (CNY) festivities.
Things got out of hand when a member of relatively new political party, Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia, claimed that he received complaints from parents, who alleged that the decorations were an attempt to propagate non-Islamic beliefs among Muslim students.
Matters got so heated up that the police had “advised” the school authorities to take them down, purportedly in the interest of public peace and stability.
Anwar, when asked to comment on the matter, was rather vague and seems to have covertly agreed that the decorations were indeed offensive and had the potential to incite racial and religious feels.
“We have to help keep things in moderation. For example, the Jawi issue is an extreme reaction and is not good.
“I hope that there will be a compromise in the situation.”
By connecting the Jawi issue, which is being forced on all schools, including vernacular schools, in Malaysia, with an attempt to celebrate Malaysia’s cultural diversity, Anwar seems to have slipped away from being the moderate leader he claims to be.
The question that must be asked is “why should there be a compromise” on the part of the school authorities just because an insignificant individual from a very small political party wants to attract attention to it by raising racial and religious issues?
Ostensibly, race and religion were weaponised during the Najib and BN era to shore up flagging Malay support for the former prime minister, his Umno and BN coalition whenever they wanted to divert attention from their many political, economic and social failures.
A moderate pretender?
This practice of raising the spectre of race and religious disharmony seems to be in vogue even under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, which seems to be losing its grip on Malay support.
To Anwar’s embarrassment, support for his PKR party is from the non-Malay vote bank and to a smaller degree, the Malay constituencies.
Desperate to regain his popularity among the Malay voters, Anwar is hurting the core supporters of not just PKR but of PH by repeatedly failing to stamp out extremist and bigoted views.
The Port Dickson MP has failed to convince the average electorate that his leadership would be radically different from past prime ministers, including the current, one, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
By reacting to an insignificant political party’s racist rantings and asking the school authorities to “compromise” Anwar is sending signals that he is desperate to be in the good books of the Malay electorate and does not mind hurting his biggest supporters, the non-Malays.
Perhaps, the twice-incarcerated politician is feeling his grip on the premiership surreptitiously slipping once again as Dr Mahathir keeps everyone guessing if he will ever step down and handover the reins to his once and future deputy.
Whatever his reasons maybe, Anwar Ibrahim is floundering and failing miserably the test of moderate leadership that is not instilling confidence in his future premiership.
By pandering to extremist views and not stating clearly that this kind of thinking will no longer tolerated by any quarter, Anwar comes out as a mediocre, ambitious and pretending to embrace moderation without the wherewithal to do so.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Independent Singapore. /TISG