Despite numerous statements by the two Pakatan Harapan leaders, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and de-facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, the western media, in particular, is not wasting a single opportunity to question their relationship.
However, the editors and chief reporters of the foreign media are being fed with all kind of misleading information from the ground in Putrajaya.
In a recent CNN interview, the interviewer wanted to know whether Dr Mahathir trusted Anwar and how deep this trust ran in the PM’s mind.
The question did not come out of the blue. There is a long history of friendship and acrimony between the two men. There is an anti-Anwar sentiment within some of the corridors of power in Putrajaya, it is not secret.
There was a time Anwar was seen as the logical and natural replacement as Prime Minister of Malaysia after Dr M steps down. This did not happen due to a series of unfortunate events for the country.
After Anwar’s sacking – blamed on his impatience in 1998 – both the Umno and Malaysia were not the same. The rot took roots in both the ruling party in within the government’s apparatus.
We know the result of the creeping reality. The 1MDB scandal, the kleptocracy regime that took over from a sleeper PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whose son in law became a powerful figure within the political establishment in Malaysia.
Yet, we all know that Anwar’s sacking was not only due to his impatience. It was also due to a series of other factors. The pro-Mahathir camp will not reveal the real reason behind the tussle between Anwar and the old fox in 1998.
Anwar wanted reforms within the government and the country after the collapse of the economy following the worst Asian financial crisis.
His calls for reformasi were met with opposition from the top leadership within the Umno and the government, including from Tun Mahathir.
That is where the seeds of the kleptocratic regime were planted. The corruptible gravitated around Dr Mahathir after Anwar was sent to jail with a black eye that became the symbol of reformasi in Malaysia.
Today, it is a reformasi government that is in place in Putrajaya. It is based on the principle of justice and respect of agreements between the parties in the still loose coalition in power, the Pakatan Harapan.
One of the agreement is that Dr Mahathir will have to vacate the seat of PM after two years to allow Anwar Ibrahim to take what many see as his legitimate place in the government.
Any change in this agreement – which is a written agreement says Anwar Ibrahim – will have to be decided by the supreme council of the Pakatan Harapan.
For all we know, at this very moment, Anwar enjoys full support from this supreme council.
But the consensus within the council – dominated largely by pro-reformasi parties and leaders that can drown the grouses raised by the newly found reformists from the Bersatu and Warisan parties – is that Dr M should lead the government for two years. This is being respected.
But what the pro-Mahathir parties do not want to respect, is the agreement about Anwar taking over in 2020. That is if Anwar is still able to take on the role as PM or not.
This scenario will depend on how Anwar fares in the upcoming by-elections (it is on the horizon) and how the component parties within the PH will react to the prospects of Anwar winning a seat in Parliament.
There is already wind blowing from within some PH components that Anwar shouldn’t win that seat or there should not be a by-election. Pressure is mounting on Mahathir from within his party for that matter.
Will they work with Umno-Pas to prevent an Anwar win in a by-election? We shall see.
Anwar faced such betrayal from a Pakatan component party when he fought for a seat in Parliament after his release in 2014. Instead of supporting him, the Islamists PAS is alleged to have campaigned against him, resulting in a reduced margin of victory for the PKR leader.
But Mahathir has always been a man of his words. While he is being sarcastic with CNN and other media outlets on his staying power as PM, he is the one person Anwar can trust on the need to abide by the PH agreement.
Mahathir has already displeased many in his party of former little Napoleons who are now drowned in the era of reformasi.
The point is whether they should continue to be ‘reformists’ or they should go to the ‘rakyat’ and let the people decide on their fate.
That is they should quit their MP or Minister posts if any, and face a by-election and perhaps face Anwar in the by-election to know what the people really want!
That is to say, they should stop playing the old Umno games within the PH. They have forgotten that Anwar, an ex-Umno leader, is well-versed in this game where he only lost due to Umno’s leadership rejection of any ideas of reforms.