Friday, March 20, 2009

Anwar Ibrahim: Unity in Diversity in Malaysia Going Forward

A little over a year ago, during early March 2008, what might have seemed impossible a decade earlier had occurred--"Malaysia’s governing coalition, which has run this multiracial country without any major challenges for the past four decades, suffered a string of election defeats on Saturday, losing control of three major states and all but surrendering urban areas to the opposition." Thomas Fuller, Malaysia's Ruling Coalition Suffers Setback, The New York Times, March 9, 2008 ( The victory appeared in the form of a defeat. The ruling party continued to hold on to its majority, and on that basis, its control of the government apparatus. But it had lost its 2/3 majority, and with it the power to amend Malaysia's constitution at will (and traditionally for the benefit of its members and allies), "which it has done more than 40 times since independence from Britain in 1957." Malaysia's Ruling Coalition Suffers Setback, supra .

The fruits of that victory was savored at the time by one of the most visible and important victims of traditional Malaysian politics--Anwar Ibrahim: "'I don’t think Malaysian politics will ever be the same again,' said Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister who was expelled from the governing party a decade ago and is now one of the leaders of the opposition. 'There is a wave, an outcry for democratic reform.'" Malaysia's Ruling Coalition Suffers Setback, supra. And indeed, at the time, the vote had been seen as a sort of protest by the traditional losers of Malay politics--ethnic Chinese and South Asian citizens of Malaysia. "Voters showed their anger over a recent government crackdown against ethnic Indians by electing to a state legislature M. Manoharan, one of five advocates jailed after a street protest by Indians. It is unclear how Mr. Manoharan, who is being detained without a trial, will carry out his duties." Malaysia's Ruling Coalition Suffers Setback, supra. The ruling parrty also lost the only state with a majority of ethnic Chinese--Penang.

There has been a bit of tension among the members of the plural communities that constitute Malaysia since before the establishment of the Federation. Ethnic communal membership has, to some extent been hard wired into the Malaysian Constitution, Malaysian law and the structure for the distribution of power and benefits flowing from the state. Ethnic Chinese and South Asians, along with any other person permitted citizenship within Malaysia can aspire to be Malaysian (whatever that might mean) but never Malay. Article 160 of the current Constitution defines Malay to mean (in law at least) "a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom." See Constitution of Malaysia, Art. 160. And, of course, a Malay may lose formal status as a Malay should he or she convert out of Islam, for example--an issue that has remained both controversial and explosive in Malaysia in recent years (and recently with respect to the procedures for recognizing conversion). The most talked about recent example involved both religious and state authorities in the Lina Joy case, in which Malaysia's Court of Appeal once ruled that Ms. Joy, who asserted that she had converted from Islam
would have to apply to a sharia court for permission legally renounce Islam. See, Ivy Sam, Lina Joy, Malay convert to Christianity, loses her appeal in Federal Court, highest legal body, The Manila Times, Feb. 2, 2007.

And indeed, to a large extent, the election results reflected the gains by these two sets of outsiders to majority politics--Anwar Ibrahim and disaffected Malays along with the two minority ethnic communities.

Those losses call into question the future of the country’s race-based coalition, a system in place since independence in which each major ethnic group — Malays, Chinese and Indians — is represented by a political party.

Opposition leaders have vowed to move Malaysia away from the system, with the National Justice Party of Mr. Anwar the loudest proponent of the change. Mr. Anwar, who many see as a possible future prime minister, is barred from holding public office until April because of a conviction for abuse of power in a politically charged trial. But his wife and his daughter won seats in Parliament on Saturday.

He said in an interview that he would not rule out asking a member of his party to resign so he can run in a by-election. “I’m not in a hurry,” said Mr. Anwar, whose party won 32 seats, up from one seat in the last election in 2004. Malaysia's Ruling Coalition Suffers Setback, supra.
Their union, to the extent it lasts, may bring change that would redistribute (and perhaps diffuse) power within Malaysia and reposition the role and effect of the religious parties within the state and in the relation of religion to law in Malaysia).

It was perhaps conscious of the youth and fragility of this union, and of the need to develop a sounder basis for more permanent alliance, that Anwar Ibrahim recently gave a speech on the anniversary of the March 2008 Malaysia elections. As a representative of an alternative post-Mahatir Malaysia, one that might well produce a more open and plural political system, his thoughts are well worth reviewing in detail. Anwar Ibrahim, Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat” (Transcript of National Address), March 8, 2009.

Ibrahim starts by reinforcing the character of the political effort as bundled with an idea.

We gather today not only to celebrate an auspicious anniversary, but to hail the triumph of an idea, an idea so sublime that people throughout history were willing to give their lives for it.

Its force was so great that we have to be reminded by Victor Hugo of its strength. This great French writer said: “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.”

On March 8th last year, an idea with the force of a tsunami landed by way of the ballot box in Malaysia.

This idea was that the people are sovereign, that they are the masters of their political destiny. Their destiny is not decided by autocrats or elites; plutocracies and a controlled media; neither the army, the police, nor by corrupt judges.

Their fate is decided by the free exercise of their choice registered through the power of their vote. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,”supra.

He means to suggest that the movement is not merely political but ideological as well. There are echos not merely to Western letters (he references Victor Hugo) but also one of the great masters of the rhetoric of the political idea, Fidel Castro. By referencing ideas rather than programs, ideology rather than personality, Ibrahim suggests the possibility of revolutionary action int he sense of overcoming a larger and better established opponent, but on the basis of principle. See, Larry Catá Backer, 'Las ideas no se matan!', Law at the End of the Day, Dec. 1, 2006. The idea appears simple--the possibilities for change inherent in mass democratic movements. But that requires both the mechanics of legitimate democratic expression and mass movements of people motivated by a singular ideology to act in a disciplined way, at least at the polls.

The program to be generated by the ideology Anwar Ibrahim proposes is simple enough to describe:

We have a comprehensive vision for leading Malaysia and our leadership is rooted in sound economic planning as well as reinstating the principles of democracy, socio-economic justice, equal economic opportunities and religious freedom.

We invest in education. We create jobs and bring foreign investment into our states, and we give everyone an opportunity to benefit from the newly created wealth. From what we earn we share with those less fortunate. And we fought the increase in petrol prices until the BN conceded to reduce the burden it had foisted upon the people. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,”supra.

And he deftly attempts to bridge that violence producing divide between Malay and Malaysian by conflating national unity with a unifying approach to economic policy. He tells his audience in carefully chosen words:

We have started to implement a Malaysian Economic Agenda for the nation that is truly Malaysian. Our aim is to build a prosperous country by establishing a stable and clean business environment that is competitive in the global economy. We believe in free markets, but our pro-growth policies are tempered with a dose of state intervention and an emphasis on good governance and social justice. This would ensure that the poorest segments of society including the Malays and bumiputeras have access to economic opportunities and aid that trickles all the way down instead of disappearing long before it reaches them. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Ibrahim reminds his audience that the mechanics of popular democracy had been hard won. He then reminds his audience of the electoral gains they have managed over the past year. He suggests possible future victories of a coalition well disciplined enough by ideology to act in concert, and free enough to permit individual expression through the legitimating expression at the polls. This is indeed a delicate act. "Today, a year later, we stand humbled by that expression of people’s sovereignty. In this last year, we have given the people in Selangor, Perak, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan a taste of the kind of government we ought to have when the people are sovereign." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

But clearly, ideas without mass politics remains little more than an academic enterprise. He provides them a measure of hope in the future of their alliance ("The Coalition has grown stronger and our partners have worked in unison to govern in the states. After two by-elections our mandate from the people is stronger than ever." Id.). More importantly, perhaps, Anwar Ibrahim also suggests that electoral corruption is still lurking--requiring greater mass vigilance to preserve that democratic space for popular expression. He effectively reinforces the legitimacy of the alliance by suggesting the corruption of their opponents.

BN’s fear of facing us in another election is most clearly visible in Perak. The illegitimate tactics they employed to attempt a hostile takeover of that State’s government backfired. In so doing they have alienated the public, which has issued strident calls from over 75% of its population for a fresh election. Petrified of an outcome that would swing the balance in our favour, the BN has abused its power and launched an all out attack on our elected representatives, making a mockery of itself and of the institutions of governance. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

This, of course, is classic politics in Malaysia. And corruption--especially the conflation of sexual and political corruption--is a lesson learned long and hard by Anwar Ibrahim himself. See Larry Catá Backer, Democracy Part XIII: Anwar Ibrahim Flees Malaysia's Democracy, Law at the End of the Day, June 29, 2008. Political corruption is merely a doorway to the corruption of the political and economic body. "This government has a dismal track record in disbursing funds – every year according to Morgan Stanley an estimated USD 10 billion is lost to corruption." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. Anwar Ibrahim will build on corruption to reach from the petty to a suggestion that corruption is itself the symptom of illegitimate power in Malaysia. Corruption thus stands as a bridge between particular action, ideology and legitimacy. It remains an effective tool of party and ideological legitimation within Malaysia on the traditional matrix: religion-politics-sex.

After much anticipation and hype we have a new Commission to fight corruption. But it has already proven its true colours. The MACC is no different from its predecessor, pursuing frivolous attacks against the Pakatan Rakyat whilst ignoring the endless supply of abhorrent corruption taking place in the BN government’s own backyard.

Has the judiciary shown any sign of redress? Do Malaysians feel confident that the scales of justice are more balanced and the dispensation of justice more fair? On the contrary, a superficial attempt to restore credibility to the process of appointing judges has fallen flat. The courts remain cluttered with judges whose records speak volumes as to their lack of impartiality and pervasive influence peddling.

Is the Election Commission a fair and impartial arbiter of elections? Or does it plot and scheme against the people and try to stack the odds in favour of the BN?

We have seen the darkest and most evil abuses of power take place at the hands of the police – an institution that has for many years resisted calls for reform. We condemn the tragedy of Abu Ghraib, and yet in our own prison cells victims are tortured and left to die. How manifestly unjust is it that the people of Malaysia must live in fear of those who are entrusted with their protection?

Those whose responsibility it was to safeguard this nation have failed. Years of their polices have left Malaysia at great risk. A lagging economy is on the brink of recession. Crime runs rampant and our streets are not safe to walk. The education that our children receive is substandard and many of our schools lack funding for basic infrastructure. The police and the judiciary are feared for their ruthlessness and their disdain for justice and human rights. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Corruption, of course, breeds division. And division produces great stress on rule of law governance. "If we address the crisis of confidence in our judiciary and take real steps to combat corruption, ensure the professionalism of the police and make our villages and streets safe, foreign investors will again find Malaysia an attractive destination. With continued investment in education, infrastructure and health care we can create the jobs we need and emerge from this recession stronger than before." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. And that in turn serves as another basis for attacking the legitimacy of the corrent holders of power within the state apparatus. "On the issue of justice, there remain two standards in Malaysia – one for those who wield power, and another for those who seek justice and call for the Rule of Law." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

And from political illegitimacy grounded in rule of law and corruption comes the issue of incompetence. Here Anwar Ibrahim suggests the direct connection between legitimacy and corruption, the avoidance of rule of law, and competence. The corrupt do not even have the excuse of competent administration in their favor--and therefore the suggestion of a necessary link between division, competence and the right to govern.

The Umno-dominated BN is caught in a warp of its own making. They talk about reform but cannot walk the talk. This is what a half-century in power does to you. It is unable to reform, immune to change, deaf to criticism.

Billions of dollars of public funds are poured into wasteful projects and the unnecessary purchases of military goods. Exorbitant commissions are paid while the perpetrators of these crimes go unpunished.

While the rest of the world braced for the impact of a deep and difficult recession, the Finance Minister seemed oblivious to the imminent economic challenges. While other nations geared for the calamitous conditions we now face, this man watched from the sidelines. In his most decisive act he issued bailouts for a few corporations using money plucked from the retirement savings of the Malaysian people. The earlier stimulus package has gotten stuck in the quicksand of bureaucracy, causing extraordinary delays in the disbursement of funds. The second one, which arrives belatedly in Parliament this week, may be a case of too little too late. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Worse, the incompetence and corruption, in turn perverts the mission of the state. The increasing plight of the poor can be understood as merely symptomatic of the disease of corruption, and serves as another sign of illegitimacy. "Despite our nation’s abundant natural resources, we see that the rich grow wealthier while the gap widens between them and the vast majority of Malaysians. The poor, the majority of whom are still the Malays and bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak and the Indians in the estates, are scarcely better off today than they were ten years ago. Behind the façade of a first world country we reflect the tendencies of Third World development." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. This is corruption beyond the Malay ethnic divides. All Malaysians, Anwar suggests, at least those of the lowest economic orders, are united in the ways in which they are exploited for the benefit of those who use the current system of ethno-apartheid for their own enrichment.

The government is encumbered by divisive politics and the underhanded tactics of the ruling party; a party that has placed its own self-preservation ahead of the interests of the people.

Religion and race are manipulated by the powers that be to sow divisions in the country and pit Malaysian against Malaysian. Democracy is itself subverted and the rights of the people are trampled and trodden with no respect for the Rule of Law. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Anwar then contrasts his own efforts to those of the current ruling party. The point is to construct a binary in which the ruling party stands for the negative and the coalition opposing that party stands for its opposite. "With an open hand and good intentions we in Pakatan Rakyat have reached out to our adversaries in government. Our brightest minds have offered solutions to the problems facing Malaysia and we have shared these openly in Parliament. . . . Sadly our efforts have been rebuffed. We have encountered in Umno politicians who are insecure and paranoid, desperate to hang onto power and oblivious of their responsibility to the people." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. The government is painted as intransigent, unreasonable, and selfish. These are layers of corruption that deepen the sense of the illegitimacy of the government and its ministers. But in the face of such bad conduct, Anwar offers patience and understanding. "We are not surprised by their intransigence. A party that has grown so out of touch with the plight of ordinary Malaysians can easily and without guilt abandon them in this moment of their greatest need." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

And thus the ultimate evidence of corruption--an abandonment of the people themselves, a repudiation of the sovereign popular power and a transformation of the government from a reflection of the popular will to a source of arbitrary personal gain among a group of people with no legitimate connection to the people--or the apparatus of state. To this the opposing coalition presents a stark contrast. Anwar suggests that they "have not allowed these selfish actions to dampen our resolve. Our Menteris Besar and Chief Minister have met to discuss avenues of cooperation among our states and our members of Parliament are vigilant in watching over the Rakyat’s wealth. Pakatan Leaders will soon announce shadow committees to monitor and report on the BN government’s spending and to evaluate the impact of its policies. Our policy committees will articulate more clearly the Pakatan Rakyat position on key areas including land reform, education, youth development and Sabah and Sarawak." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. He offers a government truer to the principles of mass democracy than those who formally hold office. And now we have come full circle, back to the core principles that define the opposing coalition--and now are understood to define the core principles animating the Malaysian state.

Thus, in a passage that merits close study in the United States for its parallels to the situaiton in the United States after two bailout passages of similar kinds passed by both major political parties, Anwar Ibrahim offers a substitute for the continuing funding of of crony enterprises whose managers are intimately tied to government officials:

If we allow more bailouts for crony companies and look the other way as billions of dollars in economic stimulus are funnelled back to these companies then our nation faces serious peril. It is imperative that with any economic stimulus package, a strong and impartial regimen of oversight and public disclosure also be implemented. . . . We have every reason to believe that unless monitored carefully the money will once again end up in the wrong hands, and the country and the people will suffer the consequences. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Where the current regime offers arbitrary assertions of government power, of rejection of rule of law, of cronyism in the service of the few, and the exacerbation of racial, religious and ethnic tensions to divide the country and preserve its power, Anwar Ibrahim paints of pictire of the opposing coalition as offering the converse--good governance, unity and adherence to a principled rule of law framework for asserting state power.

Our commitment to good governance is sacrosanct and the signs of its implementation can be seen throughout our states. Contracts are awarded more efficiently and with open tenders. Zero tolerance of corruption has saved us 100s of millions already, while giving small businesses and entrepreneurs the confidence to invest and create jobs knowing that the system works for them. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

And from this implementation of the ideology of the opposing parties good thing will flow to the people, not just ethnic Malays, but others as well. "This has also created an environment more attractive to foreign investment, which in Penang doubled in just one year and in Perak increased to RM 3.4 billion. In Selangor it has reached its highest point in nine years, RM 11.87 billion, creating 30,000 new jobs for Malaysians. . . . The Perak government has provided land titles to deserving families in the state, including Malay, Orang Asli and Chinese, a credit to Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin’s visionary leadership and his tenacity in defending the rights of the poor and marginalized." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

But all of this will be realized only if the coalition that constitutes the opposition can actually deepen its commitment to political action. But in the context of Malaysian ethno-politics, this deepening cannot be taken for granted. And so Anwar Ibrahim ends his speech with an appeal to the ethnically diverse and traditionally opposing groups that came together for an instant the year before. In that appeal there is a glimpse of the possible outlines of ethno politics in Malaysia. It is one that is meant to offer benefits for all of the participants without sacrificing a fundamental unity within the state. Here is another example of increasing global efforts to suggest an operationalization of 'unity in diversity.' The key is twofold: first reorient the privileged political classifications, abandoning ethnic and religious categories for class categories (rich/poor); and second, ensure that core ethnic privilege is not threatened, especially those of the majority group in its religion and cultural dominance. This is both a bracing and complicated gambit wholly impossible in the United States (the idea of a political program that focused on preserving white European cultural and religious privilege but sensitive to the cultural and ethnic sensitivities of other large sub groups would be politically implausible in the United States), but plausible in Malaysia.

With respect to the first aim, Anwar Ibrahim promises that his "priorities are to create jobs and combat poverty. Housing projects, particularly for lower-income groups will be announced. These developments will be livable and affordable, and we will also identify ways to improve the living standards in existing low-income residential areas." Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. Anwar Ibrahim thus refocuses the political debate in terms of class issues, avoiding ethnic and religious division.

March 8th restored hope to many who had given up on our government. Throughout the country I meet Malaysians inspired by that day. They envision a future that is more prosperous and a nation more united. With the Pakatan Rakyat they envision a time when schools will be better, where cities and villages will be safer and where good jobs will be plentiful and where honest people can earn a decent living. Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

With respect to the second, Anwar Ibrahim first suggests a sensitivity to avoiding discrimination in the distribution of governmental benefits. For example, "Selangor has invested in the development and infrastructure of schools that cater to all the ethnic communities. In Perak 1,000 hectares of land has been granted to the religious schools (SAR) and to National type Chinese schools." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. Critically, Anwar Ibrahim walks a tightrope, both hopeful and ambiguous:

To our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak, I know that this belief and hope for a better tomorrow is hard for you. Your hopes and aspirations have been betrayed many times already. Give us a chance. This Coalition has proven it has much to offer you and that together we can build a better Malaysia.

To the bumiputeras – this nation is our home and in Malaysia our customs and traditions are secure. We believe that the best way to safeguard our values is to reject socially divisive approaches and uphold Constitutional guarantees. In doing so we will work to ensure that you remain pillars of this society and that your contributions in all fields are recognised and your excellence rewarded. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

The trick to the coalition is amalgamation. But this is dangerous stuff. It is only a small step from the carefully crafted ideas of diversity within union and the old American system of civil equality and social hierarchy. Anwar Ibrahim here suggests bumiputera generosity because they can afford generosity in the context of their own social place. Neutrality, in effect, is a sign of generosity of a majority comfortable in its status and sure of its position. There is a certain justice in the notion, but also a cerrtain danger. Consider this from a more exagerated and perhaps older perspective:

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting).
Harlan's suggestion in Plessy v. Ferguson is a double edged sword. It suggests civil equlaity is the only fundamental basis of political organization. But it also suggests that in a plural society, social stability in the context of civil equality is grounded in a functional social hierarchy in which the majority enjoys a pride of place by virtue of its numbers and its achievements. Thsi presents both a reassurance and a challenge to the Malay majority, one which when subject to any sort of substantial stress might veer back to formal subordination.

And in that amalgamation, of course, religion must be factored into the mix. For Anwar Ibrahim, long associated with religious party politics in Malaysia, this is also a sensitive issue. But Anwar in no fundamentalist. He shares, with the outlook of manyy in the United States, the soft notion of majority power. Islam and Islamic values must be privileged if only because it serves as the fundamental social ordering principle of a large majority fo the citiziens of the state, the way that Christianity serves the same role in the United States. There is an echo of Justice Scalia's reminder of the power of dominant religions in plural society in the language Anwar Ibrahim uses here. See Employment Div. Dept. Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) ("But to say that a nondiscriminatory religious practice exemption is permitted, or even that it is desirable, is not to say that it is constitutionally required, and that the appropriate occasions for its creation can be discerned by the courts. It may fairly be said that leaving accommodation to the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in; but that unavoidable consequence of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself or in which judges weigh the social importance of all laws against the centrality of all religious beliefs.").

Yet that prominence of Islam can be softened by its naturalization within a political culture that is grounded in the religious and ethnic foundations of Malay, Chinese and Indian, in the way that multicultural sensitivty migth soften Christina values frameworks int he United States. More importantly, for Anwar Ibrahim, that amalgamation is tied to the vision of the founders of the Malaysian Federation.

This spirit of togetherness was rediscovered on March 8th and it is a reflection of what our founding fathers envisioned when they secured our independence years ago. It is manifest in businesses and factories where Malaysians work together to build the goods that are exported to countries around the world. It is visible throughout this country in schools where Malays, Chinese, Indian, Dayak and Kadazan students learn side by side.

The spirit lies at the heart of the great civilisations that make up the fabric of this land. Muslims adhere to the Qur’anic injunction, li-ta’arafu, that we must recognise God’s wisdom in understanding our differences and showing compassion and care for all. The Chinese have a saying that conveys a similar message: si hai zhi nie jie xiong di; that within the four seas all men are brothers, a sentiment equally reflected in the Tamil proverb ontre kulam oruvane thevan, one humanity one spirit. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

We move, then, inexorably, from ideas, to implementation, to the corruption of ideology by the current holders of power, to the manifestation of that corruption in the suffering of the people and the perversion of ethnic and religious division and in the need to return to the original vision of the founders. "Greater confidence in the Pakatan Rakyat’s ability to govern is achieved not only through the implementation of sound public policy in the states but also in cementing our cooperation in the form of a Common Agenda." Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra. Thus, unity in diversity provides a mechanism for preserving the Malaysian Federation while avoiding a subordinating Islamization or a mandatory assimilation to the culture and practices of the indigenous Malays who once were synonymous with the nation but can no longer claim that political space. Anwar Ibrahim offers a glance at an approach to the difficulties of pluralist states outside of the West. It suggests both the developing states face a double difficulty--overcoming the hysteria and neurosis of the colonial experience and confronting the difficulties of constructing plural societies. The later requires the newly independent colonial subaltern to give up a substantial amount of power--cultural, religious and political--at the very moment when the colonial experience is overcome and they come to their power. There is irony and tragedy as a consequence, an irony and a tragedy that are sadly under-theorized in the academic literature and rarely confronted by the political class. Anwar Ibrahim has matured into a statesman who is among the few willing to face these realities. His own rise to privilege within the self serving world of dominating subaltern, and his rejection of that privilege, deepening in the context of his own degradation makes his efforts to reach out plausible and credible.

My fellow Malaysians, we are all travellers on the same road, striving towards one dream. This is the road that has not yet been travelled by in the history of our nation. It is long and winding and fraught with the greatest of hazards and impediments. We will be waylaid and abducted from our journey but yet we shall not be strayed.

And no matter what we must keep our faith and our resolve with the greatest of patience and fortitude. By God’s grace we shall succeed. Transkrip Pidato Kebangsaan “Ketuanan Rakyat,” supra.

Anwar Ibrahim walks a perilous tightrope within a Federation that could easily unravel. Whether he will succeed in the long run remains to be seen. And the shape of the new Malaysia is still far too hazy to see clearly. For all that, his optimism is refreshing.

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