BE THEY, the ancient “Aesop’s Fables” and the “Panchatantra”, or even modern ones such as the celebrated George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, human characterisation through animals remains an effective method of putting across a point or two.
There are various reasons that writers, past and present, choose anthropomorphism, defined as attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities.
In the local context, the Malay proverbs are rich with human characterisation through animals, and since candid presentations of actual events seemed to have not got through to a segment of society, resorting to anthropomorphism may be an option.
If a recent local political development was to be narrated in the Aesopian tradition, it would probably be best told as a story of a fox, once entrusted to care for all the chicken coops in Malaysia that were found wanting.
It was caught with its paw in the coops, relieved of its duties, put on trial and found guilty and awaiting to be caged. Somehow, the political system allowed it to mainstream itself and presented himself before the kingdom’s council and it spoke at length on how to fatten chicken.
It may then be asked why the fox was entrusted to care for the chicken coops in the first place. The answer would be that it was a wolf in a sheep’s clothing, though the Malay equivalent — musang berbulu ayam (a feather-covered fox) — would be more apt.
The problem is that, in someone else’s quest for expediency and power, the politician may still find his way out of the cage and regain a footing in the political throne.
The Malay proverb pisang takkan berbuah dua kali (literal meaning bananas will not sprout twice from the same tree) or the English equivalent that lightning does not strike twice seems to be on the verge of being debunked as the wily fox is charting its path back to where all the coops nestled.
That is what the current state of affairs the nation had been reduced to.
It all started when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture; left), against all sound advice, wanted to become prime minister (PM) and was prepared to take in Umno en-bloc, obviously convincing himself that he would be able to handle the kleptocrats within once he assumed the coveted post.
Just slightly six months into the premiership, he is now a target of disgust and displeasure from a cross section of the citizenry. He is unable to focus on tackling the malaise affecting the nation that came about from the Covid-19 pandemic which had wreaked havoc on the economy.
Given his razor-thin majority in Parliament, his focus is on how to remain in office, and he got his work cut out for him when his allies, the kleptocrats in particular, started flexing their muscles.
Muhyiddin’s troubles were further compounded when the grapevines started tingling that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in his quest to get his numbers, allegedly was not averse to include the kleptocrats.
Though there were many denials from his ranks, not many believed them.
But a couple of days ago, when Maria Chin, an MP from Anwar’s PKR, staged a walked out when former Umno president Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak delivered a speech in Parliament, she was viciously criticised and the critics were not only from Najib’s Umno or Barisan Nasional, but from the ranks of PKR.
There seems to be a change of attitude from among some of those in PKR towards Najib, the epitome of the kleptocratic regime, and that working with him is no more an abhorrence.
Some of them had rationalised that what is important is for Anwar to get his hands on the Prime Ministership and he would deal with the kleptocrats later.
For those who were privy to some of the narratives shared within Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, when he was trying to convince all and sundry that it was alright to abandon Pakatan Harapan (PH) and join the new self-styled Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance, his henchmen and Muhyiddin himself had used the same rationale — get the PM post first and then deal with the kleptocrats later.
Anwar’s boys may argue that their champion is different than Muhyiddin. Yet, the perils and pitfalls would be no different.
If the manoeuvre is pursued and realised, Anwar’s estranged confidante, former PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (right) may still get the last laugh.
After all, he is labelled a traitor and much hated among the ruling and Opposition ranks for his leading role in the Sheraton Move, which led to the collapse of the PH government and heralding the PN.
Many have forgotten how Anwar had betrayed Azmin long before that, during the contest for the PKR deputy presidency, when Anwar publicly threw his support behind Azmin’s challenger, Rafizi Ramli.
Azmin managed to ward off Rafizi and Anwar’s challenge, only to see a video, allegedly of his sexual indiscretions being publicly and systematically distributed all over the social media platforms.
Though Anwar denied his involvement, characters associated with him were gleefully attacking and affirming the video of being Azmin’s.
By any standards, Azmin, who stood by Anwar when the latter faced multiple cases of sexual misdemeanours, would have expected Anwar to stand up in his defence. That did not come either.
While all those incidents would not justify Azmin’s betrayal via the Sheraton Move, what would all those who had mercilessly condemned him the self-proclaimed principled ones feel if the Anwar/ kleptocrats deal is realised?
The Japanese’s “snake following the serpent” proverb sounds just right.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.