Friday Jottings: When weak is to be taken as strong

WHETHER it is the sign of the times or out of sheer desperation, hundreds of copies, if not more, of a 186-page booklet titled “Setahun Bersama Kerajaan Madani – A Year With the Madani Government” were distributed at the National Mosque.

Or probably it was timed so as to coincide with the week that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) had chosen to perform his prayers there.

While the distribution can help explain the efforts, measures and successes of the Government over the year, it is doubtful that it will change much of public opinion until and unless something tangible occurs.

With the ringgit going south and costs of living, perceived or real, heading skywards, there seems to be more clarity to the earlier cacophonic rumblings directed at the PM and his Government.

Furthermore, if previous disgruntlements were attributed to the opposition and their supporters, today, sympathisers and sycophants alike, find it difficult to defend the position of the Government leaders.

Actually, the diminishing ringgit and higher costs of living are not the last straws.

The disaffection saw it reaching an all-time high when Najib Razak was given partial pardon earlier this month. It saw even staunch allies to the PM turning their backs on him and the Government.

It seems that it finally dawned upon some the PM’s supporters that there was a possibility that when the current government was formed, the deal that was cut with Umno included clemency for Najib, partial or otherwise.

Anwar’s critics had a field day, pointing out that there shouldn’t be any doubt that such a deal was made and that it had been obvious from the start with the appointment of Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as his deputy while 47 prima facie cases waiting to be tried.

And that subsequently Zahid was given the discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) under Anwar’s watch only affirmed what was already apparent.

By then, the compromise made to get to be PM was not something some of his supporters could stomach but the unhappiness were still rumblings in the horizon.

Without much defence to what had occurred, the PM then embarked on a quest to go after “sharks and not only fries” who had committed abuse of power and corruption.

If he and his supporters thought that they were able to swing public opinion, the manner the whole exercise was conducted and that it was spearheaded by the nation’s top corruption buster, whose image was totally shredded by the PM and his ilk while they were in the opposition, was lukewarm at best.

Instead, opinions that it was an exercise targeted at his political nemesis and an act of vendetta emerged and another slap to the anti-corruption champion’s image he had been trying to nurture.

Amidst all this, came the Najib partial clemency and from a reformist and anti-corruption champion, the PM is reduced to being another power-seeking politician whose oration does not equal action, no matter how fiery it is.

Unfortunately, fated or it was long coming, Anwar’s prowess as an administrator and Finance Minister is being questioned at every turn.

When he decided to assume the Finance Minister portfolio as well, which blatantly went against Pakatan Harapan’s electoral promise, his supporters, at every turn, reminded all and sundry that Anwar was dubbed the best Asian finance minister when he was serving the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad administration in the 1990s.

That tag justified Anwar’s assumption of the portfolio no matter how convincing PH were on how detrimental it was to the nation’s well-being if a PM held the finance portfolio as well as witnessed in Najib.

Attempts by his critics to point out that Anwar managed to be top finance minister in Asia because the then PM, Cabinet, Government and administration were efficient and capable were brushed aside by his supporters, leaving Anwar as the special one.

But today, the myth is shattered if not totally buried.

And it is not because the lacklustre opposition had suddenly discovered their worth and managed to expose Anwar for what he is, which is definitely what he and his supporters had been trying to project.

The disparage is actually self-inflicted.

Despite attempts to explain the external causes to the depreciating ringgit, it is Anwar’s utterances and campaign promises that had come back to bite him.

Memes mocking Anwar of his criticisms of the Government for being unable to address the sliding ringgit are being posted on social media widely.

During the campaign trail, Anwar, then the opposition leader had mocked the then PM and Government that they did not know how to govern hence the reason for the sliding ringgit and the rising costs of living.

He had on several other occasions too told the PM and Government to resign since they did not know how to govern.

His critics had obviously not forgotten as they now shared posts of Anwar promising to bring down the price of fuel within 24 hours after taking over the Government apart from forgiving college students of Government’s student loan.

Even Anwar’s gloat that despite the depreciating ringgit, Malaysia recorded the highest ever approved investment at RM330 billion – signalling a robust economy – was disputed and that approved investments do not necessarily translate into “real” investments.

Even an MP from Anwar’s party PKR joined in to add to the dispute, saying it was too early to celebrate the record investment as there was an apparent contradiction between the depreciation of the ringgit against the US dollar and the record-high approved investments.

Simply put, with investments leaned upon US dollars, the weaker the ringgit, the bigger the amount of investments are when declared in ringgit.

Alas, for the purpose bragging, a weaker ringgit is convenient. Conveniently ignored is the mantra the currency is weak because the PM and government know not how to govern.

That however, only applies to then, not now. – pic credit: Anwar Ibrahim FB

  • Shamsul Akmar is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.