I intend to open up this country to democracy, and anyone who is against that, I will jail – Joao Baptista de Oliveira, 20th Century Brazilian politician 

Thankfully, Malaysia isn’t like that anymore. 

In what can only be described as retributive karma of the dramatic kind, Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia 10th premier just as his long-time nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad began contemplating a future of political obscurity. 

It’s about time. Dr Mahathir is old enough to know better, yet he conspired to delay Anwar’s ascension to the top for the longest time. His hubris knew no bounds either: right up to the night of November 19, he actually thought he was Malaysia’s best bet for the premiership. 

Alas, how the mighty have fallen. 

The island of Langkawi in Malaysia’s northeast was single-handedly promoted and developed by the physician throughout his 22-year leadership. For all that, its people so rejected him that he lost his deposit. In political terms, that’s about as humiliating as it gets.  

Indeed, his entire party – including a son, Mukhriz – was annihilated.  

Anwar’s triumph underscores his never-say-die, singe-minded perseverance in the face of unrelenting adversity. Sacked in 1988 for “moral misconduct” by Dr M, he was immediately clapped behind bars without bail for seven years until the federal court finally acquitted him of abuse of power and sodomy.  

He was jailed once again in 2013 for sodomy and spent another five years behind bars until he was finally pardoned in 2018.

In contrast, ex-premier Najib Razak spent five years free on bail and was accorded every privilege of a former premier despite being accused of the greatest theft in global history.

The markets endorsed Anwar’s appointment jubilantly with the stock, forex and bond markets all rallying to highs not seen for almost two years. The broader index of the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, for example, leapt almost 4%. 

In contrast, when it appeared, on Wednesday, that a government dominated by the Islamic Party of Malaysia, appeared likely to gain power, all three markets retreated in fright.

Anwar will inherit a government beset with formidable challenges, On the one hand, the country faces serious economic challenges ranging from huge domestic debt and declining investor confidence to rising inflation amid a persistently weak currency.

On another level, the question of education, specifically the type of education being force fed to many children is assuming sinister proportions. 

After Anwar’s victory, news surfaced of Malay children expressing fear that the Democratic Action Party, a partner in Anwar’s coalition, would stop the call to prayer and force girls to wear skirts. 

It emerged only after parents and at least one set of grandparents complained to the newspapers. It’s led to a probe and public outrage. 

More importantly, it’s sparked questions about the level of political indoctrination by religious teachers in primary schools. The “creeping Islamisation” of Malaysia has been long warned about by political analysts and journalists as far back as the late 80s. It seems to have finally come home to roost. 

In many ways, the election revealed a fractured country cleaved along rural and urban lines among the Malays; secular and conservative lines among the races. 

For all the against-all-odds return of the Comeback Kid, Anwar Ibrahim is inheriting serious problems. 

He will need all the help, and luck, he can get. 



The word “politics” is derived from the Latin “poly” meaning “many” and the word “ticks” meaning “blood sucking parasites.” – Dave Barry, news-paper columnist 

I’m not asking for much. Not really much at all.  

All I’m pleading for is a government led by common sense, that gets the little  things right, that’s not always looking around for the next big project.  

In fact, spare us the big projects altogether, thank you very much. It is almost always cost-inflated, wasteful, excessive and, worst of all, probably unnecessary.   That’s why it’s becoming harder and harder not to be cynical in today’s Malaysia. 

Let’s start with the small things, the little repairs  that can actually save lives and mitigate damage. In short, let’s reclaim our maintenance culture and stop our build-new-and-bigger-things mentality immediately. 

City Hall should get its priorities right because the roads in Kuala Lumpur have more potholes than the hairs on Khairy Jamaluddin’s chinny-chin-chin. 

The last time anything was done in that respect was when that famous chin made unplanned contact with a pothole in Banting two years ago. That particular hole was  immediately sealed with great fanfare. However, nothing else has changed. City Hall is back to idiotic projects that cost a lot – the River of Life anyone? – but don’t make much sense one way or the other. 

Some of the potholes along Bangsar or Sri Hartamas can cause serious injuries to  hapless motorcyclists, not to mention expensive damage to car axles.   

Maybe we should await the agency’s release of A Pothole Dodger’s Guide to Kuala Lumpur before venturing out on the streets. 

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I remember being proud of our country’s roads, which the Reader’s Digest once described as the “best in Southeast Asia.” Indeed, we seem to have lost a lot of our “bests” where the region is concerned. 

Let’s get back our once-nice roads, shall we? It’s not rocket science. Not every expensive but oh-so-very-pleasing to the eye and to the health.  

Back to our seemingly-forgotten culture of maintenance. Our capital city has many beautiful buildings that are sadly in disrepair. Examples include KL’s famous Railway Station and the majestic Sultan Abdul Samad Building opposite the Royal Selangor Club.

These are lovely structures  that are being left to nature. They are worth preserving as iconic emblems to our nation’s history. Instead, we treat them with an indifference that’s as cruel as it is ignorant. 

Tomorrow the nation goes to the polls and push will come to shove: we are at a  crossroads.

Essentially, we’re faced with three choices and that’s only because no party can fool everyone all the time. 

But we should know what we don’t want. I don’t want a party that once blindly supported kleptocracy and, in many respects, still seems to. 

I certainly don’t want a side that encourages obscurantism, a retreat into medievalism and a shunning of modernity or liberalism. 

Once you’ve knocked off those, the way forward is apparent. 

What the head makes cloudy, the heart will make very clear. 



In the end Brazil went back to Lula,
The left whooped, a ‘hoot and a ‘hula.
Bolsa felt despair.
Rare, hard to bear
For he was blamed, people yelling you-lah!

Latin A was swinging to the left,
It was why Donald felt bereft.
It was a shame,
He could not blame
Joe or the Democrats for the theft.

He needed a trustworthy coup,
Even the military would do.
If smoothly inveigled,
It might even be legal.
There’d be no sham; it’d be the real poo.

Rishi thought it would be most unfair,
If power was seized in the public glare.
Although his mandate
Wasn’t all that great,
He thought that was neither here nor there.

At home, the circus is coming to town.
It’s almost begun, it’s the countdown.
Scoundrels and thieves, with those who achieve,
Everyone aspires to wear the crown.

Bro ‘Mail must hope to remain Boss.
Anything less would surely be dross.
He can, of course, plead
Nothing’s guaranteed.
Tok Mat might think it time for his toss.

Gather round good citizens, cast your vote.
Let’s get rid of the national bloat.
The bells will soon toll
For our nation’s soul.
Let’s not fail ‘cos we missed the boat.