DATUK Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man’s dismissal of the decades-old reformasi movement as a waste of time and energy reeks of chutzpah.
The PAS deputy president pronounced this judgement on the movement for political, economic and institutional reform triggered by the travails of Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim at a Perikatan Nasional (PN) rally in Simpang Jeram the other night.
The obvious impetus for the damning opinion was the court decision last Monday (Sept 4) that gave Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) on the 47 corruption charges he faced.
The decision – applied for by the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) – is set to hang like an albatross around the neck of the unity government until the next general election in 2027.
It will be a mark of infamy on the banner of the unity government the way the ‘black eye’ inflicted on Anwar while under ISA (Internal Security Act) detention in September 1998 endured as a visual indictment of the repressive Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad years.
That said, would the sordidness of the DNAA for Zahid justify Tuan Ibrahim’s opinion that the reformasi movement – a quarter century after its ignition – was a waste of time and energy?
Tuan Ibrahim claimed the movement has only served to further the interests and ambitions of select individuals and not the cause of justice and reform of the polity, which were its avowed goals.
Reformasi spirit revival
This is a trite dismissal of a movement that has had a number of salutary consequences. Among these were the destruction of Barisan Nasional’s (BN) supermajority in parliament and the flight of the Indian Malaysian vote from its long-time moorings in the BN camp.
For a sense of how the removal of a ruling government’s two-thirds majority has impacted the polity for the better, we have to ask ourselves if the government of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Aug 2021–Oct2022) would have helped enact an anti-hopping law.
There was resistance from Ismail’s party, UMNO, to the proposed law, but the PM held steady to his promise to the opposition.
That law was enacted in 2022 largely because Ismail needed the support of the opposition to continue staying in power and was compelled to placate them by agreeing to it. This law has nevertheless brought political stability to the central and state governments.
Reformasi has had polity-improving consequences and does not deserve the derision that Tuan Ibrahim’s PN confreres subjected it to at the Simpang Jeram rally.
It is now incumbent on the reformasi Pied Piper, PM Anwar, to rescue the movement from its presently anaemic state by plucking the low-hanging fruits.
Primary among them is the separation of the advisory role from the prosecuting role of the AGC. There are other more difficult reforms to bring out, but these can wait until after the advisory/prosecutorial split in the AGC. – Sept 9, 2023
Terence Netto is a journalist with 50 years in an occupation that demands resistance to fleeting impressions.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.