PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should not use the excesses committed during the French Revolution in the 18th century as a justification not to rush in the badly needed reforms.
Known or unknown to Anwar, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars might have cost the lives of 2.5 million combatants and one million civilian casualties but the ideas of human equality and liberty remains a paramount consideration including the rights of women.
Even when the monarchy was restored because of the atrocities committed by the revolutionaries, there was no place for absolute monarchy. There are so many positive things that we can learn from the French revolution especially regarding human rights and the imperative to avoid the pitfalls associated with it.
In his inaugural speech as PM in front of 2,734 PKR delegates and 1,500 observers at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre on Saturday night (Nov 25), Anwar cited the French revolution to drive home the point that rushing through reforms might beget a chaotic situation like France.
It is, however, strange that when he was in the opposition, he never said that rushing or not rushing through reforms was a bad idea.
Why suddenly when he is in power, he is taking about not rushing through reforms and citing example of the French revolution? The revolution might have brought a chaotic situation but the gains in terms of reforming the arbitrary rule of the absolute monarchy cannot be ignored.
While Anwar focuses on the mayhem brought by the revolution, he ignores the far-reaching reforms. Yet his incarceration that was pivotal to reforms seem to be forgotten.
No clear reforms in sight
Without the reforms introduced during the French revolution, the future of France and for that matter Europe would have been constrained by the pro-monarchical forces. The French revolution might have been harsh and cruel but paved the future republican governments in Europe.
But why is Anwar using the selective example of the excesses committed in the French revolution to forestall reforms in the country? Why are reforms approached with apprehension as though they might be the cause of instability in the country?
Anwar rose in prominence because of the need for reforms in the country. The reform agenda was central to him becoming the PM of the country. Don’t tell me that within a year he has become intoxicated with power and fame.
Reformasi was the magical word that aroused the masses in wanting a political system suited to the needs of the people. Anwar has been a PM for one year but there is hardly any talk about reforms.
There is no agenda set to implement reforms. The word reform seems to have less and less significance in the country. It was in this context that Anwar seems to caution us against rushing for reforms.
Thus far, there are no reforms in the country let alone the government rushing in the reforms, hence coining of the despicable reformati word. It is not too late for reforms.
Initiate reform before it’s too late
Anwar must show by words and deeds that he is PM for all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion. He should stop pandering to the hegemonic ethnic and religious interests of the Malays merely to ensure political stability.
I agree with him that we want justice for the Palestinians but the same time Anwar in his zeal to appease the Malays cannot ride a roughshod over the feelings of the non-Malays.
He cannot and shouldn’t defend the racist and unjust admission policies to public universities and matriculation programmes. Racism and religious bigotry that strangles the creativity of Malaysians must be dismantled through the progressive introduction of reforms.
Malaysians must experience the reforms whether they are rushed through or done systematically. But reforms are badly needed in the country.
There is no Maxmilien Robespierre waiting on the sidelines in Malaysia to bring out instability and chaos. If all there is an enemy who is against reforms, then that enemy is none other than Anwar himself.
(Editor’s Note: Robespierre was a French lawyer and statesman who became one of the most widely known influential, and controversial figures of the French Revolution.)
No PM who has championed reforms so assiduously and forcefully would want to go back on reforms. There is no necessity to selectively invoke the French revolution to stall the reforms.
Reforms are like a ghost that will keep on haunting Anwar on their necessity. – Nov 30, 2023
Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy was also the former Perai state assemblyman
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook