Sorry no cure, Anwar, whether you’re merely citing a historical source or just a slip of the tongue

PRIME Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim used the K-word! When asked about it, he said his tongue slipped when he was quoting from the Hikayat Hang Tuah. I suppose this is the problem of having geriatric ministers – one way or another, they tend to slip.

Anyhow, Anwar could not have used the K-word at a more inopportune time.

Indians – especially working-class Indians – are one of Anwar’s staunchest in the country. Believe it or not, Anwar might be more of a leader to the Indians than he is to the Malays. The Chinese back Anwar because he is the head of Pakatan Harapan (PH) but the Indians back him in and off himself.

Despite being such a staunch supporter or Anwar, or precisely because they are such staunch supporters of Anwars, Indians are increasingly feeling very disappointed with Anwar after he became the PM last year.

First, former three-term Klang MP Charles Santiago – a prominent Indian politician in PH –was dropped right before the 2022 general election. Then Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy, another prominent Indian politician in PH was dropped before the Aug 12 six state polls.

When campaigning during the Aug 12 elections, Anwar also surprised many Indians when he harshly rebuked a teenage Indian girl when she asked him a question although the girl was so awestruck by Anwar that she was visibly shivering when she spoke to him.

After the Aug 12 elections, Anwar for some inexplicable reasons decided to personally convert a Hindu man to Islam. A Hindu being converted to Islam is one thing but for Anwar to do it personally at a time when Indians are already having a difficult time coming to terms with the Indira Gandhi and Loh Siew Hong cases was a whole other thing.

Straw that broke the camel’s back

In the Dec 12 cabinet reshuffle, V. Sivakumar who was the only Indian minister in the cabinet was dropped but no other Indian politician was elected to replace him (Gobind Singh doesn’t count).

More recently, Anwar used the K- word – a word as offensive to the Indians as the N-word which is offensive to the blacks – while he was speaking to students of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) in Tanjung Malim and only realised that he had made a mistake after he was prompted about it a day or two later.

Of course, Anwar is saying that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings when he said it – he was just quoting the term from a Malay chronicle which did not use the term in a derogatory manner.

Bersatu Putrajaya MP Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin earns the wrath of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in September after he “threw some choice words” against the latter

But I doubt this will assuage the feelings of the Indian electorate. It is impossible for a Malaysian, especially the PM of Malaysia, to not know that the K-word is an offensive word to Indians.

Anwar can claim that his tongue had slipped and the word had dropped out of his mouth without ill intention but that still doesn’t explain why he didn’t retract or apologise for using the word on the spot.

He only realised that he made a mistake and apologised for it at a different session in Putrajaya. That it took him a day or two to realise he had fumbled – and that too after it had been pointed out to him – doesn’t really speak much of his intention or mental acuity.

And it is not like Anwar doesn’t understand that words can hurt. When the former education minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin threw some choice words against him, the latter was so hurt by it that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) demanded that MalaysiaNow – the only publication that reported what was said in verbatim – take down the report while MACC subjected Radzi to a in corruption investigation a few days later.

(Editor’s Note: However, the Bersatu Putrajaya MP took a jibe at Anwar when he teased that there are some people who like to quote verses or arguments that are supposedly lifted from a certain scripture even though the said verse or argument does not even exist.

“This technique is used so that they appear smarter and more sophisticated than others. These people are also quite confident when speaking because they think that everyone who listens will be amazed and believe what is said,” penned Radzi on his Facebook page.

“From a psychological point of view, this attitude is related to the concept of grandiosity and narcissistic personality disorder.”)

Losing a valuable pillar

Anwar knows by his own experience and action that words do cause hurt and when one is hurt, one will entertain a desire to retaliate.

Anwar currently doesn’t lead a very strong government. He and his ministers keep repeating the mantra “we are strong, we won’t be toppled, we are strong, we won’t be toppled” precisely because they are not strong and they fear being toppled.

Even if the economy is doing great on paper as the Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli claims, it is only doing great on paper. At the grassroot level, nobody is saying that the economy is doing great. Some say it is OK while others say it is lousy but nobody says that it is doing great.

That Tun Daim Zainuddin’s Menara Ilham has been seized last week also suggests that the old order and the Madani government might be heading to collision in the near future.

Considering all this, it is most unfortunate that Anwar is choosing to alienate the Indians who are arguably his strong supporters for no good reason at this critical juncture.

William Faulkner had an insight about mules. He said: “A mule will labour 10 years willingly and patiently for you – for the privilege of kicking you once.”

The common folks are a lot like mules. We are often powerless and helpless, and have thus learned to endure the inequities that we are subjected to in silence. But one day – like the mule – we will get our chance to deliver one kick.

At the right time, just one kick at the right place is enough to bring the entire structure down. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. – Dec 25, 2023


Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE