Can 2 old warriors trouble Najib?

BURYING THE HATCHET? Nobody knows what will happen after Anwar and Dr Mahathir's "historic handshake" on Sept 5.


    Sep 13, 2016

    Can 2 old warriors trouble Najib?

    THEY used to detest each other and have called each other awful names.

    But on Sept 5, the nasty history between Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad seemed a thing of the past as the pair put on big smiles, shook hands and made small talk.

    They had not met since the day Dr Mahathir sacked Anwar from the government after accusing him of corruption and immoral behaviour.

    The encounter which took place in a crowded courtroom in Kuala Lumpur has been hailed as the "historic handshake".

    It took quite a bit of planning on the part of the mastermind and Parti Keadilan Rak-yat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali and only a small circle of people knew about it.

    One of them was PKR politician Najwan Hulaimi, an engineer who used to be Anwar's former special officer and who is now in the Azmin circle.

    Mr Najwan was the only person who managed to snap a picture of the handshake with his mobile phone.

    He put it up on Twitter, it went viral and was picked up by the local media and foreign news agencies.

    Mr Najwan was seated behind Mr Azmin and Dr Mahathir as they chatted and waited for Anwar to arrive.

    But all conversation came to a stop when Anwar was escorted into the courtroom and there was an awkward moment as the former adversaries locked eyes.

    There was no script for this.

    It was a situation that few thought would ever happen.

    As people whipped out their mobile phones to record the moment, Anwar moved towards Dr Mahathir who stood up to greet him.

    They exchanged how-are-you's while flashing their widest and handsomest smiles amid chants of "Reformasi!" (Reformation) and "Bebas Anwar!" (Free Anwar).

    The hook-up has been portrayed as Dr Mahathir lending his clout to Anwar's legal bid to stop the National Security Council Act but they were not fooling anyone.

    Just five months ago, Dr Mahathir was still going on about Anwar's immoral behaviour and now they are about to become BFFs.

    Dr Mahathir is an old hand at the game.

    He has tried one thing after another and coupling with Anwar is the latest in his adventure to oust Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

    Mr Najib has been quite unshakable after the big wins in Sarawak and the twin by-elections.

    The Prime Minister is on a winning streak and this move was to disrupt his momentum.

    Mr Najwan had tweeted: "Pertemuan bersejarah. Politik ternyata satu seni serba mungkin" (Historic meeting, politics the art of the possible).

    The news portal Free Malaysia Today slammed it as "the insanity of the times we live in" but it was basically realpolitik at play - going for what is attainable rather than what is right or the best.

    The next big handshake will probably be between Anwar and (former deputy prime minister) Muhyiddin Yassin.

    The big question now is: What next after the "historic handshake"?

    No one can quite predict what lies ahead, although some in PKR have hinted of a political deal between the two parties.

    "I suppose some form of cooperation will come out of it.

    "It's still early days, they will need to iron out their differences but the channel of communication has been opened," said lawyer Khaw Veon Szu.

    Umno has every reason to be worried and is watching closely, even though its leaders have run down the meeting as, among other things, a "Bollywood drama" and the act of a desperado.

    Many in Umno see it as the ultimate U-turn by Dr Mahathir.

    They went against public opinion to prop up Dr Mahathir when he sacked Anwar and now they feel played out.

    Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is not taking it lightly. He has urged his party to keep a close eye on the development and to be on the alert for any eventualities.

    Like many astute politicians, Mr Khairy recognised the significance of the Anwar-Mahathir handshake.

    But the event has, by and large, gone over the heads of ordinary people.

    There was a bit of a stir but there was no sustained interest and it flattened out after a couple of days.

    Had this taken place three or four years ago, it would have caused a crazy euphoria.

    "The impact of these two ageing gladiators is no longer the same.

    "It was supposed to be a titanic moment but they have been overtaken by events and the Generation Y and millennials don't see it as a big deal," said a former political adviser to Anwar.

    It was also another indication of the dwindling influence of the former prime minister.

    His Citizens' Declaration campaign has fizzled out and his new Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia received a lukewarm welcome.

    There has also been a deafening silence on the part of Democratic Action Party (DAP) leaders, including Lim Kit Siang whose full-time occupation is to comment on everything under the sun.

    According to a Penang DAP politician, there have been no cues from the senior party leaders unlike during the Citizens' Declaration campaign when Mr Lim urged people in his party to give their full support.

    Mr Khaw said the Chinese community has deep reservations about Dr Mahathir.

    "The average Chinese does not trust him...

    "To them, the genesis of problems like excesses, corruption, nepotism and the rise of radical Islam took root under his watch," he added.

    It would be folly to brush off the coming together of these two former foes as a small matter.

    Together, they become a bigger enemy of Umno.

    At the same time, it is increasingly clear that Dr Mahathir is no longer the opinion-shaper that he once was.

    People feel that his campaign of change is driven by hate and not by hope and aspiration.

    He represents the past and not the future.

    So much of the politics of the last decade has been propelled by hatred towards Umno.

    The opposition parties gained ground riding on this sentiment.

    Yet, the opposition is now being spearheaded by some of the biggest ex-Umno guns.

    It is so ironic and contradictory and it is little wonder that many, especially the younger generation, are not inspired, excited or even interested in what they see as old politics driven by old faces.