Some people were surprised to see me celebrating Anwar Ibrahim’s release last week. Some of these people have seen me belittled the movement that Anwar helped started more than six years ago. Now, let me explain my position.
During the Asian Financial Crisis, I do believe Mahathir did the right thing by reversing Anwar’s decisions and ultimately, refusing IMF’s aid package. The IMF package in my opinion was too austere to act as a medicine. IMF wanted too many changes in a very short time frame. If Mahathir had gone with Anwar’s decision, Malaysia would probably suffer what Indonesia had.
Of course, that does not mean Anwar should be thrown to jail and treated the way he was treated. With a clash of policy, in my opinion, Anwar dismissal was sufficient.
But then, once dismissed, Anwar called up his supporters and his supporters in turn turned Kuala Lumpur into a war zone in 1999. Perhaps, that riot was not planned by Anwar. Maybe the riot itself was instigated by some of his mindless supporters. But still, whether it was planned or not, it was irresponsible to say the least.
The government acted almost swiftly to suppress the dissent. In some sense, it was good to see peace was restored, no matter how uneasy it was. On the other hand, as a result to that, the government used the Internal Security Act, an act somewhat similar to the Patriot Act in idea that was introduced by the Bush Administration a few years later, continuously in order to suppress almost every opposition toward the government then led by Mahathir.
Later, Anwar was charged with corruption and sodomy. I am not sure whether Anwar is guilty or not but the proofs that were presented against Anwar are not convincing. Here is where the ancient Greek wisdom comes in – innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In Anwar’s case, there is certainly reasonable doubt. At the same time, throughout those trials, a few Anwar’s supporters were silenced, their rights stripped.
And then, after all that, somehow, Anwar is associated with freedom and justice.
I love freedom but despite that association, I do not support Anwar. Though the movement did upstart a new call for freedom, it was somewhat shortsighted as it main goal was to fight for Anwar, not freedom per se. It was hypocritical from my point of view.
However, Voltaire once said, “Monsieur l’abb, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” I truly believe in that. I believe he was wronged for some dubious reason and as a result, his rights were stolen from him and along with the others that protested with him.
That is the main reason why I celebrate Anwar’s freedom. Notice that I am not celebrating Anwar’s release because he is Anwar Ibrahim but because freedom is threatened. I believe it is somehow our responsibility to fight for Anwar’s freedom, may it by force or by merely disagree with the power that be quietly in our heart, regardless whether we agree or disagree with the oppresseds’ opinion. If you disagree with this, remember Martin Niemoeller and his stylized words:
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
The other reason that I am glad to see Anwar free is the state of the opposition. The opposition is in dire need for a charismatic leader. Without a good opposition leader, Barisan Nasional, the current ruling coalition, will retain a ridiculous supermajority in the Malaysian Parliament. Like in economics, a competitive market is more efficient than a monopoly. With a monopoly, a deadweight loss is inevitable.
That, my friends, are two reasons on why I celebrate Anwar’s release. Again, I say, I do not support Anwar.
p/s – Yeah baby! After three semesters, I have finally gotten into the game theory class. Yeah! My misery is now almost complete.