What is Anwar’s game?

What was opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim thinking of when he agreed to take part in the debate with the convicted felon, former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak?

Najib is setting the stage for a political comeback, but what is Anwar’s plan? He was foolish to give political legitimacy to the world’s greatest kleptocrat.

Najib has been investigated, charged and sentenced for his role in the 1MDB scandal. Najib belongs in Sungai Buloh, whilst Anwar should step down.

If Anwar was desperate for a sparring partner in debates, that person should have been Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Ismail Sabri controls the nation’s purse strings. He instructs his Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz and money is made available. Ismail Sabri is the decision-maker, not Najib. Or are people speculating that Najib is the puppet master, and is the one controlling Ismail Sabri’s strings?

The Najib versus Anwar debate on May 12

Most of us disapproved of the Anwar-Najib debate, which was first mooted in early April when PKR’s vice-president Rafizi Ramli invited Najib to debate the Sapura Energy bail-out.

Desperate to rebuild reputation

Najib dangled the carrot and told Rafizi he would take part in the debate only if Anwar joined too.

Najib is desperate to rebuild his reputation, which lies in tatters after his conviction in the SRC International scandal. He is eager to influence public opinion. He pops up at election hustings, schools, buka puasa events and recently, the palace. He does not care that he brings down the reputation of those whom he meets.

This debate was a distraction. Will Malaysians realise that this is not a popularity contest? This is not a game show where there are winners and losers.

There are real issues at stake and in this debate, what each person said, or suggests, about saving Sapura, or the downtrodden rakyat, means very little, especially as the one who calls the shots is now in Washington, trying to communicate with the American president, Joe Biden.

How did this debate change the life of Makcik Kiah, or the poor pakcik who is struggling to make ends meet?

Addicted to fame

Najib is addicted to fame. He believes every word that is generated by his own publicity machine. He is a master manipulator and he had a good mentor – former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar was wrong to give Najib extra publicity. Is he oblivious to Najib’s cunning? Anwar accepted Najib’s bait instead of giving him the cold shoulder.

No one can advise Anwar, as he only listens to his own counsel. After the debate, Najib will continue to have a dig at Anwar, and with his social media presence, has the potential to do Anwar lasting damage. It has already started.

When Najib met his supporters at the Putra World Trade Centre, he had already fashioned himself as the “people’s champion”, as opposed to Anwar, the “forensic champion”.

Najib, the self-styled “people’s champion”, is still focused on playing the race card. He wants Malaysians to think that it is his destiny to “save” the Malays.

Sapura must be rescued

Like Ismail Sabri, Najib does not want to risk upsetting the Malay electorate this GE15 because Sapura is a bumiputera company and must be rescued.

He wants us to think that if Sapura were allowed to go bust, its sub-contracting firms that are bumiputra owned would have to sack their workers. He said that Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) holders could lose billions of ringgit.

What about Malaysians of other ethnic origins in non-bumiputera companies that also need help during these troubled times?

What was Najib thinking when he said if Petronas were to save Sapura, the rescue bid would not cost the taxpayer any money? Does he not realise that Petronas is owned by the rakyat?

It is not the personal kitty of prime ministers, although they have constantly raided it. Any rescue attempt by Petronas means that the taxpayer will be funding the bail-out.

Throw good money after bad

PNB bailed out Sapura to the tune of RM2.68 billion in 2019, and acquired a 40 percent stake in the firm. After PNB, Sapura Energy’s second-largest shareholder is its former president, Shahril Shamsuddin, who controls 13.91 percent of the company.

Shahril mismanaged the company and now Najib wants us to save him again. Why throw more good money after bad?

Shahril and his board members enjoyed fat salaries and huge perks when times were good. They became complacent and took their eyes off the ball. They became reckless with how they ran Sapura.

The ordinary rakyat gained nothing from company mismanagement and political interference. We are fed up with our money being confiscated to help crony companies.

The rakyat is struggling and it is not fair to the taxpayer when big companies like Sapura are offered a lifeline. Who will help Ali, Ah Fatt, or Arumugam when they struggle financially? Many Malaysian households are more deserving of aid than one company, Sapura.

Lives have already been changed when family members who contracted Covid-19 became very ill and could not work, or died. It is worse when breadwinners are affected, or when businesses are forced to close forever.

The one thing of value that came from Najib was when he said that Malaysia should emulate South Korea, with major global corporate players such as Samsung and Hyundai.

Why didn’t Anwar remind Najib that in South Korea, corruption is the single most important issue in their domestic politics and corrupt presidents are swiftly investigated and jailed as soon as they are sentenced?