Thursday, September 18, 2008

One deadline too many for Anwar

One deadline too many for Anwar
19 Sep 08 : 9.00AM
By Khairil Anhar and N Shashi Kala
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Anwar has sent yet another letter to the prime minister, this time asking him to convene an emergency session of Parliament
HAVING watched one self-set deadline — 16 Sept 2008 or ‘916’ as DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang likes to call it — pass with a whimper, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is now trumpeting a new date for Malaysians, already weary of political shenanigans, to watch out for: 23 Sept.
The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor wants Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to convene an emergency session of Parliament by that date, ostensibly to face a no-confidence vote by the opposition parties against him.
“This is in accordance with Order 11(3) of the Standing Orders of Parliament and warrants an immediate response given the gravity of today’s political impasse,” the 61-year-old politician told reporters at a press conference at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya on 18 Sept.
Waiting to grab power: Anwar, seen here with PKR vice-president and Subang MP R Sivarasa and Information Chief and Batu MP Tian ChuaIs this yet another empty threat by Anwar?
The former deputy premier has, for months, has been keeping the government and the public on tenterhooks with repeated boasts of toppling the government by 16 Sept (see timeline below). His claim was that he has enticed at least 31 Barisan Nasional (BN) Members of Parliament (MPs) to cross over, hence giving the Pakatan Rakyat a simple majority in Parliament.
Well, that much-ballyhooed day came and went, with Anwar spectacularly failing to deliver anything concrete. In fact, it would seem that the self-styled prime minister-in-waiting has been shifting the goal post on when exactly he will take over government.
The best he could muster on 16 Sept was to announce that Pakatan Rakyat leaders had sent Abdullah a letter on the previous day, asking for a meeting to discuss the country’s political and security situation, and the peaceful “transition of power”.
Anwar is playing around with dates.But he has thus far refused — even under tremendous pressure and much name-calling — to reveal the names of those willing to defect, citing “security concerns over the welfare of the crossover MPs”.
Instead, he insists on first, showing the list only to the prime minister in their never-going-to-happen meeting, and now, in the equally unlikely emergency session of Parliament.
“If he really has the list of MPs, he should just reveal it, and need not wait to meet me. He does not have the list. He is a liar,” Abdullah was reported to have said on 16 Sept, as a response to Anwar’s attempt to engineer a meeting.
The embattled BN chairman also took issue with Anwar’s claim about the letter’s content.
“The letter did not state anything about power transfer or list of defectors. Otherwise, he would not be waiting patiently buying time and making so much noise about it,” an irate Abdullah told reporters, before dismissing as "crazy" Anwar’s concern that defectors may be arrested or an emergency declared to stop the planned takeover.
Putting the burden on the BN
The negative response to his proposal and Abdullah’s subsequent labeling of him as “a threat to national security” has unsurprisingly failed to dampen Anwar’s rhetoric.
In his latest salvo, the former deputy prime minister insists that “a delay in Abdullah’s response [to the call for an emergency session of Parliament] would be interpreted as nothing short of a further sabotage of the democratic process and abuse of executive power.
“If this is rejected then we [Pakatan Rakyat leaders] have to convene an immediate meeting to discuss the next course of action. There are many options and possibilities,” he said. Also at the press conference on 18 Sept was PAS secretary-general Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar, and PKR vice-president R Sivarasa and information chief Tian Chua.
Abdullah (left) at the Umno Supreme Council meeting on 18 SeptIn an immediate response, Abdullah predictably rejected Anwar’s demand for him to convene an emergency parliamentary session.
"I don't see the need as the Parliament will sit after Ramadhan. So use that time to do whatever," Abdullah said after chairing an Umno supreme council meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre on 18 Sept, Bernama reported.
With Parliament set to resume its sitting on 13 Oct, Anwar has to weigh his next move carefully. If he truly has the numbers on his side, why not just push for a new government, either by getting the King’s consent, or getting the crossover MPs to resign from their respective BN component parties, thereby triggering a fall in the Abdullah government?
Why keep coming up with excuses like the one he gave to the thousands who participated in the Malaysia Day rally at the MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya on 15 Sept?
“Though we have the numbers to form the government, we want to give Pak Lah a chance to leave gracefully. That’s why we sent him the letter asking for a meeting to discuss the transfer of power. We don’t want to drag him out of office,” Anwar told the flag-waving crowd.
Thousands turned up for the Malaysia Day rally on 15 Sept to hear Anwar affirm his plans to topple the government
So now, we appear to be at a stalemate where Anwar is apparently unable or unwilling to move forward without Abdullah taking the first step, and the prime minister in no mood to accommodate his foe.
What will Anwar do if the 23 Sept deadline (which, coincidentally, is a day before his trial on a sodomy charge is set to resume) comes and goes with still no change in government?
Is he going to come up with another laundry list of excuses, some of which have been provided by a jittery government unsure of how much of a threat Anwar really poses?
Abdullah’s comment on 17 Sept about Anwar’s destabilising influence on the country appeared to play right into the latter’s hands.
“He has become a threat to the economy and possibly (national) security," Abdullah said, adding that Anwar had also lied about the country’s foreign direct investment status.
Anwar keeps moving the goalpostsThe implication was that Anwar could be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) which was most recently used on 12 Sept to detain popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok. Another person, reporter Tan Hoon Cheng of Sin Chew Daily, was also arrested but released a day later.
Anwar has labeled Abdullah’s comments as being “reckless and irresponsible in the light of the disastrous outcome of last Friday’s ISA raids.”
As for Abdullah’s demand for him to release the list of defecting MPs, Anwar reiterated: “What is required by the Prime Minister is just to know that we have the majority of Members of Parliament. We have told him, and he said he wants to know the details. (Yes) then convene an emergency session of Parliament. Then you’ll see. If he doesn’t believe me, then go to the Parliament.”
Anwar’s position has been bolstered by the pullout of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) from the BN on 17 Sept, which cited a lack of confidence in Abdullah’s administration. Though the party only has two MPs in its fold, it means Anwar’s task of enticing MPs is made just a little bit easier. Now, instead of 31, he only has to convince 29 to cross over.
And if it is not by 23 Sept, you can bet Anwar will conjure up another date to keep the masses guessing and his ambition of becoming prime minister alive.

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