The Calm Before The Storm

It seems like the chess game Anwar Ibrahim is playing with the nation, or is it poker, is reaching end-game. His apparent revelation of MCA members of parliament imminently crossing the floor has upped the ante and possibly set the stage.

What this means for us all is the subject of much debate. Some are uncertain about whether a change of government at this stage is a good thing while others are uncertain as to whether UMNO will allow for a change and the lengths it will go to stop it.

There are whispers of it being possible that the incumbents might resort to triggering Emergency powers, and the suspension of the rule of law that entails, to defeat the possibility of the Pakatan Rakyat taking over government. There are concerns that the Internal Security Act might be invoked, detentions of key figures would greatly assist in undermining efforts to that end.

In all of this, civil unrest in whatever form, from peaceable demonstrations that turn unruly or even violent to endemic and seeming unstoppable violent crimes, could become the convenient excuse for the taking of measures.

It seems like a radical step but then Malaysians are no strangers to extreme strategic plays in aid of power grabbing or simply staying in power. Though we have been virtually desensitized through over-exposure to the socio-political significance of the mass ISA detentions under Operasi Lalang in 1987 and the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas in 1988, these events remain significant not merely for their historical value. In providing an insight into the range of Dr Mahathir’s tactical playbook, they also shed light on the manner in which senior UMNO personalities might approach challenges in the present day.

Dr Mahathir’s impact on the evolution of UMNO cannot be downplayed, more so for the iron grip he had on the party. He was indisputably UMNO during his tenure and it is more probable than not that we will continue to see glimmers of his trademark style of crisis management in the time it will take for UMNO to be free from his influence. The continued detention of the HINDRAF 5 despite the manifest lack of any credible factual basis is just one example. The sacrificing of the lives of those detained and their families to secure a perceived political benefit is classic Dr Mahathir.

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