The crazy year is upon us

DECEMBER 27 — Brace yourself, you might have not seen enough in 2018 to be ready for what’s in store.

This roller-coaster has more turns, spills and thrills left in it.

These, and more, in the year to come.

Mahathir, Anwar and the outsider

There are two names when power is discussed. The prime minister and the heir apparent. Mahathir Mohamad and his original protégé Anwar Ibrahim are synonymous with our political landscape and have been for almost 40 years.

This won’t change in 2019.

Azmin Ali, the economics minister, has been touted for months as the joker in the pack, the man who may throw a spanner into Anwar’s ascension plans.

The reformed Umno leaders making a beeline for Bersatu may yet throw more wild cards into the mix. There is Mustapha Mohamad, long-serving minister in the challenging international trade and industry portfolio, from Kelantan; he has the type of education Mahathir appreciates.

The rumours of an impending departure of Hishammuddin Hussein continue. Hishammuddin is ex-prime minister Najib Razak’s cousin, but closer to the current PM, and he is the son of the man Mahathir replaced — the first time around in 1981.

With the new potentials — qualified in the Umno-sense — Anwar would be reasonably perturbed.

The focus would be to set a formal timeline for Mahathir’s presumed exit. In 2002, Mahathir announced Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s promotion in 2003. He then agreed — in the aftermath of the 2008 general election — to Najib replacing him in 2009. Will Mahathir agree to a fixed date?

Always Mahathir says he has no objections to Anwar taking over as long as the people want it, which leads to the obvious question, how will Mahathir ever know the will of the people when it comes to Anwar. Is it just posturing, or are there more insidious plans to usher any of the alternates to the highest office?

Economy, always

There is uncertainty, and it grows. This government struggles to sell economic confidence. It persists in the errors of its predecessor.

The question is whether Pakatan Harapan has a grip on the issue, rather than rely on the daily rants of Lim Guan Eng questioning the previous government to shore up support.

The notion that government determines our economy by how it carves up the wealth it possesses is not only archaic, it is wholly feudalistic.

The peasants need fair trade, access to government facilitation, useful business laws, equal opportunity and a bloody, unbelievable need of not turning every economic decision into a race issue.

The “Umno think” burdens this government. That does not mean it should not go after all the ill-practices in Chinese-owned business, it just means there is a government finally interested in generating wealth for all, and distributing wealth for all.

Maszlee gets going, or not

It wins and loses elections, education. There is no envy about the tasks on the shoulders of Maszlee Malik. And in January, the experiment begins.

All the policy shifts, not the least the end of examination for young children, will come to force.

The first stage would be how parents feel about the learning ― benchmarks are always necessary ― and what kind of life the teachers have in this new reality. There will be initial accusations based on our deep mistrust of each other.

2019 may not be the time it is realised, but if Maszlee gets it wrong, then the pain will be felt for decades to come.

The right wing is upset

This could be the observation for any year. However, with the inflated discussion about this government as a minority government when it comes to the Malay vote, all accusations over race conduct, or lack of love for Malays, escalates quickly.

Anything is material.

Expect this government to be on the defensive, again.

The tone may change if Bersatu procures enough MPs to finally claim we are back to being a Malay-majority government.

There is the wicked afterthought. If the only thing that pleases the right wing is a domination similar to Umno in values, how dissimilar is this government from an Umno administration?

Another year of Amanah irrelevance

Pakatan had a grand plan to outmanoeuvre PAS, for our Islamists out-halo the other, older Islamists.

Unfortunately, Amanah has more ministers than PAS ever had, but not the gravitas.

The coming year will be no different.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Agriculture Minister Salahuddin Ayub and Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad have the plummest jobs, but clearly, Mujahid Yusof Rawa as minister in charge of Islamic affairs faces the firing squad, daily. 

The Muslim issues, just like the Malay rights issues, are messed up when Pakatan remains without a Malay majority.

And even when Mahathir, and to a lesser extent, Anwar, increase the Umno count inside their parties, the 12 Amanah MPs will look even punier ― don’t dream of PAS MPs going over to Amanah.

The prognosis for the future is bleak.

The three amigos ride on

Two fortysomethings and a single mother a few years off, are hardly the poster children for youth, except in Malaysia, where 50 has been the new 20 for decades.

The new co-operation involving Invoke chief Rafizi Ramli, ex-PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar and ex-Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is the latest rage.

The have lunches, and plan to have more lunches and post them on their social media, leading to talk about a new rebellion to the tired system plaguing a nation which is young, for now.

The meet-ups do two things. They keep the trio relevant, and they sustain their currency in the various political discourses in their respective coalitions.

Would they take it up a notch? Rafizi and Nurul Izzah have too much love for Anwar, and Khairy feels an Umno leadership collapse could be his ticket to Putrajaya.

Expect the rumours to continue, with the trio fuelling the talk for their own benefit.

The final card, Clark

Sports has appeal in Malaysia. And if 2019 ends up being sucky big time, the government might turn to salvage it through the SEA Games in the Philippines. Right at year end, winning the overall title might tilt some goodwill to the government.

Malaysians are suckers for sporting glory even if just merely regional. Look at the column inches taken up by Malaysia’s eventual finals defeat at the hands of Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

In the end

2019 will be the sophomore year when Pakatan has to survive rather than thrive. I conveniently forget to mention about the trials of ex-Umno leaders, primarily Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor. These would be dragged on to 2020 or beyond, and for now, it appears just like their opponents, they just have to remain on top when 2019 ends.

For the rakyat, my peeps, it’s just mad.

But a democracy is a joy ride, and if you don’t try or don’t care, it gets out of control.

Love your country? Get involved.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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