BANGKOK, Nov 27 — Newly minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership comes at the right moment, as the country needs a leader with intellect and wisdom, says a veteran Thai journalist on regional affairs.
Kavi Chongkittavorn said from now on Malaysia will be viewed and talked about in a more positive way.
“But the road ahead for Anwar is winding and full of pot holes,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in an online English news website of the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), Thailand’s public service broadcaster.
“For the first time, Malaysia has a leader who has a universal outlook and is well known among the international community.
“It is hoped that Anwar’s leadership will further strengthen the Asian profile. After all, he was the first leader to speak of the Asian Renaissance albeit two decades ago,” he said.
Anwar, 75, was appointed by King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Thursday after His Majesty chaired the Malay Rulers’ special meeting at the Istana Negara (National Palace) to end the political impasse following the 15th General Election (GE15) on Nov 19, which resulted in an unprecedented hung Parliament.
Kavi said Anwar’s appointment as prime minister should be Malaysia’s “magnet” to generate a positive image to boost business confidence in the country.
“For decades, with Anwar’s continued participation in transnational and global issues related to civil and political rights, the fight against corruption, East-West relations, and multilateralism, to name but a few, he should be the country’s magnet in generating a more positive image of Malaysia that will increase investment and business confidence.
“The West will be happy with the new government in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya,” he added.
Kavi noted that there were already positive signs after Anwar was named as prime minister as the Malaysian stock index was up and the Ringgit saw a hike in value.
“This shows that confidence in the incoming government is high. That is what Malaysia needs now,” he said.
Kavi said Anwar’s initial test will be to create trust and confidence among the governed Malaysian elite, both politicians and businessmen.
When the parliament resumes next month, he said Anwar has to prove that his unity government headed by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its coalition partners have the majority as former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had insisted that his Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led coalition has majority support.
“The second hurdle is equally important. Anwar must win over public hearts and minds, which includes those of conservative Malays, among others. They will be an important group,” he said.
After fixing the political hurdles, Kavi said Anwar should work on the economy that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine in a bid to win over public hearts and minds.
Besides that, he said Anwar must then demonstrate that his newly formed Cabinet was inclusive and not corrupt.
“Past coalition ruling parties have shown that intra-party negotiations and deals are important elements when consolidating power in Malaysian political life,” he said.
On Malaysia-Thailand bilateral relations, Kavi wrote the government led by Anwar must work with its counterpart as soon as possible to resolve the conflict in southern Thailand.
“It could be stated here that in the past decade, there has been very little progress in ending the sufferings of the civilians living in the three southernmost provinces, because neither side has demonstrated their utmost goodwill and commitment, partially blamed on their labyrinthine internal politics, to attain an effective peace deal that would bring prosperity on the border. That time is now,” he wrote.
Kavi Chongkittavorn is a senior fellow at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies. He has been a journalist for over three decades and contributed opinion pieces for the Thai media.