Has Anwar begun his own version of Ops Lalang?
The strategy could easily backfire
Since the Anwar administration came to power, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been extremely busy since the chief commissioner Azam Baki made a visit to Anwar’s office with a bunch of files, soon after Anwar was sworn in as PM.
The MACC probe into the Jana Wibawa case has gone ahead with full steam. There are already a number of charges been laid against some of the top Bersatu leadership, including Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Bersatu treasurer-general Salleh Bajuri, and Segambut deputy chief Adam Radlam Adam Muhammad. In addition, the MACC has frozen several Bersatu bank accounts.
Bersatu president and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has reported to the MACC headquarters in Putra Jaya, and will also be charged with four counts of abuse of power and two counts of money laundering, over the Jana Wibawa and Covid-19 stimulus packages.
Bersatu supreme council member Azmin Ali said that the probe against Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin is an attempt to cripple the party before the state elections. The arrest of Muhyiddin was timed on the day before a Bersatu party assembly.
There have been many accusations the MACC has been weaponized against the opposition with selective investigations into opposition parties and politicians.
This is in stark contrast to the Selangor Maritime Gateway scandal, where a number of accusations have been made against PKR Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari. Abdul Razak Bin Ismail on his Facebook page claims reports over the Hutan Simpan Bukit Lagong scandal in Gombak, made more than six months ago, have been totally ignored by the MACC.
The MACC is not an independent body. Insiders within the MACC disclosed their dissatisfaction over what they perceive as selective attention to cases on the Perikatan Nasional side of politics.
The MACC is directly under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and as a consequence is not independent from the executive branch of government. Any decision to prosecute anyone must be approved by the attorney general. The MACC cannot make any independent decisions to prosecute. So, the arrests of the Bersatu leadership are coming from within the executive.
All the publicity around the investigations over the Jana Wibawa cases are occurring at a time that will potentially influence the outcome of the coming state elections.
The Bossku effect
Politically, the arrests and news around the prosecutions should weaken Bersatu and take attention away from Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who very unpopular with the electorate and perhaps boost the popularity of UMNO.
However, there is a flip-side to the arrest and charging of Muhyiddin. Perikatan Nasional now have an issue to run to voters within the Malay heartlands. Bersatu can claim political persecution, just like Najib successfully did on the hustings. Just as former prime minister was seen as politically persecuting Najib Razak in the heartlands, Anwar may be seen as politically persecuting Muhyiddin. This is what could be called the ‘Bossku effect’.
Hadi’s jihadistic rants and Muhyiddin’s ‘Bossku effect’ could be a formidable narrative within the Malay heartlands.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said investigations will go on into past politicians named in the Pandora Papers. Already there have been several retired politicians who have been summoned to make statements at the MACC headquarters in Putra Jaya.
There is growing speculation that investigations will flow onto former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed and his family after the coming state elections.
Anwar’s moves are not as fast as Mahathir’s Ops Lalang. Anwar is taking the ‘killing them softly approach’.