Sunday, April 28, 2013

Strutting the International Stage is About More than Just a Free Lunch

It's hard to keep track of "International Anwar". Earlier this month London's Financial Times reported he likes coffee with honey - a "very odd combination" he explained to his to his eager host. But in July 2012 London's Guardian newspaper told us it is tea with honey.
Maybe he has just changed his mind? Either way, it's good to see that Anwar's inquisitors are focussing on the important issues.
What has this got to do with theoretical future Prime Minister Anwar, the global ambassador for Malaysia? Well the answer is, a great deal. International journalists report such trivia because they are blinded by his personality cult and can't help but report his menu choices, his namedropping anecdotes, and his preferred sweetened beverage.
Just last month he even sung to the journalist on hand at the swank Bristol Hotel in Paris. It's cringeworthy.
But none of this is harmless because while comparing himself to Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, Anwar also belittles "oppressive" Malaysia, compares us to Zimbabwe and Myanmar, calls for a Malaysian Spring, lambasts our "sham democracy", suggests the Government is out to have him assassinated, and criticises our "archaic" homosexuality laws before suing anyone who suggests he is pro-homosexuality.
Anwar's formula for making himself look good in the eyes of the world is to make Malaysia look bad.
Should he get to Seri Perdana, Anwar and Malaysia will find out the hard way that the international stage is not all about him. It is about, for example, inspiring investor confidence as Najib did before a forum in New York last year. Yet Anwar used his recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald to flip-flip on his manifesto pledge to halt Lynas. What if he changes his mind again in front of another business journalist? Investors will head for the door.
And given he famously avoids confrontation (just ask the supporters of PM Hadi), how will he manage when steely nerve is needed? Let's take China, for example, which is so sure it owns the entire South China Sea, it has included its waters on its visa entry stamps. Anwar would struggle to field questions on that prickly issue given the softball treatment he usually enjoys.
In fairness, some journalists no longer fawn over Anwar, an encouraging sign that his martyr act is finally wearing thin. Television channel CNBC this month challenged him on the fact his manifesto "is more populism than true reform"; on his "mixed messages" on PAS' sharia law, and his big-spending promises. "Distributive justice" was Anwar's excuse, as he struggled to change the topic.
Welcome to the hot seat, Anwar. The international issues that await you should you win GE13 go way beyond whether you put honey in your tea...or was that coffee?

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