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COMMENT Politicians tend to speak and act out of the bubble they have built around themselves as they pounce on political opportunities that present themselves. It can take their loved ones to see through all that falsehood and hypocrisy.

Thus, Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Nuha Anwar must be congratulated for demanding that Dr Mahathir Mohamad publicly apologises to Anwar and admit his past transgressions against the opposition leader before he can hope to forge any alliance with Anwar’s coalition. Nurul Nuha said that Mahathir must first own up to the “trumped-up” sodomy and corruption charges against Anwar back in 1998. Bravo!

This is the first thought that comes to the mind of anyone who cares about justice and dignity in this country.

And yet, how many politicians in Pakatan Harapan and civil society leaders, with the exception of Saari Sungib, have demanded that of Mahathir ever since he headed the “Save Malaysia” Declaration in March 2016?

Sorry is all that you can say, Mahathir

After Mahathir’s attendance in court on Sept 5 for a case involving Anwar and their token handshake, Harapan and Parti Pribumi Malaysia Bersatu (Bersatu) politicians have been falling about themselves, hailing this as a historic compromise that spells good times ahead for the Anti-Najib Coalition.

The fact remains that to date, Mahathir has strenuously refused to apologise to Anwar or retract his scurrilous defamation of Anwar’s character since 1998. In September 2005, at a press conference after a human rights conference, the former prime minister was quoted as saying: “I cannot have a sodomiser in my cabinet. Imagine a gay PM - nobody will be safe.”

On Sept 24, 2005, Anwar demanded an apology and damages totaling RM26.7 million from the former prime minister for those scurrilous comments. Mahathir had reiterated his assertion that he'd fired Anwar as his deputy in 1998 because Anwar's alleged sexual orientation made him unfit for office.

Then, despite the generous gestures shown toward Mahathir by his former detractors, including Anwar after the ‘Save Malaysia’ caper in March 2016, Mahathir has not displayed any remorse for his past record and instead, repeated his defamatory attacks on Anwar’s character when he appeared on Australian TV soon after the ‘Save Malaysia’ Declaration.

Anwar’s letter from prison in June 2016 showed that he was hurt when this “humiliation, sadly, did not elicit any response from my trusted colleagues… It's baffling to note that after working with Pakatan Harapan, civil society and my trusted colleagues, he continued to pour scorn and venom against me!”

Thus, if these Pakatan leaders could be forgiven for their “audacious naivete” in working with Mahathir, there was no excuse for their continued alliance with the latter after he repeated his prejudiced comments against Anwar.

As to who is calling the shots in the Anti-Najib Coalition, this terse admonition by the Harapan de facto leader in his letter from prison said it all:

“But I resent the insensitivity in pressuring the president and in particular Nurul Izzah to pay respects to Tun M or attend his functions. You may want to appease him, but to demand such a sacrifice from my family, particularly after the recent scorn, is the unkindest cut of all!”

No excuse for being unprincipled

Defence of their de facto Harapan leader is only part of the equation; even more serious is the abandonment of their principles regarding Anwar’s conviction by the state. Throughout Anwar’s sodomy trials, the Pakatan leaders had maintained that he was a “victim of political conspiracy and fabricated evidence”.

When he was sent to jail for the second time, senior opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang said: “It’s a day of infamy. It’s a shocking decision.” PKR deputy president Azmin Ali labelled Anwar’s jail term “perverse”, an “injustice” and an “absolute disgrace”, while former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenavasan likewise slammed the political conspiracy against Anwar.

Hence, by not condemning Mahathir for repeating his scurrilous attacks on Anwar’s character, even after the formation of the Anti-Najib Coalition, it exposes the Harapan leaders’ inconsistent stand on Anwar’s innocence in his political trial.

Who’s sorry now?

The Harapan leaders can learn a lesson in political consistency, morality and human dignity from Anwar’s daughter Nurul Nuha (photo) today.

They should demand an apology from the man who initiated the prosecution of Anwar in the first place, when he was prime minister. Mahathir should be asked to forthwith withdraw his scurrilous attacks on Anwar. Failure to do so should result in him being booted out of the Anti-Najib Coalition.

And when Mahathir has apologised to Anwar, he can start apologising to me and the others he incarcerated under Operation Lalang; to Salleh Abas and the other Supreme Court judges he sacked in 1988; and to all Malaysians for the more than RM100 billion he squandered during his term in office.

Real Reformasi!

The reform movement should then be redefined to target not just an individual but the political regime and political economic system that oppresses, divides and exploits the people.

The aim should not only be to call for Najib’s resignation but to change the racist and exploitative regime. Furthermore, reforms should target the neoliberal economic policies that were set in motion by none other than Mahathir in the early Eighties.

Najib has merely made more extreme the structures created by Mahathir to entrench the powers of the Executive, emasculate the democratic institutions and provide the means for private enrichment of the elite in this country. Racist and racial discriminatory policies were also entrenched by Mahathir in the early Eighties and further manipulated by Najib until today.

Stick firmly to your dignity and integrity, Anwar!

Even as you endure the cruelty of the oppressive regime, Anwar, listen not to the forked tongues of your “trusted colleagues” but hark the wise admonition that emanates from the mouth of your daughter Nurul Nuha. Her demand for an apology from Mahathir is backed up by this advice by the great Aristotle:

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.”

KUA KIA SOONG is adviser to human rights NGO Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).