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comment Drawing in the atmosphere at Sultan Sulaiman Club (SSC) in Kampong Baru last Monday to mark Anwar Ibrahim’s release from electoral shackles, middle-aged observers of political happenings like us could not resist going back 40 years, to that momentous year: 1968. It was a Dickensian year of the best of times and the worst of times. It was a time of turbulence and a spring time of hope.

The bloody Tet offensive of the Vietcong had breached the gates of the United States embassy in Saigon, dealing a mortal rent on Lyndon Johnson’s prospects of re-election to the US presidency; a bullet laid waste civil rights leader Martin Luther King, triggering race riots in several cities including Washington DC; Yakubu Gowon ratcheted up the ante in Nigeria’s fratricidal battle over secessionist Biafra; and in Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek accelerated his country’s progress towards reform of a sclerotic communist system, causing deep concern in the bowels of the Kremlin.

To come, were the student-led disturbances in Paris that brought an end to Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic; the stilling of Senator Robert Kennedy’s drive for the US presidency by the assassin, Sirhan Sirhan; and Israel’s attack on Beirut International Airport, resulting in an escalation of Middle East hostilities, a cauldron already on the way to becoming one of the most intractable in human history.

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