Anwar Ibrahim was former Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir’s Finance Minister and the man most widely credited with the Malaysian economic miracle that took this country to a solid Second World status, where it has unfortunately been stalled for the last dozen years. Once Time magazine’s Asian Man of the Year, Ibrahim is not only Malaysia’s most able economic and political force, he is the ruling Barisan Nasional party’s greatest threat. So potent do the ruling elite consider him, that they have found it necessary to pursue him through the courts for a dozen years, perverting the justice system of an entire nation to see him jailed for hysterically contrived offenses.
Offended by all this decidedly less than First World behaviour, the significant Chinese minority – amounting to some thirty percent of the population – have abandoned the BN in droves pushing them to the edge of the political wasteland in the last election. Only skillful gerrymandering of electoral districts saved them from certain defeat. Rather than be chastened by such wholesale rejection, the BN has retrenched and renewed their legal assault on Anwar, resulting an unprecedented appeal against the Supreme Court decision that exonerated him from the latest charade of charges. Significantly he was hauled off the jail – again! – one day before MAS flight MH370 went missing. The two, it seems, are not unrelated in the surreal world of Asian politics.
As offended as are the Chinese by the corruption and incompetence of the BN party, there is another group that are equally if not more offended: devout Muslims, who see the venality and blatant corruption of the current government – all neatly wrapped in a veneer of official Islamic prose – as a grave offense to the purity of their beliefs. Such a man was Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a pilot of impeccable credentials and considerable experience who is said to have attended the mosque five times a day for prayers. This is almost certainly Muslim hyperbole, but even taking that back a peg and allowing that the man prayed five times a day puts him among the devout elite in this still predominantly liberal Muslim country. And devout Muslims regard the ruling party in this country about as highly as devout Christians regarded that hypocritical scoundrel Ronald Reagan. But I digress.
Among Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s many interests – including his helpful videos on air conditioner repair and a state of the art flight simulator in his house where he plotted out his route that fateful night – was a deep interest in the plight of Malaysia’s embattled Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. He attended the trial throughout, which in itself is a political statement in a country that takes an interest in what its citizens are interested in. Surely Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah knew which way the political winds were blowing in this trial, which might have been a factor in formulating a plan. A by-election was on the horizon; one that the ruling BN could not afford to lose. Anwar was contesting the seat; BN’s defeat was inevitable. Anwar had to be removed from contention. Nothing as insignificant as a fair trial would stand in the way; the judge had already been bought. Five hours before he boarded flight MH370, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah sat in a Malaysian courtroom and heard Anwar Ibrahim sentenced to a further five years on trumped up charges that no one in the country believes are true.
What will be the outcome of what is now being called a “pilot hijacking?” What was the purpose? The purpose is being played out each night on the television sets of this nation, as Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah knew it would. A whole succession of Malaysian bigwigs, including the prime minister himself, has been parading in front of the international media making absolute fools of themselves contradicting whatever the last guy said and falling all over themselves in their incompetence which has roused the just wrath of China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and everyone else who has had the misfortune to have to deal with them. The Malaysian military knew within minutes that the plane had changed course. Rather than admit this, the Malaysia government had surrounding nations spend millions looking for where the plane was not. The Malaysian police knew within hours that the pilot – who had moved his entire family out of his house the day before the flight to protect them from arrest and media scrutiny – was the one responsible, yet they waited a week for others to point out the obvious.
All of this and much, much more will be the outcome of this sorry affair. Nor will it be the last embarrassment this government faces. As long as there is trouble in Europe and a war in the Middle East, Malaysia will be spared the kind of scrutiny which it by nature abhors. But this is an enduring mystery, and the devout and canny Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah has done more to highlight the shortcomings of this incompetent and corrupt government than a planeload of Anwar Ibrahims. Welcome to your nightmare, Barisan Nasional. The world is watching.