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BlackRock: Will Anwar do the right thing?

In less than two years, Anwar Ibrahim has erected a monument to hypocrisy that dwarfs the skyscrapers of previous leaders.

Abdar Rahman Koya
4 minute read

In the same week that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his supporters scrambled to defend a plan to bring in US fund manager BlackRock that has become synonymous with complicity in Israeli crimes, the opposite happened in many other parts of the world.

The plan will see BlackRock's Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) taking a 30% stake in a consortium to manage Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), alongside the government's investment arm Khazanah Nasional and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) – both entities under the jurisdiction of the finance ministry led by Anwar.

The government has scraped the barrel trying to justify the plan in the face of protests from those who wish to see no company remotely linked to fortifying Israel get anywhere near a strategic asset to manage the country's airports.

In the process, Anwar and his party right-hand man Rafizi Ramli have come out looking like comedians.

Last week, after his usual name-dropping, Anwar claimed that those protesting the plan are behaving "more Hamas than Hamas".

More recently, Rafizi said the government faced a tough choice between upgrading airports and improving hospitals, in justifying the need to inject foreign funds into MAHB.

All this is taking place while governments and corporations are gradually divesting from companies that have directly or indirectly contributed to decades of violations of Palestinian human rights.

These are countries whose governments continue to host Israeli embassies but make no apology about their disgust for the Zionist war machine.

In Norway, a country often touted by Pakatan Harapan leaders as a model of efficient wealth management, the largest private pension fund has rejected nearly US$70 million worth of Caterpillar Inc stocks and bonds because it fears the US company may be complicit in human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza.

In Australia, the mayor of Sydney is set to cancel contracts with companies that are involved in or profit from the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the supply of weapons to the regime.

In the US, South by Southwest, an annual festival for film, media and music, has cancelled the US Army and defence contractor RTX Corporation as sponsors.

There are countless other examples of communities, governments and institutions around the world taking steps to avoid even the slightest possibility that they might be complicit in Israel's ongoing genocide.

True, they did not act in the past, even though untold atrocities have been continuously committed against Palestinians over the past seven decades.

But no person with an ounce of humanity could remain silent when genocide is beamed all day long on the palms of their hands.

To use a position of authority to create distance from the mass killing of civilians - however small the impact on Israel - has more impact than ordering schoolchildren to march with placards, or punching the air in front of a sea of keffiyehs in a stadium complete with entertainers hired to perform songs and poetry recitations in solidarity with the Palestinians.

In the days following the Oct 7 attacks and the massive bombardment of Gaza, Anwar travelled the world, popping up in various capitals, hoping for a chunk of publicity in front of a global audience that hoped and prayed that Muslim governments would at least take a firm stance.

Who would have thought that just seven months down the road, Anwar would join his brother rulers and kings in some Arab states who provide us with a classic example of how not to put your money where your mouth is.

Of course, no one expects Anwar to outdo other world leaders as far as standing with the Palestinians is concerned – the remarks he made a decade ago about defending Israel's right to security are still seared in our memory.

His strong words against Israel and Washington in the wake of the war on Gaza led some of us to forgive his absent-mindedness and poor choice of words when interviewed by the overbearing Western media.

But doing exactly the opposite of what you say is what hypocrisy is all about.

The BlackRock controversy will give Anwar another black eye, and leave a black mark on Malaysia, which for decades has had a policy of rejecting rights abuses, even if only cosmetically.

While some Malaysian leaders took years to satisfy their obsession with skyscrapers and structures, Anwar and his government have surpassed them by erecting the country's tallest monument to hypocrisy and doublespeak in less than two years.

It is not too late for Anwar to do the right thing. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

If it is true that he does not condone blackmail and threats from Western powers (as he once claimed), and if he has even a grain of conscience about the plight of a people who are being killed, and if it at least bothers him that he is complicit in genocide, then he will apologise to the Malaysian public for defending an immoral decision and cancel the agreement with the BlackRock-controlled GIP.

Or just tear up the agreement, that will do for now.