Monday, March 12, 2007

Dr ANWAR IBRAHIM interviewed by ABC: Reenter Active Politics in Defiance of Legal Ban; Non-Malays' Requests Reasonable-in Line with Sharing

UPDATE: 12th Mar 2007

STAR, Monday March 12, 2007; Review issues, Anwar tells Government;

KUANTAN: The Government and Umno should seriously consider issues relating to the economy and education that were raised by the non-Malays, said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) national advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Citing an example, he said that of the more than 15 public universities, at least three or four should be headed by non-Malay academicians. “I think this is a reasonable demand in line with the concept of sharing and putting the best brains at the helm,” he added.

Anwar said it was high time that the Government and Umno reviewed existing obsolete policies and make the necessary adjustments. He said policies such as the New Economic Policy had failed to achieve its objectives simply because wealth did not reach the majority of Malays but “a selected few.” On a possible contest for the post of deputy president at PKR’s national congress in May, Anwar said he was confident it would not affect the party.

= = == = = == = = = = Transcript interview


Dr Anwar Ibrahim was once hailed as the next big thing in Malaysian politics. A decade ago, he was a politician on the rise but a spectacular falling out with Dr Mahathir and a stint in jail overturned his fortunes. His sodomy conviction was overturned. But the corruption charges still haunt him. Now he's back in Malaysia and back working behind the scenes with a new party. In a recent interview with ABC Correspondent Karen Percy, Dr Anwar talked about his plans for his career and what he'd like to see happen in his country.

She filed this report.


Anwar Ibrahim turns 60 this year, while other his age might be looking to ease out of the spotlight the slight, mild-mannered former deputy prime minister of Malaysia isn't anywhere near retirement. After more than eight years out of politics, he's once again a man with a mission.

As the adviser to Justice Party I listen to the leadership and formally put the party agenda together, but we are also active in a series of negotiations with the other Opposition parties, namely the Chinese-based Democrat Action Party and the Islamic Party.

KAREN PERCY: The Keadilan or Justice Party has come into being in the past decade. His wife Dr Wan Azizah is party president. Do you have plans to run for prime minister in the coming years?
I have plans to participate in the elections, to ensure that Malaysia emerges vibrant, effective liberal democracy and che sara', sara'.

But you're criticising your opponents, you're lobbying on reform, you're reaching out to the international media. You certainly look like a man who's reading himself for an election and perhaps office.
I've been consistent on this position of reform agenda long before, I'm just pursuing the agenda. I'm not precluding anything. I mean it is important that we build up this consensus. But what is critical, what remains a priority is to forge this new coalition with a commitment for the reform agenda on the rule of law, on the free media on more competitive economic policies. I mean this is what the country needs - to rid the country of massive endemic corruption, which is far serious than before.
In fact Dr Anwar Ibrahim himself was accused of corruption and sodomy, charges which landed him in jail for six years. He was sacked by then prime minister Mahathir Muhammad who feared his young deputy was going to upstage him. During that period of his life he was subjected to beatings and suffered poor health. When he was released in 2004 he left Malaysia to seek medical care in Europe. Now that he's returned to his country he looks fit and well and ready for a new challenge.

Dr Anwar says he's forgiven but he won't forget and he's proceeding with a damages case against Dr Mahathir.
I have made a categorical statement that there's no malice; I want to move on with my life and pursue a reform agenda. But Mahathir went on, speaking like he was still the prime minister and repeating the scurrilous attacks against me. I've then cautioned him, warned him not to repeat. He did. I had no choice but to file a civil suit against him.

Dr Mahathir has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for assisting Bosnia during its civil war. Do you think he'd be a worthy recipient?
I don't think anyone takes it seriously. I mean once you destroy judiciary, you involve a series of human rights abuses; you have amassed billions of dollars when you were in power, I don't know what the Nobel Prize is for but it's not my business.

Anwar Ibrahim now has contended with Dr Mahathir's successor Abdullah Badawi.
(to Anwar Ibrahim) Because of your corruption conviction you are unable to take in politics
until April 2008. At the moment an election isn't scheduled in
Malaysia until 2009 but there seems to be some talk that perhaps Dr Abdullah might bring the election forward. Would that scuttle any of your plans?

Firstly you have to recognise that the corruption conviction does not involve any remunerations or land or share. It was a ploy by Mahathir to use the judiciary for political purpose. I don't accept that. That is why I continue to campaign against injustices and to call for reform in the institutions of governance. So by virtue of these dirty machinations of the former prime minister I've been denied of my basic right as a citizen. But that does not preclude my being active, campaigning for the party.:

What's your relationship with Dr Abdullah Badawi like?
I've said it's cordial and civil. Yes, many of my friends suggest without Abdullah there, there's every possibility under Mahathir I would still be in jail, but I have called for independent judiciary and it is and initially after being released from prison I've supported Abdullah's call for reform against corruption, a separation of powers. But now three years later corruption is worse. Look at the corruption index. Competitiveness, we have lost in terms of even the foreign direct investment to other countries in ASEAN, to Vietnam, to Thailand, to Philippines, to Indonesia.
For the past eight years Dr Anwar Ibrahim was a 'cause celeb' for the international media. Now he's again courting the spotlight. During a recent visit to Bangkok he addressed the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand and undertook several interviews. But restarting a political life may not be easy. Do you still have enemies in Malaysian politics?

I don't have personal enemies, I have good friends

You've upset a lot of people along the way though haven't you? They'd be enemies wouldn't they?
(laughs) Yeah, yeah. I've talked about murder, I've talked about crimes, I've talked about massive corruption of course you are clearly not a provocation but certainly challenging the position of many of these established leaders, including billionaires in the process amassing wealth.
But you've also been accused of taking advantage or getting the benefit of some of these kinds of practices as well. What do you say to that?

They are free to adduce specific evidence. And in fact my reply was simple; have an independent commission and look at all our accounts, my account, my wife's account, the family account. Establish if there's one evidence of one inch of public land, or one share or one contract awarded to any of my family members. If you have evidence of that I resign, or you can charge me. But you don't have that. That is why the corruption charge against me was by speaking to a police officer.
Dr Anwar is now up against his former party, the United Malays National Organisation with its commanding hold on Malaysian politics and government. It's an organisation where members don't forget those they feel have betrayed them.
(to Anwar Ibrahim) If you were to reenter politics, do you really want to put your family though what they've already gone through or put them through it again?

I did discuss with them and Azizah, my wife, seems very supportive.

So with the family's support, when might you tip your hat as to when you are going to re-enter politics?

Right now they are very supportive. I'm blessed with a beautiful family, very committed to them, not only because of those difficult periods when I was in prison, but even after they have been very, very supportive.

I mean they did question, you know and my children hold their doubts and I've talked so much about democracy and freedom, so they always say, 'Papa you talk about freedom'. So they want to express their views on some very contentious issues, so when vote is taken I do lose at times.
No doubt the family will vote with him if he does make a run for the prime ministers job

This is Karen Percy for Correspondents Report.

= = = = = here is a BBC account
11/03: Malaysia's Anwar plans comeback

By Jonathan Kent; BBC News, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has announced that he is ready to return to active politics in defiance of a legal ban. Mr Anwar says if his People's Justice Party backs him, he will run for its presidency in June despite being barred from political office until April 2008. Mr Anwar served six years in prison for corruption and sodomy. But he was released in September 2004 after the courts overturned the latter charge on appeal. However his corruption conviction stands and that disbars Mr Anwar from holding office in any political party until next year.

High-risk strategy

There is a growing expectation that the government will call an election before the end of this year, so the former deputy prime minister is gauging the mood of the opposition People's Justice Party, currently led by his wife, Wan Azizah. He says he is prepared to run for its presidency in defiance of the legal ban and the government, which he accused of using the courts to deny him his rights. It is a high risk strategy from the man who led Malaysia's Reformasi Movement after falling out with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, in 1998. Malaysia's opposition remains divided and has performed poorly in recent by-elections.

By returning to the fray, Mr Anwar could find himself embroiled in legal problems and he will also be putting his popularity to the test. Malaysia has yet to find out whether Anwar Ibrahim on the campaign trail has the same allure as he did when he was behind bars.


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