Friday, January 12, 2007

Remember remember the reformer's words...

Anwar Ibrahim: “My political agenda is clear”
AsiaViews, Edition: 49/III/Jan/2007

MALAYSIA’S former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, 59, was back visiting Indonesia last week, warmly welcomed by colleagues and admirers here. He met with intellectual Adi Sasono, businessmen Abdul Latief and Chairul Tanjung, and even Vice President Jusuf Kalla. He arrived at the Al-Azhar University in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, to strong applause from its academic community.

He looked fresh, his demeanor was open and friendly. Arriving late at the Sultan Hotel for an interview last Monday, he delivered his apology with a touch of humor. “My apologies, I had to do my hair first. Even men have male menopause,” he told Tempo reporters Bina Bektiati, Akmal Nasery Basral, Ahmad Taufik, Faisal Assegaf and photographer, Hendra Suhara. He modestly asked not to be called by his honorific Datuk. “Don’t call me Datuk, Anwar is fine,” he said.

You recently announced you will be taking part in the 2008 general elections.

I’m not nominating myself. I am only using my rights as a citizen after my deprivation following my release from prison.

What do you mean?

After my release, I was forced to lecture at Oxford and now at Georgetown University. I am doing this because I was restricted, I could not work and I could not enter campuses [in Malaysia]. Yet, I love to teach. So, I accept invitations to be a speaker at conferences.

So, what is it that you are seeking?

Under the current government of Pak Abdullah [Badawi], the system has not changed—it is still the same as during the Mahathir era, particularly since there is now racial and religious tension. The economy is uncertain. The corruption index, press freedom and direct foreign investment are down. This is what I want to focus more on [if elected prime minister].

What would be your agenda?

Economically, we must be more competitive and accept globalization. Right now we are behind China, India, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan in terms of technology and better salaries. Yet, we have smart people in the country as well as outside. They are from different races: Malay, Chinese and Indian. Why not pick the intelligent ones to head the universities in Malaysia? Don’t expect good results if you pick heads of political party branches.

What about the political arena?

Human rights violations must be stopped. The Internal Security Act (ISA) must be withdrawn. The press must be free, the justice system must be reformed and the anticorruption body must be independent. It is not true that corruption has been eradicated. In the 1960s, Hong Kong was rife with corruption, but now it’s one of the cleanest societies in Asia.

You are thinking of returning to politics, so you have not been traumatized [by the experience]?

In fact, I think about it seriously, but I never think about retreating. So long as I am convinced that truth will win, I will play a role to the best of my ability.

You certainly look ready to do so.

It’s part of the political process. What I will do is to be active with my colleagues in carrying out a special agenda by applying clear political ethics. It will not form an alternative party, but an alternative agenda on reforms. I am very determined about this. Whether we can attract the elite and professional groups, and the people at large, we will have to see. It’s too early to give an aswer right now.

Are you keeping it secret?

It’s not secret. There is a time when we must be quiet. In the past, I tried the soft approach to the point of making excessive compromises. Today, I choose to follow a clear agenda.

Are you convinced you will win?

We can only try and pray, God willing, particularly with help from friends in Indonesia.

If you win, what will you do about Indonesia?

Indonesia is an important sub-regional force. We should be cooperating closer on political-economic and security issues. Problems like terrorism must be resolved rapidly and convincingly.

Will you return to UMNO?

My friends invited me back to UMNO, but I am not pleased with the party. It is too corrupt.

What is actually going on in UMNO?

UMNO has reached the point of corruption, the party has become very feudal. There has never been any discourse on how to stamp out corruption. But there are a lot of people who like Mahathir’s loud statements [frequently attacking Prime Minister Badawi], because not everyone dares to speak his mind.

Now it seems that Badawi is restricting Mahathir’s moves. What is your view on this?

I don’t agree with the way Abdullah Badawi is attacking and blocking Mahathir. As a citizen he has rights. But when Mahathir declared that Malaysia has become a police state, that there is no free press, and he was treated very badly, he was unable to respond and defend himself. This is ironic and laughable. Didn’t Mahathir do the same thing in the past?

How do you position yourself in the conflict between these two people?

Mahathir once met with Abdullah. He brought a tape recorder and quietly recorded Abdullah’s statement, “Let us not quarrel, otherwise people will not like you, and the same goes for me. The one person to benefit from all this would be Anwar,” he said. After that friends called me up and said that I should be grateful to Mahathir (laughing).

Are you ready to join up with Mahathir again?

As a matter of principle, no.

There are reports, however, that you offered Mahathir an alliance to oppose Abdullah Badawi?

That was something twisted by The New Straits Times. Their reporter asked me whether I was willing to accept Mahathir as an advisor to the opposition. I replied: “Is there an offer?” He replied: “What if there was?” And I responded: “Has there been an answer?” The reporter asked again: “But if all the opposition want to nominate him, what would be your opinion?” I said: “It depends on the opposition, but I am not too happy about it. Mahathir has some explaining to do, because he’s to blame for what happened in Malaysia, from the elections, to [the lack of] free press and a corrupt justice system, even to blaming George Soros for the monetary crisis. But it was his children who ruined everything.” No, I am not willing to join forces with him.

You are still bitter about Mahathir?

I am no angel. Al Gore once asked me whether I could ever forgive Mahathir. I said, if he did me wrong, I forgive him. But if he stole from the people, he must give it back. That’s another problem. I am not a people’s representative who could make such a decision. But Mahathir himself always feels he is in the right. He feels the country’s economic foundation is sound. He said he never gave his kids and his family anything, that they never involved themselves in politics, that the press under his government was sufficiently free, the police never oppressed the people, and so forth. I think Mahathir has a major psychological problem. (At the time Anwar Ibrahim was tried in court in 2000, Al Gore, who was then the US Vice President, said that the government had abused the standards of international justice. Mahathir retorted strongly by saying that Al Gore’s statement was proof of ‘international interference.’—Ed.)

Have you spoken to Mahathir since you were released?

Not yet. We have never met. But when we do, there would be no problem. I will greet him with “Assalamualaikum, how is your wife?”

Have you ever contacted him by telephone?


During Lebaran?

No. I was never invited and I did not invite him. It doesn’t bother me. No problem.

You mentioned there was religious and racial tension in Malaysia. Can you explain?

The last racial tension happened in 1969. Since then, the government’s socio-economic policy was aimed at improving race relations. But lately, the religious issue has come up again. The extremist Islamic groups are hard-liners. In my view, they should not be like that. Meanwhile, the liberals are not showing a tolerant attitude either.

What would be an example of such intolerance?

I recently attended a dialog forum among Muslims. The liberals said they would only participate if the discussions were held in English. This does not make sense. How will that affect the clerics and religious leaders present? That was not good.

What about the extremists’ hard line you mentioned?

On the macro level, I agree in principle that Muslims can choose a number of regulations, including Shari’a. But it cannot be used to force other people [to adhere to it]. I am a tolerant Muslim, I value diversity and a multicultural and multi-religious environment. Meanwhile, among the non-Muslims, there is a feeling that the new laws or regulations are aimed at forcing them to bow to Islamic rules. So the result is a problem of perception.

Is it true that this tension worsened because the Malays were given [extra] facilities?

Yes, that was the result of the New Economic Policy. Last year, I proposed that the New Economic Policy be replaced with a Malaysian Economic Agenda. But then I was accused of being anti-Malay, pro-Chinese and a traitor. Actually those who rejected this agenda were the middlemen who profited from the New Economic Policy. The policy reportedly was aimed at benefitting the Malay people, but in reality those people ransacked the country in the name of that policy. They are the robbers who enriched themselves, their families and their cronies. The implementation of the New Economic Policy cost us tens of millions of dollars.

Isn’t there anything positive about that policy?

One positive result was social and educational mobility, and a reduction in poverty. But should poverty reduction be implemented through a tough racial policy? I say no. The policy must be transparent. I agree with the basic premise to help the poor and the marginalized, who are mostly Malay Muslims. But that policy, according to the Chinese and Indians, discriminates against them.

But aren’t the Chinese and Indians more economically advanced?

Yes. The fact is that the Chinese are much better off than the Malays. But they still perceive themselves to be marginalized.

How did that economic distortion emerge?

The Chinese are ahead not because of economics. They are industrious people. They are capable of coming up with economic programs and projects on their own, not dependent on anyone. But the rich ones, like the financiers, have been manipulated by the ministers and the cronies. Ultimately, this became the justification to be on the side of the common people. I am a Malay and I don’t want to sacrifice the interests of the Malays. But as a Malay and a Muslim, I don’t want to do anything that is unjust to other people.

What is the government’s role in these tense times?

The government is currently weak because of corruption and they don’t dare to initiate any changes. Malaysia is losing its competitiveness. Foreign direct investment here is less than in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. This doesn’t make sense because we have never been behind since 1957. We are losing because at the end of Mahathir’s rule, government agencies were ruined. The police, the justice department, representative councils and anticorruption organizations were restricted. Then came Abdullah Badawi, but his government is weak and is unable to make it right.

Is this caused by Badawi’s weak leadership?

It’s not just about leadership, there is an overall weakness. This can be seen in the reaction towards Mahathir’s charges that Abdullah is corrupt and a liar, that Badawi’s son got a huge project and his son-in-law was in control. It was only after some weeks that Abdullah came out to deny the statement, declaring it to be libelous. He insisted the projects were offshore. But a week later, he had to clarify his position on television. He said, “It is not proper for Mahathir to make that statement. I respect him as a former leader. He has done a lot service. It’s true that I gave projects to my children, but not much. Not as much as Mahathir himself.” In my view, that is a dangerous response. From the legal point of view, that constitutes a crime.

What do you think about terrorists in Indonesia, who turn out to be Malaysians, like Dr. Azahari and Noordin M. Top?

Pak Jusuf Kalla once jokingly chastised me: “Dont export your terrorists to our country.” As neighboring nations, we need to intensify our antiterrorism cooperation. The case of Noordin and Azahari shows that Malaysia is not free of the problem. The Malaysian government must keep on monitoring the situation, not waste their time monitoring me.

What about the war against terrorism according to George W. Bush?

I don’t agree with that because Bush’s approach is unclear, no direction and full of bias towards developing countries, specifically Islamic countries. He doesn’t help at all. In fact, he has angered everyone. If any groups are involved, we must be firm, but with an approach that will solve the situation, not complicate it.What do you think about the controversy over the new palace?
Actually, the Malaysian people are not making an issue out of it. People are upset because of the high cost. And I agree with the people.

Can the monarchy in Malaysia survive in this day and age?

If the monarchy becomes institutionalized, I don’t think there would be a problem.

Answers by: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Place & Date of Birth: Penang, Malaysia, August 10, 1947

Education: University of Malaya -Malay studies

Organization Affiliations:

President, Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (1968-1971)(Malaysian Islamic Students Association)
President, Majlis Belia Malaysia (1971)(Malaysian Youth Council)
Founder & President, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (1982) (Malaysian Islamic Youth Association)

Political Career:

Joined UMNO (1982)
Minister of Culture, Youth & Sports (1983)
Minister of Agriculture (1984)
Minister of Education (1986)
Minister of Finance (1991)
Deputy Prime Minister (1993-1998)

Professional Career:

Visiting Professor, Oxford and Georgetown University, USA
Special Adviser to the People's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat)


Anonymous said...

"What I will do is to be active with my colleagues in carrying out a special agenda by applying clear political ethics. It will not form an alternative party, but an alternative agenda on reforms. I am very determined about this. Whether we can attract the elite and professional groups, and the people at large, we will have to see. It’s too early to give an aswer right now"

"There is a time when we must be quiet. In the past, I tried the soft approach to the point of making excessive compromises. Today, I choose to follow a clear agenda"

Exactly what I was talking about dude, to be successful, its important to be tactful and understand that everything has its time and place; there is no need rush and and shout out to the world today what you have in mind. Saying "I'm not prepared to join Umno" doesn't translate "I may join Umno."

If the man's serious about his "agenda", this may be the single toughest challenge he has ever faced and possibly the greatest contribution he can ever make for his country.

There is a small window of opportunity to deliver a knockout blow to BN in the form a strong and credible leadership in Anwar Ibrahim for the opposition front and increased level of dissatisfaction among the general public. Its time for opposition parties to be clever, be willing to take chances and make sacrifices, and make the most out of it.

1Portal untuk 1Malaysia said...

eh..why anonymous wan?? r u skeptic? heheh..

Anonymous said...

Isn't that obvious?

No one needs to know that it is me lar, hehe

Anonymous said...

how about some commentary:D
hope u r well :D

Anonymous said...

"Are you convinced you will win?

We can only try and pray, God willing, particularly with help from friends in Indonesia."

Help from friends in Indonesia? What kind of friends is that? Bahaya nih.

Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

So am I the only one who hates how Anwar's positioning himself as Opposition Leader in all but name? The current regime may be a disaster, but the thought of Anwar somehow becoming PM makes me ill.

Maverick SM said...

You are now Anwar's new political sec...

1Portal untuk 1Malaysia said...

anon : okok, anon = skeptic :)

freelunch : im fine, will comment soon, busy lately.

anon again : dunno who are his indon frens, he nvr elaborate. after all, he might wanna gabung Indon and Malaysia = Gabungan Nusantara perhaps..

jeff : its ok, i know how u feel, many still think anwar is the islamist radical extremist or sumthing like tat..coz of his ABIM and DPM days..but u have to know he is the only one in Opposition we have tat can get support from the majority malays and non-malays coz he was in govt b4 and ppl know wat he has done regardless of his image, now he kena tumbuk and tendang keluar, rakyat might just give him another chance to reform.

meverick : nope, how i wish!!! then i can give him 'brilliant' ideas on how to majukan negara and win votes...hehehe..but i guess he has more than enough qualified ppl to advise him.

Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

Oh, I don't care about the Islamic radical extremist thing. Hell, I didn't even know about that before you brought it up.

I dislike Anwar because he's a two-faced, opportunistic bastard who tried to sell out the country to the Americans, and it was all Mahathir, for all his faults, could do to stop him. If we went along with the IMF reforms that he wanted so badly the country would have been screwed (see Indonesia, Argentina).

Yes, even Anwar didn't deserve to get the crap beaten out of him in prison. But if Anwar really is the best guy we have in the Opposition then the Opposition is in worse shape than I thought.

1Portal untuk 1Malaysia said...

dear jeff,

on principle i agree with u,in fact i have written about this in my archives under the topic 'Bab 3',part of it as follows :

Ini berkenaan dengan kunjungan George Soros, seorang spekulator mata wang asing yang dikatakan menyerang ekonomi Malaysia pada tahun 97-98 di mana bantuan IMF telah ditolak oleh Dr M ketika itu. Saya amat yakin bahawa sekiranya tindakan tidak diambil oleh kerajaan ketika itu menambat USD 1 =RM3.80, negara mungkin merosot jauh lebih dalam lembah kegawatan ekonomi. Sekiranya kita meminta bantuan IMF maka terdapat syarat-syarat yang akan dikenakan. Dari segi globalisasi dan 'free trade', memanglah ini akan menguntungkan kuasa-kuasa besar tetapi ini akan menyebabkan negara dilanda ketidakstabilan. Kemungkinan peristiwa di Indonesia akan berlaku di Malaysia dengan berlakunya rusuhan kaum dan kejatuhan kerajaan yang berdaulat. Akibatnya, tampuk kepemimpinan negara akan dipimpin oleh pemimpin yang pro-kuasa besar seperti yang berlaku di Iraq dan Afghanistan kini.

However, there are also ppl saying tat this is just a slander to give the public a good reason for anwar's removal but actually it was anwar who refused to sign as finance minister to bail out Dr M's sons' and cronies' companies during the economy crisis. but there is NO black and white proof until today on who is right.

You can check out my December 25, 2006 archives and there is more to it. but its still early to tell, let us wait for the coming general elections to judge the public's support for anwar. but for now, in terms of money and power, BN is still the winner. we just have to wait and see the events unfold themselves in the near future...

Politics is definitely uncertain and unpredictable.

While I may agree that Tun Dr M is a one-man show, Malaysia is what it is today thanks to him and as Raja Petra said, adding up the positives and negatives, Dr M has more positives indeed. but of coz, Dr M cannot be our PM again, somebody must come up? between pak lah and anwar and najib, i personally prefer anwar coz of his charisma. i dont know but i think Anwar-Khairy partnership would be 'dynamic' enough. just my theory. but will only happen if anwar rejoins UMNO which...until now, hasnt happen and might not even happen at all since he has pledged many times he will remain in PKR.

but bottomline, we do need check and balance so its better for anwar to remain in pembangkang rather than kerajaan, if he rejoins umno, he will also be part of the corrupted system, so there will be no difference unless he so wanna reform it, but wat are the chances? almost nil.

pak lah came in wif a pledge, but even he himself find it hard to correct the system. say only wanna reform, but when ur part of them, u will tend to behave and practise like them consciously or unconsciously. tats the down side of the attainment of political power. when ur on top, ur really on top and there is hardly anyone could do to topple u. if grassroots oppose u, just give them money and buy all of them coz u control the treasury. simple as that. and tats wat pak lah is doing now..the RM600million issue.

Anonymous said...

what a cunt, this anwar is. what the hell does he mean he was "forced" to lecture at oxford.

when the MARA boys came to my univ to warn us about anwar, i told MARA, no worries sir, this anwar is not worth two shits.

Its not like he made top grade in Univ. I could do his course with an eye closed and get honours.

Anonymous said...

I think Anwar is the best person to lead Malaysia. For all Mahathir's contributions, he has destroyed our checks and balances as well as numerous institutions, which contribute to the malaise that we have now. Badawi of course is not PM material and inheriting Malaysia's Mahathir has been a tragedy for him.

Anwar has a clear vision, is committed to reform and has proven leadership skills.

Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...

Yeah, Anwar is probably best served as a member of the opposition. When he first joined UMNO it was ostensibly to "change the system from within", and look what happened.

I think Malaysia has a very complicated relationship with Mahathir. Yes, he was a total bastard in how he decimated our judicial system, apprehended his enemies and so on, but Malaysia wouldn't be where it is today without him. Unlike every other politician in Malaysia (and I include Anwar here), Mahathir actually had the vision, ambition and intelligence to run a country. Nearly every African taxi driver I've met in Australia still speak of Mahathir fondly.

Neither Badawi nor Najib has the ambition, drive or even imagination needed to govern Malaysia. Anwar... well, you already know my feelings regarding him.