EXCLUSIVE: Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim says he will be vying for the PKR presidency in the party’s election in May.
On his daughter Nurul Izzah’s political future, Anwar says, “Let her go through the process to make it to the top.”
Anwar also explains why he is going for the presidency. The following is the second and final part of his exclusive interview with theantdaily.
theantdaily (TAD): Datuk Seri, winning Kajang is a forgone conclusion. You have explained why it is important to consolidate Pakatan’s stranglehold on Selangor. Is your ultimate aim or ambition still to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia?
Anwar: First, I don't think you should take it lightly the fact that it is a forgone conclusion because the way the EC conducts itself is also questionable. The fact that the nominations are on March 11, the day I am supposed to speak in Parliament as a leader of the Opposition. They also prolonged the campaign time, knowing that the BN is in disarray and Umno has problems dealing with that. Then, I hear people like Tun Daim (Zainuddin) really up in arms, thinking that this is going to be a major problem for Umno, having Anwar at the helm in Selangor. So I don’t underestimate these machinations and treachery of Umno. I not only have to deal with Pakatan but I have got to go down, I have got to work harder.
Number two, as I said, Selangor must be mobilised. Selangor must emerge as a formidable force economically and politically. We must be clear in our message to protect Islam and the position of the Malays, while at the same time to be very firm and assertive, to defend the rights of every single citizen of the state. This means the issue of Allah, the issue of Bible, the issue of cow head, must be stemmed firmly, and give a very tough message to the detractors and the small bunch of fanatics: “We will not tolerate that nonsense!” And I think this, to me, is a message not only to Selangor but also the whole nation and which means you are propelling Selangor to Putrajaya. That answers your question.
TAD: You have previously mentioned that the proposed national consensus talks are not a prelude to a unity government, but that said, what do you hope to achieve? Will you still wait for GE14 to try and capture Putrajaya?
Anwar: In any civil society, civil conduct of political affairs, there are issues which are sacrosanct which you shouldn’t debate. In Australia, in the United States, in many other countries. But here, you continue to harp on race, religion and supremacy. So I said: “Enough of that!” That must be spelled out. So although you have contending forces or political competition, you don’t hold the people, the public at ransom. I think we want to resolve this. We are exhausting all our avenues. We are just calling them to say: You tell us what needs to be done. You want Pakatan to reassure again on the issue of Islam? We have done that. If that satisfies you, we can do it but stop denigrating the positions of non-Muslims in this country. That is for example. We also say: Can you reassure the rights of the Christians and the Buddhists and the Hindus as we can reiterate our stance with regards to Islam? And then the issue of corruption; the issue of rising cost; the issue of crime. These are issues we can discuss, that is bipartisan, transcending party interests. Only then we can compete, we fight in elections. We did that (proposed a national consensus) in (last) August and they are only responding now to say yes, we will meet. But nothing beyond that …
TAD: In your recent interview, you also confirmed rumours that PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution had met with Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in London.
Anwar: I didn’t say London. They were in communication. There were no “talks” as such. And (there were) some other leaders. I met a number of them also in Parliament.
TAD: But this wasn’t in Parliament? This was in London?
Anwar: I didn’t say London.
TAD: But do you think such rumours of “covert” meetings help? You said Parliament would be the best open platform for discussion?
Anwar: Why is it a problem for people to meet? I don't understand. In Malaysia it becomes a big problem. What is the problem of me meeting Najib? Because the system is not democratic and not transparent. So people get curious. That is why for me, I encourage anybody; you meet, you discuss. Why not? I mean the issue is, was there a deal? That is the issue. But a meeting? “Did you meet” becomes a big issue. I think we should meet.
TAD: Do you harbour hopes of your daughter, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah, becoming prime minister?
Anwar: Let her go through the process. Why burden them with all these rumours and get a shock too early? I remember when I came in to Umno in 1982 (people say) “Wah! You tengok!” Luckily, Mahathir was very protective of me. I must say that it is true. There was “guns” shot (Tan Sri) Sanusi (Junid), (Datuk Seri) Rais (Yatim), right from the beginning.
TAD: Your critics continue to question your political will to change the current Barisan Nasional’s corrupt and patronage-style of governance. What is your take?
Anwar: I don't really know what else they want me to do. Six years in jail is not enough. Every week in court is not enough. They have taken every single liberty but that is still not enough. I don’t know what else they want to do. You see, take (Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri) Khalid (Ibrahim)’s position for example. He said no party personnel should be rewarded (by the state government) and I endorsed him. He could not have done that without my full support (but) what we want him to do was something else beyond just political mobilisation. These are issues which we need to do more. So I mean although I have to listen to these critics, I don't know what else they want me to do. They said you were a minister in the past (and I replied) that was 16 years ago. I don’t have any land, any Bumiputera shares, any contracts. I am not just a Pakatan minister. I was an Umno minister! You see that’s the one thing that Mahathir did and failed: To instruct the DG (director-general) of the Land Ministry and the secretary-general Datuk Mat Zain. They made a public statement. He was instructed to go through all land deals where Anwar or his family is involved. Jadi apa lagi? Cukuplah. Move on.
TAD: Moving on to the next question, Datuk Seri, if you become PM …
Anwar: WHEN I become Prime Minister! (laughs)
TAD: Okay. WHEN (laughs) you become PM, are you confident of bringing about change to the civil service system dominated by little emperors?
Anwar: I am optimistic. I have worked with the civil service in the past. I think the level of professionalism has somewhat declined. I have worked with them in the past and there are some smart elements in the civil service. We have to enhance the level of professionalism, that is for sure. But I think you should never apportion the blame to the civil service. It is the political leadership. If you are firm, your policies are clear, you are not corrupt, it is not easy for them to go against you. But of course you also have to explain. It is this very Malay sort of old mindset to do things. This needs to change but it needs leadership to do this.
TAD: What is your take on mixing race and religion with politics? Do you have a Malay Agenda as alleged?
Anwar: What is the problem of having a concern for the welfare of the Malays? Or your commitment to enhance the level of understanding of Muslims of Islam? I think it is very critical. Part of the problem now is people assume they understand Islam and they start to preach, they give out fatwas that lead to further confusion. So I think I would do more in this regard. But where do we differ? It should not be a zero-sum game. You talk about poverty, you talk about anti-corruption, you talk about micro-credit. This is not a Malay agenda. It is for everyone. That is why I’m a strong supporter of "distributive justice". It is justice to distribute justly and fairly because otherwise you would have this gross inequality. But why do you mention race? Ok you can have a group of KL elites who talk about these ideals which are fair and sound very nice but you also have to deal with the stark reality on the ground -- the Malays are the majority. Now you have all this talk about Malay supremacy, incessant attacks against the Chinese and the church or the Hindus, that is what you read. But the reality on the ground? It is the Malay who feels threatened. Malays who have been told they are under siege. So you have to deal with both, you see? First to reassure the Malays. I have said in my statement: You are not under siege, you are the majority. Leadership must deal with that and not to use the race equation. No! I use Islam not to use the religion as an equation. I use Islam because first it is my faith, it is my conviction and secondly I think if you enhance the level of proficiency of religion, it will help immensely in terms of developing this understanding. You reassure them of their position but you must understand that you must be fair and just to protect what is guaranteed in the (Federal) Constitution. To me, and of course I have been criticised that this is a contradiction. (People say) Anwar is still a Malay at heart but I say “Yes!” What is the problem with that? It is a problem if you are unjust; it is a problem when you are discriminatory; it is a problem when you demonise groups of people -- that I am not.
TAD: You have mentioned the importance of transparency in governance and in managing the country’s wealth. You have also said that Petronas should be answerable to Parliament, and also other agencies like MACC, EC. Can you elaborate on this commitment for good governance?
Anwar: This is quite clear and it is not very complex. You have Petronas, their accounts may be presented to Parliament, they can be called up to the parliamentary committee, to question some of the deals and if they do it transparently and professionally, it is not a problem. I mean that is my point. In a practising democracy the Federal Reserve can be called by the Congress and questioned. They (the Congress) wouldn’t say you (Federal Reserve) must be transparent: “Tell me what is the interest rate going to be next month?” Of course they say “No!” That is not what we (Pakatan Rakyat) meant by transparency but this is what I saw in the arguments from the MPs of Umno. That is just silly! To assume that is what we meant by transparency. Transparency is the conduct of affairs must be open, accountable and can be questioned.
TAD: Will the salient values of Buku Jingga (Orange Book – Pakatan’s socio-economic policy) still feature in GE14 or an Anwar-led Putrajaya?
Anwar: You see, the people can be cynical. They have a right to be. It is okay. I subscribe to The New Yorker, etc. and they survive from being cynical, so long as it is fair. But we should be tested not on the prejudices, but on our action performance. What we say, what we do. And I am telling you that what we say in terms of politically the Malay agenda have cost us votes. People want me to say more, but I say: “Look, I am doing this in reference to this and I must always engage with the people.” For example in Kajang, first of course I must meet all Malays, Chinese, Indians but I will have to focus too on the Malay heartland in the villages because I think they must know me not from TV3, but they know me, see me and talk to me for who I am. So I think if you ask me about Buku Jingga then I would say that this is well crafted, we worked on it … at my age and stage in my political career, I am not going to compromise. I mean I hear some comments here and there but I am not going to comment. I’m not! Because I want to be clear this is what our agenda is and we are not going to be dictated. Sometimes there are people from PAS Dewan Ulama (who made comments) but I said “I'm not!” (going to respond). I am tied to this (Buku Jingga). If you want (to change) then bring it back to the Majlis (Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council) and change it. Otherwise you can't (change) because we have a decision. (People ask) Why don't I respond to them always? Because Umno controls the media then it becomes sparked into other unnecessary political (issues) without an avenue for us to go and clarify.
TAD: And the last question from theantdaily, will you contest for a post in the next PKR party elections?
Anwar: What do you think? Should I?
TAD: Yes, I think you should.
Anwar: Then I will take your advice seriously. The vast majority of the leadership feels that … Azizah has indicated for the past one year that she intends to take a back seat, she wants to spend more time with the grandchildren and take care of the grandfather (Anwar laughs). But I told her don't always call me a grandfather because then I'm married to a grandmother, that is not so nice. And then when (Datin Paduka) Tan Yee Kew’s (party constitution amendment) committee proposed this provision on ketua umum (de facto leader), I opposed that. In the void for a provision for ketua umum, there is only the president. So the situation has changed. That is also the scenario within the party circles because nobody contests for ketua umum. It is just a mandate given by the convention to Anwar as the ketua umum and I thought, you know, I am a democrat. (When) I am in prison then fair (enough) but now I’m out and I am in the midst of the political battles so I am seriously considering accepting the nomination as a president because there is nothing stopping anyone else to be nominated. And I am sure if they don’t then Umno may just propose somebody to get into it. (Anwar laughs).
~ The Ant Daily