Last edited: September 06, 2004

Waking Up to a New Tomorrow

Interview with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

The Star, September 4, 2004

HIS health has taken a toll on him and physically, he is a shadow of the person he used to be. But Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has not given up on politics. In an interview with JOCELINE TAN, he spoke about coming home after six years, his gratitude to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whom he calls ďPM Abdullah,Ē and his political outlook.

Q. You woke up in your own bed this morning after so many years away. It must have been a really nice feeling?

A. I woke up very early, as usual. I didnít have much sleep, just a few hours. Because of all the strain, I had some pain so my wife had some difficulties. I was joking with her ... having been used to sleeping alone, now that I have somebody beside me, I cannot sleep well.

Q. What has it been like, coming home?

A. Itís great of course. Itís difficult for people who have not undergone the same experience to realise what itís like to be six years away, to be with back the family, the children, to be back home and sleep.

The children woke up, realised (I was at home) and they all rushed down to see me, the usual commotion. Itís been really great.

Q. Your feeling the moment you realise the judges had decided for you?

A. I was very relieved, happy. It was difficult initially to reconcile the fact that judiciary is as it is known now. I was very, very pleased, thatís why I made this spontaneous remark to thank the two judges. God bless them!

I know the limitations, the pressure. It was not all that simple. This I could sense after listening to their arguments, to try and seek a compromise, to avoid all the political attacks we had made.

Q. An emotional moment for you?

A. When I saw my children, my Izzah crying, I was unable to hold back.

Q. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been instrumental in creating a climate for change.

A. Itís true, I admit it, that it wouldnít have been possible if not for PM Abdullah, if he had maintained the sort of controls in the past.

But it is not easy because sometimes you say you want independence of the judiciary but the judiciary is still in the old frame of mind. So itís a difficult process. But I am very grateful that he (Abdullah) has decided not to interfere.

Q. Your feelings about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

A. I donít bear any malice towards him. Itís done, it cannot be undone. Yes, some of the things heís done have been good for the country but I maintain that he destroyed the institution of civil society which I value most.

Q. You must have thought long and hard about your political future. Will your return from Germany mark the start of active politics?

A. Iím actively discussing politics right now (laughed). I have to listen and discuss not only with Keadilan leaders but with DAP, PAS, NGOs, activists. We have to have a broad spectrum of discussions.

I do not discount engaging Umno leaders in this for the benefit and sake of the country. Itís not a question of rejoining Umno but Iím referring to working together for the betterment of the country, economically and socially.

Q. The Prime Minister has initiated changes, reforms you had talked about. Will that provide common ground for your return to Umno since there are no permanent friends of foes in politics?

A. But there are permanent principles in politics. This is what we need to contend with. I agree we donít harbour enmity. Thereís no bad blood, even with reckless exchanges between me and PM Abdullah all these years since I became active in politics in 1982.

Q. But both of you had once been in opposite camps?

A. Yes, we were contenders for some similar positions. We were rivals but very civil about it. This is something people should learn, that you can have differences, even rivalry, but be civil about it.

PM Abdullah has won total support from so many people in the country but that does not warrant us to be totally within that party structure.

We have to broaden the political horizon of this countryóyou agree therefore you have to be in this party. You disagree therefore you have to be in the opposition and you have to be smashed. This has to change.

Q. PAS gave the cold shoulder to Keadilan and had even written off the party. Do you look forward to working with them again?

A. There have been differences, petty squabbles but they are still close to Keadilan. They are a big party and many of my friends are there. I look beyond all this.

I believe in this opposition. And we have to engage civilly with the DAP and there are exchanges between younger party leaders. I donít think it should affect co-operation among the opposition.

Q. Your daughter Nurul Izzah is seen as someone who will follow in your footsteps?

A. These young people, they have their own minds. She decided who her husband would be. Who am I to interfere? She is still young, intelligent, in some ways more intelligent than me in college.

She has had good exposure but she has to be put through the mill. I am open about it. I leave it to her. I am free about it. They decide and I will give them the support.

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