Last edited: September 06, 2004

Freedom appears to be taking its toll on Anwar

The Star, September 4, 2004

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim slept only a few hours on his first night home and said he was in pain, a great deal of it exacerbated by the uncommon physical activity he went through after his release on Wednesday morning.

His voice was hoarse from too much talking, reduced at times to a barely audible whisper. He must have shaken thousands of hands in the past two days.

The neckbrace and another broader brace strapped around his midriff restricted his movement and he walked slowly, almost gingerly, often assisted by a pair of aides.

His health woes seemed to stretch from neck to sole for he wore bandage socks on his feet.

In a physical sense, he is a shadow of the graceful, lithe person that he used to be. But the charm, the witty retorts that he is so well known for and the famous smile were still there.

He wore a white sports-shirt and grey trousers and his thinning hair looked freshly groomed as he sat down for the interview with The Star—his hands folded neatly on his lap and his feet resting lightly on a cushion.

Aides had to control the stream of friends and well-wishers who had thronged to his Damansara Heights home, hoping for a glimpse of him or to salam him.

The major-domo running the show for the past two days was Azmin Ali, his long-time aide and now Parti Keadilan Nasional vice-president. He decided who could come into the house, when the crowd could troop in to shake greet Anwar—they came queued in from the back patio and went out through the front door.

The deputy major-domo is, without a doubt, Anwar’s eldest daughter Nurul Izzah. She is completely hands-on about what has been happening around her father.

“Our priority is his health. But this morning, it was so nice to wake up and realise that he is at home with us. The feeling is just indescribable—at last, papa is home,” said Nurul Izzah.

But yesterday found her fretting about her father’s poor appetite and lack of rest.

There are apparently strains to being a free man at last. Anwar had developed a slight fever and was on antibiotics apart from his usual painkillers.

His aides have been bombarded by requests for interviews. Next to him, Nurul Izzah has been the next most interviewed person. She is incredibly savvy and it is hard to believe that she is just a young graduate—she will graduate among the top in her class today.

It has been a heady homecoming for this man and not a few people noticed that he had adopted a decidedly conciliatory tone– be it when speaking of the ruling party which his own Keadilan had vilified in the past, the judiciary or even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I bear no malice towards him,” he said.

He had no precise answers about his political future and it is possible there are genuinely no concrete plans—as yet.

For now, he just wants to savour the joy of coming home, being with his family and friends and, of course, the feeling of freedom.

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