Thousands See Anwar Off at Airport
Malaysia’s former DPM flies off to Munich for back surgery, missing
his daughter’s convocation
Straits Times, September 5, 2004
By Salim Osman
FORMER Malaysian deputy prime
minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison on Thursday, flew off to
Munich last night for an operation on a back injury suffered partly from a
police beating in custody six years ago.
His departure, however, meant that he missed an important
event in the life of one of his most tireless campaigners—the graduation
ceremony of his eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah.
‘We cannot wait,’ Datuk Seri Anwar told reporters
‘The doctors insist I arrive in Munich by Sunday so
that the surgery can be done on Monday.’
Datuk Seri Anwar—who was ferried to the airport in a
gold-coloured Mercedes-Benz—was accompanied by a huge motorcade of cars
numbering in the hundreds.
An ambulance followed, then a long line of cars hung with
flags and banners urging ‘Reformasi’, the former leader’s battle cry for
About 2,000 people showed up at the airport for his
Malaysia Airlines agreed to let him keep his first-class
seat fully reclined during takeoff and landing to ease his back pain, his aide
Azmin Ali said.
Expenses are being borne by his family.
Earlier yesterday, a teary-eyed Anwar embraced Ms Nurul
before she headed to a graduation ceremony at the University Tenaga Nasional
to accept her electrical engineering degree.
‘I feel bad,’ he said, his voice choking. ‘She’s
one of the top students. Convocation of children is so important. You have to
On Friday, Datuk Seri Anwar savoured his first taste of
freedom, sleeping on his own bed after being released from the Sungai Buloh
‘I found it strange that I am not sleeping alone
anymore. I now need to adjust,’ the 57-year-old said in jest, as he chatted
with friends who came in droves to see him at his bungalow in the exclusive
Damansara Heights on Friday.
Soon after the dramatic court ruling that quashed his
sodomy conviction on Thursday, Datuk Seri Anwar told his wife Wan Azizah Wan
Ismail: ‘Zah, get me durians.’
Upon his release, Datuk Seri Anwar was ferried to a
waiting car for a ride to his father’s house in Country Heights in Kajang,
Selangor, for a family gathering.
His younger brother Rusli, 56, told The Sunday Times:
‘It was an emotional reunion for all of us.
We knew he was in great pain, but Anwar, being Anwar, put
up a cheerful front.’
Crowds of supporters had already flocked to his home
after being told about the good news, mainly via the short messaging service,
by the time he reached there just before 3pm.
Datuk Seri Anwar, wearing neck and waist braces, remained
within the living rooms while well-wishers called on him.
After the night prayers, he addressed the crowd which had
spilled into the streets.
‘I too miss you all so much,’ he said in deep Penang
Malay accent. ‘Six years is a short time because we meet again.’
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