Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ASIA-PACIFICInterview with Anwar Ibrahim

ASIA-PACIFICInterview with Anwar Ibrahim

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Anwar Ibrahim's supporters have described the sodomy accusation as an attempt at "political murder". (AAP) WATCH A VIDEOINTERVIEW WITH ANWAR IBRAHIM Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim talks in-depth to Dateline's Mark Davis about the sodomy allegations against him.

Malaysia's embattled opposition leader is fighting new accusations of sodomy -- the same charge that saw him beaten then jailed a decade ago. In 1998, the allegations were fabricated by police under the government's orders as Anwar's popularity began to exceed its own. The leader of Pakatan Rakyat says this time, the only difference is he will fight every step of the way.

In an in-depth interview with Dateline, Anwar delves into the details of the case against him, dismissing it as pure lies and saying he expects due process will prove his innocence. He recounts his memories of the accuser, whom he says was a volunteer in his election campaign who was implanted to defame him.

But according to Anwar, his accuser may well have been coerced into acting against him.

Asked whether his experience has enabled him to empathise with Malaysia's outlawed gay community, Anwar emphasises that he is a practicing Muslim, but says the state has no right to pry into the sexual orientation of its citizens.


A decade ago Anwar Ibrahim was Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister and tagged as its future leader. But after falling out with his own party he was dragged from high office, accused of sodomy, severely beaten in custody and in a highly politicised trial, imprisoned for six years. With a ban on his political activities lifted in April, Anwar has made a Lazarus style comeback openly declaring he will have the numbers to bring down the government by mid September. But things have turned ugly in recent days, a twenty three year old, male volunteer worker in his office has gone to the police with an allegation he has been sexually abused by Anwar. After hiding for two days in the Turkish Embassy, Anwar has come out fighting, alleging another government conspiracy
to destroy him politically. Mark Davis has just returned from interviewing Anwar in Kuala Lumpur in the first comprehensive interview he has given since the allegations were made.

MARK DAVIS: Well, thanks for your time, sir, I'm sure it's precious commodity at the moment. What's the status of the allegations at the moment today? Have you been questioned?

ANWAR IBRAHIM, MALAYSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: We've not even privy to the police report. 17 We don't know the status. I had been told that I had been called but the investigation is nowhere close to the '98 sort of harassment and intimidation and beatings. 31 So that is quite reassuring.

MARK DAVIS: This must have been a terrifying moment for you though, of course, given what happened to you last time. Where were you and what happened when you received the news of this allegation?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: We were with the 31 members of parliament of Keadilan, the Justice Party, and we got a wind of this. So then the leaders and the family were together and that's when they were very scared and fearful of my personal safety, and insisted that I must leave immediately. To me then, political asylum or getting out of the country is out of question. I refuse to do that. But for a few days of personal protection would be necessary in the light of what happened in the past. I was beaten to near death in 1998 and my friends and my family wouldn't want me to submit unless there is a categorical guarantee that this would not happen.

MARK DAVIS: Would you consider fleeing Malaysia now if you were to be taken into custody?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: No. Because I am committed to fight the battle here, this is a time that I am supposed to contest in the election. This is a time where the Government is the weakest ever in terms of political turmoil within the ruling party in terms of economic issues, price hike, mismanagement, so they have to use something to deflect the attention.

MARK DAVIS: But on a personal level, how do you explain this to your wife, to your children, when this news comes through? This must be a very difficult conversation to have.

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Frankly, from the moment we received the SMSes, my wife said, "Oh, not again" and my children, immediately - all of them turned up and said "Look Papa, this is ridiculous." They didn't even ask for an explanation from me. And that was really great. I have such a wonderful family.

MARK DAVIS: But it must weigh on all of them. They could lose you again and, of course, you must be considering this yourself. I mean, it would be a prison term if this goes ahead. You could well be facing prison again.

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I don't believe they have any case to support except for the statement of this person. No, I don't believe there will be any credible forensics or alibi anything of the sort. There's no question that they can have it except if they fabricate evidence and we will challenge and fight them at every step.

MARK DAVIS: But this is not necessarily a government conspiracy but you made that accusation very early. Why did you do this? Why didn't you just take it as an allegation that should be dealt with on its merits?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I have evidence. This person is known to be meeting the Deputy Prime Minister in his office and in his house with a wife and a special officer assigned to him. This is I think - are evident, which we will introduce.

MARK DAVIS: It is, of cause, a very serious allegation. It is not merely an allegation of sexual contact, it's an allegation of sexual abuse. Is it not proper for an allegation of that type to be investigated by the police and to be prosecuted if the evidence suggests so?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Well if it is a professional conduct in an investigation, I don't have a problem. There is no way they can adduce any evidence to support that. It's all fabrication, crafted, designed, conspired by this team. That's why I am very clear. I am not suggesting there should not be an investigation. They can proceed. But look at how the media is playing this up. The media's controlled by the Government. And they are just casting aspersions all right through.

MARK DAVIS: Yes. In this case - that Thursday evening, were you in the presence of this young man? Were you working together? What were the circumstances of that night?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I have all facts established, all alibi, or what I did. I was never with him in private, in any place. Beyond that, my consular advice - wait, let them establish their case. But it's enough for me to say that I was never alone with him.

MARK DAVIS: The condominium that was mentioned at Damansara Heights. When you there that afternoon or evening?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: well uh The problem is here, the consular advised me to - not to touch in anything as possible in the investigation because that would be difficult in terms of when it comes to the position of the Defence. Enough for me to say that I was never alone with him. I have an alibi the entire day.

MARK DAVIS: I guess this goes to whether the event is possible - even possible. I mean, if you can clearly say, "No, I was not at that condominium."

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Let me say that not only remotely impossible, it is impossible to get the two of us together at any time.

MARK DAVIS: On the 26?


MARK DAVIS: You do know this man. What do you think of him?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Polite. Decent. but Very ambitious at times, not very steady. Very insecure, and very nervous at times. But I don't sense that there is anything terribly wrong with that person.

MARK DAVIS: So in essence, I guess you are calling this man a liar?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: He is of course, without doubt, a liar. My concern is whether he did it voluntary, or he's in that clear state of mind.

MARK DAVIS: For most of your life, you have been tagged with the line "future prime minister". Do you think that could still come true?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: That probably is the cause of all these problems. They say, "Anwar, you should remove that tag and probably they leave you alone. You keep that tag then all these sort of attacks and conspiracy on you." For example, a simple thing like going to the Turkish embassy became a major issue that I was lying - nobody want to touch me. This is a country that respects the rule of law. I say, "Look, I went through that process to near death in 1998." So that is why I am convinced that this whole game, this is a political ploy for one segment - and, of course, entertained by the rest, because it is easiest to get me out of the system. Now if I want to save myself and have a good life, retirement, and a major consultant with huge speaking fees then I should just forget this.

MARK DAVIS: You must have considered this though. You of course had an extreme circumstance in your imprisonment, in being beaten, you must have considered that's enough, retire, get out of it.

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Yah, I did. But you will stay in the best hotels in the world and go with the sumptuous meals. What more do you want? Do you want to be that pattern throughout your life? But what about your own commitment to your people? What about the state of democracy in Malaysia and the rule of law, independent judiciary, free media, you have been talking about all your life?


ANWAR IBRAHIM: I'm not prepared to forget that.

MARK DAVIS: Your life was previously devastated by these types of accusations. Has that given you any sympathy for gay Malaysians who endure similar persecution for their sexuality?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I am a Muslim. I am a practising Muslim. I don't - i accept proper relationship with a man and woman and the family life. It is not our business to knock at every door and checking people's orientation and casting aspersions or having prejudice against people. That is where you draw the line. What is happening now is using this to try and murder people politically or to embarrass people, to cast aspersions on people. And this of course is wrong.

MARK DAVIS: If you became Prime Minister, would you seek to review Malaysia's anti-homosexual laws?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Anything that is public display that will cause disruption to the beliefs of society of course would have to be curtailed. But it is not our business to go and dictate and enforce the lives of people - their beliefs and their orientation, if done without disrupting societal norms.

MARK DAVIS: My final question - Kevin Rudd is coming to Malaysia this week I believe. He is not meeting with you. Did you seek to have any discussion with him?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Not for now. But I am not sure if we could try and engage in - when he visits Malaysia.

MARK DAVIS: Have you had any relations with him?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Yes, earlier, I must say in 98 he was -- 35

MARK DAVIS: -- 35 He was very supportive of you at that time. But he's been rather quiet at the stage.


MARK DAVIS: Are you disappointed in that?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Not really. People are concerned about this diplomatic relation. They probably say, "Wait until what happen" sometimes in countries, they wait until you are beaten then they express sympathy but for now, I think i will let it --- (laughs)

MARK DAVIS: While you are unbloodied he doesn't need a comment. Thanks for your time, sir.



Interview Editor

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