Q&A with Datuk Seri Anwar IbrahimPosted: April 12, 2008
Prior to this post, I wrote about Anwar Ibrahim saying that he will not be pushing for the vote of no confidence when the Parliament convenes later this month. He also says that he is not going to contest in any by-election any time soon, within the next few months.
The Star carried out a Q&A session with Anwar Ibrahim. Here are some excerpts.
Priority is to give pact more punch
Q: People are waiting for you to get back in Parliament yet you say you are no in hurry. A number of opposition MPs have said they are willing to give up their seat for you.
A: Yes, I have an option of about 20 possibilities. I have not made up my mind because this is not a priority. We have 82 MPs right now – more, in fact – and that’s enough to make a serious impact on Parliament.
Building up an effective credible Pakatan Rakyat is to my mind far more important for now. If we can do that – if we can run our state governments and if I can continue expressing my views on a number of issues – I don’t see why one would expect that I have to jump into the fray as an MP that soon.
Q: But do you see yourself in Parliament by the end of year?
A: Certainly not in the next few months. In the next few months we will review by looking at it and developments. Things are moving very fast and we are cementing a stronger Pakatan Rakyat and Umno is getting more fragile. I am the first to admit that negotiations to have a solid relationship take time. But we have time on our side. It is Barisan and Umno that is racing against time.
Q: There was such euphoria with Pak Lah in 2004 and voters gave him mandate wholesale only to desert Barisan in this 2008 election. What lessons have you learnt from this journey that voters can change their minds just like that?
A: It is my firm belief that you must have the trust and confidence in the wisdom of the masses.
I think the people were right in their decision of supporting Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi in 2004 because initially he made the correct pronouncements and it was very difficult for people to fault him on the pronouncements on an anti-corruption drive, good governance, independent judiciary, economic justice and “I will listen’, all those pious platitudes.
One year is too soon, they said, give him a chance but after 4 years, the people say ‘look, you have not delivered’. So what have I have learnt – is that people can give so much affection, they can cry for you, they can give kisses – but never take them for granted. They may not holding PhDs in the villages but they are wise in their own way.
Pakatan Rakyat has to hold to this principle very clearly which means our state governments must be clean, not corrupt, work hard and deliver promises. Yes, there would be mistakes on the way but these can easily be forgiven – but not by absconding funds, stealing and betraying the trust.
Some of our people may make some not-so-articulate statements because it was not discussed or well deliberated. But I believe that these things are temporary and can be forgiven. People test you on your credibility and the fact that you deliver your promises. One thing I hold dear in my heart -is that I know for a fact that I have been vindicated by the people – not by this corrupt court – and I can sense their hope, the affection they show.
Q: With regards to the PAS and DAP relationship, how were you able to convince PAS to moderate its Islamic state approach?
A: It’s not for me to convince them. PAS is an Islamic party and it is too much to expect them not to continue with their struggle for Islam.
PKR, for example, is not an Islamic party but I maintain that I am a committed Muslim but then we all agree this is a multi -racial multi-religious country and that we have a special role for Islam as the special religion for the Federation.
But what is pertinent in this context is for PAS , DAP and PKR to acknowledge the fact that the issue of governance , stability and the future of the country is paramount. This seems to be fully endorsed and recognised by the voters in the election.
Some use the term political tsunami but I call it a ‘defining moment’ because it was not comprehensible in the past for Malays including more conservative Malays and PAS members in large numbers to support DAP candidates and vice versa.
Q: Will Pakatan Rakyat introduce a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi?
A: No, for now, that is not an issue, there is no reason (to do it). We do not find it a necessity nor critical (for us to do so).
We will of course continue to monitor and discuss this between the leaders of DAP, PAS and PKR, but for now there is no reason to raise this.
Q: What are you views on the Official Secrets Act, Internal Security Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act?
A: We have made it clear in our manifesto that all draconian and oppressive laws have to go. There’s concern over the threat of terrorism and therefore we have to tighten security laws in terms of dealing with this.
We will not compromise on this. But clearly the detention without trial, the suspension of civil liberties, including the writ of habeas corpus, has to go.
Because in defending basic rights, you cannot use draconian laws and condemn people to imprisonment without trial.
Does this mean we compromise on security? No. We will give police adequate powers, in the event they have reasonable need to use them.
Operasi Lalang is now acknowledged by the Prime Minister as something that was wrong. I was detained under the ISA, and two years after I was released, I was made a minister.
So there are a lot of things (that have happened) to suggest that these oppressive laws should be abrogated.
Similarly, the Universities and University Colleges Act and the Official Secrets Act need to be reviewed. The OSA should not be used to protect the corrupt.
It makes a mockery of the whole process. If the intention is to safeguard matters concerning national security, that’s fair. I don’t think anybody would say that all government documents should be open (to public scrutiny).
I remember being asked by the then Attorney General, who said “but you did swear, under oath, to protect government secrets?” My reply was: “Yes, but I did not swear to protect the corrupt.”
Q: What about the Printing Presses and Publications Act? If you come into power there will not be a need for publishing licenses?
A: There are enough libel laws and other laws to protect (people). If for example, the issue of the film Fitna, or cartoons on the Prophet, we must have blasphemy laws.
I’m not saying that I’m that liberal, that you can insult religion. We have to have these laws. But these laws cannot be used as a license to then protect the corrupt and deny basic freedoms.
Let people express themselves. And some of it (opinions) will be at our expense. I know, I have a blog, and I say we open it up, and I get some nasty comments in my blog.
But I am committed to this issue of freedom. The only thing that I won’t allow is four-letter words, swearing, making nasty references to religion or race, but otherwise we have to allow it.
What is important is that we need to be clear over what is prohibited and it must be discussed and be agreed upon.
Q: What are the chances of Pakatan Rakyat winning the next general election?
A: If we perform, we will sweep the elections.The five states (that we control) are the base a very important corridor. I am very confident of our chances subject to the fact that we perform. We need to perform.
From my intelligence, they are some who will try to stop this. They will try to create problems in funds and businesses which will be unwise because they will be punishing the people. Then the reaction will be worse (from voters against Barisan) as we have seen in Kelantan.
Q: How long of a honeymoon period does Pakatan Rakyat have?
A: It is important they start performing now. I don’t think we should be even start talking about a honeymoon period.
Full article here.
This is what I call “addressing the problem”. He does not appear to be afraid of speaking what he really and truly believes in. Admirable, to say the least. Perhaps he is just a good speaker, something which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s wait and see what happens next.