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I’m not a stooge of the Chinese – Anwar

Posted on 18 April 2012

(editor’s note: We took liberties in rephrasing the questions)

Q: You think Malaysia is ready to move further away from race-based politics that have dominated the political scene for so long?

Anwar: If you look at the 2000 elections, it’s clearly a departure. It’s been quite clear since 2007. Some critics painted the picture that that if we do take over, it will be like a stooge to the Chinese. It has been used by Mahathir [the former prime minister] against me and it was used by Najib against me. He had publicly said that I will be a stooge of the Chinese, particularly the DAP (Democratic Action Party). My style has never been to be apologetic. Why can’t I be used by the Chinese and the Malays and the Indians, for the good of this country? Instead of just denying, “No, I will not.”

Q: What are the challenges for multi-racial Malaysia as it modernises?

Anwar: The so-called contentious religious issues were not raised by religious scholars but were purely a political ploy. After all, this race card, religion card are all inculcating a climate of fear. What they want to hear is what you have to offer in terms of concrete policies. If and when we do take over, then the constitutional guarantees and framework will be made on the issues of language and religion, which I think is clearly acceptable to Muslims and non-Muslims in this country. But, having said that, I wouldn’t want to discredit the fact that it would still continue. Look at the UMNO media; it’s a daily dosage of Christians versus Malays, so they may attempt to send this message through their incessant propaganda efforts to the rural heartlands.

Q: You were tossed in the can by Mahathir, then repeatedly accused of sodomy. Do you hate him?

Anwar: Oh, I thought about that a lot. You have to remember, I was in prison, so what do you do? Meditate, read and think. And sing, I sing quite a bit too. You do, you reflect, but then it was mutual, he was kind to me and I was exceedingly kind and loyal to him. It was a very difficult period but I don’t think I had much option towards the end. In fact, I’ve always said to my more critical friends that I have absolved myself. After all, we were part of the government. Some of the decisions were bitter, but we needed to draw the line. Things like bailouts, things like the corruption reports against ministers, already on your table, and for you to say “not to do anything”… you have to bring it up! But people say you could have compromised, some friends did say that. But then you would have transgressed the boundary. If or when you do take over, how do you then rationalise with the public what you’ve done? If it’s done by the prime minister, well there’s not much I can do. But if it is condoned by you, you have a problem. So, do I regret it? No. Was it difficult? Yes. Do I think I had other options? No, except to resign early, to die a fighter.

Q: There’s a strong moral conviction behind your political action. What keeps you true? 

Anwar: I go to Quran class, and following the Nabi (prophet), as an intellectual, you don’t view religion purely from a dogmatic sense but you engage. Amartya Sen once said in his book “Identity and Violence”, he said, “I’m an Indian, I memorised Sanskrit at the age of nine and I think it was a great thing, I’m a Hindu and I think we have a great civilisation, but because I’m in India, I think that Muslim moguls have done wonderfully well. But later I became a professor in Cambridge, in Harvard. I think it’s a great institution and I love being here in America and despite the fact that I grew up in Santiniketan, I am a great admirer of Shakespeare. So who am I?” And that is beautiful. I use that a lot. And when you read it and understand it and you see these people talking about Malay supremacy, oh my god, they know nothing.

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