Dr. MADHI HASAN: The writer lists five factors that make the PKR president uniquely different from all our previous prime ministers
Why is it that many Malaysians have been waiting for YB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim (MP for Port Dickson) to become the prime minister for more than two decades?
At every general election in these 20 years, they had wished that Anwar would become the prime minister even though he had not contested in some of the elections.
In reality, Anwar had only contested in one general election since he was sacked from Umno in 1998, which was the 13th general election in 2013. In the other four elections, Anwar was either serving jail time (GE10, GE11 and GE14) or was disqualified from contesting (GE12).
Those who want him as their PM see many qualities in him that make him special and stand apart from the other men who had been our prime minister.
With the resignation of Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin as the prime minister on Aug 16, once again Anwar’s name is in the fray to become the prime minister.
If he does become the nation’s ninth prime minister, these are the five things that will make his appointment unique.
(i) The first prime minister to have served time
He will join a long list of notable world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sukarno, Recep Tayyep Erdogan and Vaclav Havel who all went from spending time in jail or being political prisoners to lead their respective nations with success.
Anwar’s tryst with imprisonment started when he was detained for two years under the ISA from 1974 to 1976. He was then sentenced to serve jail time from 1998 to 2004 and from 2015 to 2018 on charges that he had claimed to be politically motivated. In all, he had spent two years of his life under the ISA detention in Kamunting and nine years in the Sungai Buloh Prison.
Why is it that his reputation remains intact despite being convicted for corruption charges and sodomy? This is because the people had witnessed the numerous injustices, including the black eye incident, suffered by him in the hands of those in power in all his criminal cases. All the cases were widely seen as political persecution, aimed at soiling his reputation, breaking his popularity and killing off his political career.
International legal bodies such as the International Bar Association, Centre for the Independence of Judges of the International Commission of Jurists, Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and Union Internationale des Avocats had monitored the trials and published a damning report titled ‘Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000’.
The report summarized that Malaysia’s judicial independence and prosecution’s integrity had been destroyed in the manner the trials were conducted. Amnesty International declared Anwar as a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’.
(ii) The first prime minister from a multi-racial party
All of Malaysia’s previous eight prime ministers had been leaders of a Malay nationalist party – either Umno or Bersatu. Anwar will be the first to be from a multi-racial party, Parti KeADILan Rakyat (KeADILan).
Anwar had proved that a multi-racial party such as KeADILan could win elections. The party has a presence nationwide and its leader Anwar has been consistent in defending people of all races and religions. Anwar’s brand of politics makes him acceptable to all Malaysians.
KeADILan’s victories in elections also showed that the multi-racial party has become more relevant to Malaysians while race-based parties were stuck in the past.
(iii) The first prime minister with true Islamic leadership credentials
Anwar started his political struggle through an Islamic movement, Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) in the 1970s. It is beyond doubt that Anwar’s role and ABIM’s function created the rise of Islamic movement in Malaysia in the 1970s.
Under Anwar’s leadership, ABIM took to promote the concept of moderate Islam, which was accepted by all Malaysians. Anwar is also widely recognized as a prominent Islamic leader in the Muslim world, and has excellent ties with Islamic religious scholars and leaders such Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi and Turkish president, Recep Tayyep Erdogan.
When Anwar first joined the government in 1982, he had introduced several institutions and programmes based on Islamic values. These include the International Islamic University Malaysia, Bank Islam, the Takaful system, and the Islamic banking system.
Today, Anwar is promoting the ‘Muslim Democrat’ concept to encourage progressive democracy among the Muslims. Although deeply rooted with Islamic values and movement, his detractors continue to label him as being a secularist, liberal and one who professes religious pluralism.
(iv) The first prime minister with teaching and education background
Anwar will be the first prime minister with a background as an educator. He had founded and headed a private learning institute called Yayasan Anda to offer education to the marginalized children.
During his tenure as the education minister, he had also introduced the National Education Philosophy.
His credibility as an intellectual and a thinker is well established, and not made up like other politicians.
Anwar formed the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) along with other global Islamic thinkers, and serves as the chairman of this think tank.
He had also acted as a visiting professor at numerous recognized universities in the United States of America and the United Kingdom since his release from prison in 2004.
(v) The prime minister with a vast experience at the finance ministry
So far, only Najib Razak had the experience of being the finance minister before becoming the prime minister. He had six months of experience at the important ministry before being the PM.
Anwar, on the other hand, had been the finance minister for seven years, from 1991 to 1998.
Despite having no educational background in fiscal management, Anwar had proven himself to be a very capable finance minister in that period by managing the nation’s finances, delivering balanced budgets and reducing national debts. No other finance minister since then has been able to follow suit.
His excellent work as finance minister resulted in the Euromoney magazine naming him the ‘Finance Minister of the Year’ in 1996.
He was also pivotal in introducing Islamic banking system during his tenure.
Extraordinary leader for extraordinary time
Malaysia, under Mahiaddin, had failed to handle the health, economic and political crises.
We need a leader who is capable, confident, charismatic and with extraordinary leadership skills and abilities to help us overcome these crises.
The situation Malaysia faces today is just like what Great Britain had faced during World War 2 when it needed Winston Churchill to defeat Adolf Hitler.
Based on his principles and leadership record, Anwar is the only person who is capable of pulling Malaysia out of these crises.
Dr. Madhi Hasan is a Fellow at Institut Kajian Pilihan Raya dan Pemajuan Demokrasi (IESAD), Universiti Selangor.