Sunday, January 8, 2012

“I always say I'm 64 but I feel 46. I’m quite macho.” ~ Anwar

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How does one prepare for 20 years behind bars? If you are PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, you would “go through the minutest details” over what to expect, and brace for the worst. Speaking to Malaysiakini about tomorrow’s verdict for his sodomy trial, Anwar said he is “psychologically prepared” to return to jail. “People say I’m crazy. I thought of it. I know. I know what to expect in the minutest detail. Nobody wants to go through it, frankly,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “People say you want to be a martyr, a hero. Absolute nonsense. When one comes to this age, and going through that... people think they know (how it is).” Having spent six years at the Sungai Buloh prison previously, Anwar believes staunchly that prison guards and police officers are “exceedingly kind” and that he will be fine under their care.

His family, however, does not share his views. In a “session” to discuss the possibly outcomes of the trial, he said his children and sons-in-law expressed concern that there would be assault and mistreatment, as in 1998. Dismissing this, the father of six said his only concern is whether his bad back, a result of a police assault then, could withstand the jail cell conditions. “I always say I am 64 but I feel 46... I’m quite macho,” he said with a laugh.

In the following excerpt of Malaysiakini's interview, Anwar also speaks of how his likely incarceration could affect his political career and its effect on the opposition's battle for Malay votes. Content has been edited for language, brevity and clarity.

Malaysiakini: Looking at Monday, what is your expectation? Are you hopeful?

Anwar Ibrahim: I am hopeful, because unlike before they did not adduce evidence... This case they realised and used forensic evidence. They thought they were smart and we demolished (the evidence). So, how can they ignore facts from law? I therefore feel there is no option but to acquit me. (But) knowing the system and the realities... I wouldn’t be surprised if the judge convicts me. So there would be two options. I go to jail straight, or they grant me bail pending appeal. It is also difficult for them to deny bail, as they just had in the (former Selangor MB Mohd) Khir Toyo case, and all cases for that matter. But as you know, Anwar is always the exception.

It happened to you in the first sodomy trial.

Yes, in the first case. But I think the important thing is about whether I am mentally prepared and the family is prepared. I had a session with the family. We went through all the options and allowed my children and sons-in-law to speak up and express their concerns. Alhamdulillah, they’re prepared. Even for (wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) it is difficult. She went through that, she knows, with my back condition and my age - I always say I feel 46 but I’m 64. (laughs) - it’s not easy.

Their main concern is security, my personal safety. I said, ‘No,’ but they said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we said in 1998 and it happened’. (The authorities) said it will never happen (again), but how I was treated in 2008 was a repetition. It was short of being assaulted, but the rest were completely inhumane. The consideration for my back condition, my age, nothing. I’m not talking about the stripping. But I’m talking about putting me on the cement. And you know there was excruciating pain following that. I had to get a jab after that... But I think I will manage.

Are you psychologically prepared for it?

Yeah, fortunately. People say I’m quite crazy. I thought of it. I know I know what to expect in the minutest detail. Nobody wants to go through it, frankly. People say you want to be a martyr, a hero. Absolute nonsense, when one comes to this age, and going through that. People assume they know (how it is). That's why (self-exiled blogger) Raja Petra (Kamarudin) did not want to go to jail, I understand and I sympathise with him on that part although I don’t necessarily agree to the extent that (he) went to sell (his) soul. People can say lots of things, but after going through it before and taking the risk. Okay, they say they won’t do it (assault you). But if it’s done, it’s done.

Do you think you will survive? Your health is presumably not as good as before?

Just the back. The rest is okay. Compared to 1998, the back is the worst place. The only problem is excruciating pain and they don’t give me enough (assistance) you know... They say we have to ask the doctor, the doctor says must ask the consultant, then consultant must ask the minister... and if they send the same (Dr S) Jeyaindran, I will have a hell of a lot of trouble. That was the only doctor who (then PM Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) allowed and you can see his performance in court. Once I got this baseline pneumonia, and normally I’m the type who would refuse to go to hospital. I’m not the type to demand to be taken to hospital and all that. That night I couldn’t breathe. So they called the hospital and were referred to (Jeyaindran).

He said, “Okay, okay give him this medication, okay, okay.” Then I was getting angry. I said, “I cannot breathe. You come and see me”, and he said, “Okay, I’ll come tomorrow morning” so I had to wait until tomorrow morning. That’s the only thing... Will I manage? Yes. Can I? Yes. Will I get baseline pneumonia? No, I don’t think so.

I'm quite macho (laughs). The prison officers, even the police officers, are not cruel. The problem is instructions. In the Bukit Aman lock-up, the police officers were exceedingly kind. So I have difficulty hearing ceramah knocking the police (bantai polis). Similarly in prison, in my six years there, probably only one of them was the Umno-Perkasa type. Sometimes they cannot (do much), but they’re kind. If I’m not feeling well, at least they give a Panadol, they cannot consult an expert but they will still do it or give me medication to rub on the back.

Do you think you’ll come back to a strong Pakatan?

Of course. This is a major issue, what happens to the manifesto, interim leadership, who will be coordinating, and so on. But don’t forget, we have been dealing with this thing for the past three years. The moment I was charged, the thinking was sure that I will be implicated. No matter what.

So Pakatan will emerge stronger?

Yes, in fact someone jokingly said it’s better (if I am convicted). Azizah didn’t like it. It's an issue which is quite emotive for the Malays. Umno has given up on the Chinese. I personally think that there is no credible voice for the Chinese (in BN). So the battleground is clearly in the Malay (community). They consider Anwar in jail. There are still many among the Malays who are still reviewing it. The support will probably not be the same as in 1999, but even among the Umno guys, they say, ‘Why the need to put him in jail?’

Unlike the previous case, this case has been debated, discussed, medical records, pamphlets spread all around the country. (Now) they bring these frogs and Perkasa types, they did not use this in their campaign in ’99. People resent that.

So your going to jail will gain more sympathy from the Malays, compared with the Chinese and Indians?

No, we can safely say a large majority of the Chinese are with Pakatan Rakyat, so the battleground is with the Malays. The Chinese totally reject this whole issue, outright condemnation of the charge. The general view of Pakatan leaders is that putting me in jail would strengthen our case, would bring more support to us. I think Umno does concede this. I met quite a number (of them).

So they may go for the second option? Let you out?

Yeah, grant bail.

You said the Malays are listening to both sides. Would your conviction convince them that Umno is right?

You see in 1998, 1999, Malays generally accepted the Judiciary as independent. And now, after years of talking of Teoh Beng Hock, PKFZ, and all these cases... people know. I don’t think we should underestimate the masses. Except maybe the rural heartlands, where the people have no access to information, where there are not that many ceramah. I mean even Umno division chiefs they say: “Ya lah, but not like this. Kita tak setuju sebab you baik dengan DAP.” ("Yes, but not like this. We disagree with you because you’re good friends with DAP.")

That is common. Even in Penang, some of my old Umno guys say this. I counter them: “Tanah you yang mana Guan Eng ambil?” They say,“Tak ada lah tapi...” I ask: “You nak Ketua Menteri Melayu? Dulu pun tidak.” (“Which land of yours did Guan Eng take?” They say: “Oh no, but...”. I ask: “So you want a Malay Chief Minister? There wasn’t one before either.”) We can argue. But that’s the only point (of contention for the Malays).

But you have to admit, they’re flinging lots of mud on you, some of it might stick. Not just this case, the sex video, etc. How can you reverse that effect?

Yeah, today pluralism again, Utusan Malaysia. One argument is that if there are 100 charges against Anwar, five may be true. But there are also a group that says it is not possible for a man to be charged with 100 things, it’s an overkill. Some people read (the newspapers) and are sold on this idea of pro-Christian, starting with the Allah issue. Now pluralism. But even the rural heartlands, the religious scholars are with us. That is their difficulty. They have Utusan, TV3 daily, some say yeah, but you go to the ground, if they believe it I don’t think they would come. If they portray you with sodomy, prostitution, Jewish agent, CIA, World Bank, they won’t come.

Are you convinced that most Malaysians, or most Malays, believe that the charges preferred against you are fabricated?

In ’99 they were quite convinced, majority of Malays supported (me). In 2008, we were still good. Since then, in our states we have worked harder. I’m quite confident that in Penang, Selangor, Kedah, the penetration of rural areas is very high.

There was once lots of people waiting for you in front of court throughout the first sodomy trial but not so this time around. Do you think support has waned?

Then I was in jail, you see. There is a difference. For this one, I finish with court at 4pm and by 6pm I’m already in Ipoh. So I appear, and people say, it’s okay, he appears. I was in Malacca, and someone said: “I’ll see you in court tomorrow”. The next day there he was. I was in Sungai Petani last week and people tell me they’re coming (for the verdict). People from Terengganu and Kelantan will come. But with the incessant attack since then, probably there has been a slight dip (in support).

If the worst scenario happens, what is your message to Malaysians?

Work, fight this corrupt, unjust system. But use all your resources, and focus on the elections because the election will determine the winner. That is my message. Elections.

Interview conducted by Steven Gan, Aidila Razak and Salhan K Ahmad.

Karpal confident Anwar will be acquitted

dap convention shah alam 080112 karpalReferring to Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister-in-waiting, DAP national chairperson Karpal Singh expressed confidence today that the PKR de facto leader will be acquitted on the sodomy charge against him.

“There is no doubt in my mind that tomorrow, Anwar will be acquitted. He is entitled to the acquittal,” declared Karpal. The verdict in the long-running Sodomy II trial will be delivered tomorrow.

The fact that Anwar had testified from the dock instead of taking the witness stand does not mean the defence cannot secure an acquittal, added Karpal (right).

“The solitary witness is Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan. Look at his evidence, a man who says he was ravished but for two days he did nothing.

“The complainant had an affair with a deputy public prosecutor and showed signs of having access to the investigating officer. But the prosecution did not call him to deny the allegation.

“These are sufficient for an acquittal,” he said at the party’s national delegates conference in Shah Alam today.

For these reasons, Karpal added, an interim prime minister is not needed because Anwar would helm the country’s leadership when Pakatan Rakyat captures federal power.

[Read the rest here]