Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prison and premiership - Two things on Anwar’s mind as he waits for verdict of sodomy trial today

AS the guilty verdict looms over his head, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has two things on
his mind – his family and the succession plan of the opposition coalition he leads.

“I’m ready to go inside,” the former deputy prime minister said of his second sodomy charge, adding he has little faith in the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.

Anwar, 64, is charged with sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, in July 2008 and the verdict will be read out by the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.

He was first sentenced to six years in prison for corruption in 1999 and nine years for sodomy in 2000. He was released in 2005.

In an interview with The Malay Mail at the PKR headquarters on Wednesday, Anwar said his family had considered all possible options and believed they were better prepared to cope if he was sent behind bars.

“I am optimistic but I am also realistic. You expect the best but you also don’t want to be surprised with the worst,” he said to the possibility that he may be found not guilty.

“I don’t believe it will get worse, what else can they do? I have considered all the options, including offers from friends abroad, including Turkey, to just leave.

“They tell me that I don’t deserve to go to jail. They ask me what I have to prove. Some are very concerned and their greatest nightmare is the treatment in prison.”

Although the government has claimed the opposition leader had exaggerated his treatment in jail, Anwar said his enemies were willing to do anything to hurt him and his family.

“My family’s greatest concern is what will happen to me in jail. They have created all sorts of reasons like the IGP was not aware but they are prepared to do that and they are willing to do worse.

“And the other question is what makes you think they have not attempted (to cause harm) to me and my family before this?

“The accident with Wan Azizah’s car where the brakes of the Mercedes Benz were tempered with and the police have yet to solve this case. This really surprises me when it is a major allegation,” he said, adding that the kidnap threat on Nurul Izzah’s daughter was also not investigated.

Ironically, on Saturday night, his wife and Keadilan president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s bodyguard Fayyadh Afiq Albakqry was hospitalised after he was stabbed in the hand with an unidentified object during a meet-the people session in Seberang Jaya. PKR has alleged it was an attempt to poison Azizah which was thwarted by Fayyadh.

However, Anwar believes both his family and PKR will be able to “manage and endure” if he was sent to jail.

He said PKR had matured and evolved from a one-man party into a party with a “clear agenda”.

“In 1999, when PKR was formed, from (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) to even Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said the party was only about Anwar and it will close shop after Anwar is released.

“They have been proven wrong and I think it has matured as a party with a clear agenda.

“It is not an easy process like in the 2008 election when I had to put anyone that was willing to contest in seats that we thought that we could not win like Kulim and Padang Serai. “We won and suffered in the process,” he said, referring to the two representatives of these constituencies — Zulkifli Nordin and N. Gobalakrishnan — who become independents.

However, the PKR de facto leader is still not ready to ride into the sunset. “It is presumptuous to say that Anwar is completely irrelevant but the party has matured and has outlived Anwar in a sense,” he said.

“I don’t believe it is a problem. Then people will ask what Anwar’s role is? For now, I think I am still there so I think it is still okay.”

Without revealing names, he said Pakatan Rakyat (PR) had decided on an interim prime minister for the coalition if he were to be found guilty.

“Some of them joke that it will fare better for PR. It has been going for roughly three years. It would be reasonable to expect we have made the adequate preparations.

“All options have been considered like how we coordinate meetings within Pakatan Rakyat. It is not that difficult, but do you announce a prime minister- designate although it is as an interim measure? We will announce the interim person when the time comes.”

Anwar said PR was confident of capturing Putrajaya, stressing that Barisan Nasional’s (BN) non-Malay component parties had grown weaker since 2008, hence PR’s base among the Chinese and Indians was
still formidable.

“They (BN) now consolidate the Malay base support and we are also working very hard. We are able to make major advancement in particularly western Johor. Felda areas have also been a major breakthrough, especially
after the land cases against the government.”

He also pointed out that PR was working in Sabah and Sarawak which hadbeen considered traditional vote banks for BN.

“We also believe that the Malays will support Lim Guan Eng in Penang and we are much stronger in Selangor and if we can consolidate Kedah and Perak, and penetrate states like Negeri Sembilan then we are confident.

“Now, look out for Sabah. I also believe in Sarawak we will win more seats than 2008. I am optimistic. Anwar in jail or not, will make it to Putrajaya.”

He conceded that while the BN machinery was caught with its pants down in 2008, it was better prepared to counter issues for the 13th general election.

“But,” he stressed, “it is no longer if BN could regain its two-thirds parliamentary majority but (if) the ruling coalition survives the election.”

Anwar dismissed talk of chaos if PR wins the elections, saying it was confident of obtaining the support of the army and rulers.

“I think, generally, the rulers may have their views, reservations, misgivings, particularly if it is DAP but as what the late Tuanku Jaafar told me, you can rely on the rulers when it comes to defending the constitution.”

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