Monday, July 14, 2008


In, out, then in again. Ezam Mohd Nor, former Keadilan Youth chief and trusted aide to former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is back in the Umno fold again. He speaks to ANIZA DAMIS about Anwar, Umno, corruption, Trojan horses and the six secret boxes.

Former Keadilan Youth chief Ezam Mohd Nor says that for his generation, the core problem is the management of wealth which also involves the corruption of power.

Q: Who is Ezam?

A: I’m a very simple and straightforward man. I believe very strongly in the principle of honesty. It’s the most treasured value in life for me. And I value friendship very strongly. I’m very loyal to friends, my parents and family.

Q: What would you do for friendship’s sake?

A: I’d do anything for a friend. Especially for a friend who is in trouble or hardship. I think nobody can deny that I’ve done the most that any human can do to help Anwar and the family when they were in trouble many years ago. And that is purely on the basis of friendship. There’s nothing political about it. Of course there are a lot of cases of being true to a friend, but it is in Anwar’s case where I think there is the most testimony of friendship.

Q: How good do you think that friendship was, or is?

A: I got to know him after we’d had a debate in IIU, when he was the president of IIU and I was a student leader. In Tun Salleh Abas’ case, I was very unhappy then and rebelled in IIU. He came in to IIU to explain, and I was not satisfied, so he asked me to join him to do reforms. He asked me to join him with the Institute for Policy Research (Institut Kajian Dasar) immediately after I graduated from the International Islamic University. After a few years, he asked me to join him as political secretary. I served him only for three years, and things happened in 1998, and then I became close to the family. Before that, it was purely professional. I was political secretary, assistant director for IKD, I managed most of his international programmes, but I didn’t know him personally. I had always put a barrier to maintain a professional relationship. But still, I regarded him as my friend, and when he went into jail, I was the first to come up and fight for him.

Q: But as friends, how close were you? Going to prison for someone is not something that you do for a mere acquaintance. Are you still friends?

A: We are not friends any more now. But those days, we were not close, but it’s more about having a relationship between a boss and a subordinate. And I regard him as my boss, and I think it’s my responsibility to help the family when he’s in hardship – whatever it takes.

Q: I wouldn’t go to prison for my boss… Was Anwar among your closest friends?

A: He wasn’t. I have other close friends. Our age difference is exactly 20 years, so that made it quite difficult for us to build up a relationship like that. And, I always maintained to separate my professional life and my professional life. The political secretary-ship was a profession, so the relationship was not that of close friends. It’s more of a boss and subordinate. People might have other ways of showing appreciation to their boss, but I would regard my commitment as a subordinate. When he was expelled and put in jail, I was his political secretary, still, at that time. So I still regarded myself as being on duty. So, I did my best for him and for his family.

Q: Why did you leave PKR?

A: PKR has diverted from the basic ideals on which it was formed in 1999. I regard it as a question of doing away with the basic fundamentals of the core values of this country – eroding and erasing Malays as the core of the party. When we formed PKN (as PKR was then), we agreed on it being a multi-racial party; but we also firmly agreed that it has to be a Malay-based party. That’s why you could see a lot of Malay towering figures in the Islamic movement there – ABIM, JIM – and I think it’s because it’s a Malay-based multi-racial party. After Anwar came out of prison, he diverted from that. There’s never a statement from Anwar that PKR is a Malay-based multi-racial party. Suddenly he shifted to make it a purely multi-racial party. When I asked him, he was very evasive about it. He said, “This is a political reality. It’s very hard for us to get Malay votes, so politically we have to bank on the Chinese and Indian votes, so we have to show to them that we are multi-racial.” This, to my mind, is a betrayal to the race and to the nation. This is the basis of this country. It’s a recognition by Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan, and on Tunku Abdul Rahman’s leadership as a Malay. You can fight for reforms, you can fight against corruption. If you say the National Economic Policy (NEP) is wrong, I agree with that. In fact, I went to jail to expose corrupt practices of a few leaders. But, criticizing the NEP on its flawed implementation and criticizing the very basis and spirit of the NEP are two different things. What Anwar was hitting on was the very basis and spirit of the NEP, which is not merely a policy; it is a policy based on a very unique experience of the country, and also the spirit of the constitution, which gives a very special privilege to the Malays. If there is no clause in the Constitution on the situation and privilege of the Malays, we cannot form the NEP. That’s how much the NEP is related to the spirit of the Constitution. It goes to the very basis of the formation of this country. But Anwar diverted from that. He wanted to make it really multi-racial, and condemned the NEP, to the extent that even Malays see the NEP as the core of corruption, which is unfair, because it is not the cause of corruption. If the NEP is the cause of corruption, then, in Indonesia, there is no NEP, but there is corruption. So, this political maneuovering, at the expense of eroding the basis of this nation, which is multi-racial, but Malay-based, to me, is a betrayal.

Q: But as people have argued, the NEP was actually established to help any poor Malaysian – to bring up the entire Malaysian community. Is there anything wrong in that?

A: Of course not. I’m not saying we can’t come up with any new plan. In fact, the NEP has long been replaced by other policies. But my point is, you cannot condemn or undermine the basic policies which are important to the society. All the great nations of this world have high regard for their forefathers, although they may not agree with them. Kemal Ataturk is the forefather of modern Turkey. He’s very secular, and a lot of people disagree with that now, including (Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip) Erdogan. He comes from an Islamic party, which contradicts Ataturk’s secularism, but you never see Erdogan criticizing Ataturk. What is happening now, Anwar is not fighting for the Indians and Chinese out of a real concern for the Indians and Chinese. It’s merely his political maneouvering to get the maximum votes out of the situation, at the expense of criticizing the basic principle of the founding fathers. And this is a betrayal, and a threat to the country, in terms of eroding the basic institutions and ideals. When Anwar was the Finance Minister, he was the one who introduced a specific scheme for Bumiputera contractors – skim kontraktor berwibawa – with the specific instruction to the contract division, to give each Malay company at least RM1 billion worth of projects without tender. Around 15 companies – almost RM15 billion without tender. I’m not complaining about the policies. I am complaining about the consistency of Anwar. When he was in Umno, he was the main proponent of affirmative action for the Malays. And now he is talking about equality, open-tender system. I want to remind Chinese and Indians, you have to be careful with this man. Likewise, I also want to remind the Malays – you can see the shift in his political directions. We formed Parti Keadilan on the emotions of the people, and we came up with a Malay-based multi-racial party, because there was also anger among the Chinese and Indians, and they also wanted to fight for him. Then, after he came out from prison, he sees the economy is having problems, but since the Malays are quite contented with Pak Lah, we cannot get the Malay votes. So, he shifted it to a multi-racial party. Now, after a few weeks after elections, he can sense that the Malays are against him. He can sense the policies of Pakatan are undermining the Malays. So, for the past few weeks, he’s getting all the big guns – the big names in Abim and a few other Malay organizations – into the supreme council of Keadilan. He wants to show that he is back to the Malay (struggle). So, how can we trust a person or a party that has had several political directions in the past few years? Some people might say, because Keadilan is new, it will keep on changing because it is new. But, when DAP was new before, they were consistent with a Malaysian-Malaysia till today. And Pas is consistent with the Islamic State and pursuing Islamic ideals from those days until today. And so has Umno – fighting for the Malays from Day One until now. But why has Keadilan been fighting and focusing differently from the first year until the ninth year? To my mind, the pursuit is not because of the idealism and objective of the party. The pursuit is because of the objectives of one individual to become Prime Minister. We cannot be serving the interest of one individual to become prime minister.

Q: Anwar has said he has changed. Perhaps that’s the reason for the inconsistency?

A: Yes, he is changed from after prison. But, he keeps on changing. To my mind, it is not because of prison experience; it’s a mere political expediency, which is basically serving a self-centred interest. What I cannot tolerate most is foregoing the basic ingredients of statesmanship. The strength of the founding fathers was not their political maneouvering, nor oratory skills. None of them can come close to Anwar in terms of oratory skills. But their strength is in their statesmanship – putting the interests of the nation before any other interest. This is the strength of the country – it’s very crucial for this multi-racial country. Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun Sambanthan tolerated each other, because they wanted to hold the nation together. But what I see from Anwar, he lost all elements of statesmanship. He put his interests very clearly above all other interests. And after the elections, he kept on playing the issue of hopping (coalitions) and creating a new government – which is against the interest of the nation, because you give the wrong signal to the investors.

Q: Perhaps he keeps giving these hints because he believes that Pakatan can take over, and that Pakatan would be a better solution than Barisan?

A: If you want to make a better solution, why don’t you do it quietly? Why do you have to make noise? If you do it quietly, you don’t detriment the country. If you have enough MPs, you go to Parliament, go through the necessary process and become the prime minister. But why are you making noise, especially as the noise you are making goes against the interests of the country? You are making noise because the objective is not to form the government. The objective is to bind Pakatan Rakyat, which is falling. That’s why he has to come up with a strong imagination among Pakatan that he is going to be prime minister. Because, he can see from the very first day of governing in the four new Opposition states that there’s a lot of trouble there – especially in Perak and Selangor. And it shows all the testimony of a falling coalition. Anwar is a smart politician, and he knows that, so he has to come up with some imagination. So, he has to make it known, by making noise, that he is going to form a government – even at the expense of the country – because the target is not forming the government, but binding Pakatan Rakyat, which is falling.

Q: Why do you say that it’s falling? After all, it’s only now that the country actually has a formal Opposition structure. Except for Kelantan, and for a brief period, Terengganu, the Opposition has never been in government before, so surely it’s expected that it would have teething problems? Does this necessarily translate into ‘falling apart’?

A: Teething problems we can understand. But what happened is fundamental problems. Just a few days ago, the Pas president said in Harakah that there’s no chief in Pakatan Rakyat. That is a fundamental question for a coalition. How is it a coalition can’t even agree on one leader? This is fundamental – it’s not a teething problem. And then, of course, there is also the point he raised about Pas being undermined – this is official in Harakah. And it comes from the Pas president – he brought up all the fundamental issues, which, to my mind, undermines a coalition. With the DAP, there are a lot of executive meetings boycotted by the DAP – this is a known fact. In the first 100 days, you can disagree; but boycotting meetings – coalition meetings – to my mind, is a fundamental flaw. And until today, there is no one policy which is uniform among the five Pakatan states. There are some very clear policy differences between Kelantan and Penang – even on dresscode it differs. And nothing is being done about it. So, what this shows is a falling coalition – it’s not a strengthening coalition. We agree there are teething problems, but it must be moving towards strenghthening, not moving towards weakening. And Anwar, being a seasoned politician, knows this very well. That’s why he has to push hard on this imagination of going to Putrajaya by 16 September.

Q: Does this mean Anwar has changed as a person or politician? Or is it that this was not something that you realized?

A: I think this is Anwar. He keeps on changing, he’s only loyal to himself, he doesn’t have loyalty to any organization or ideals. He’s purely someone with a pure and sole ambition of becoming a prime minister. I didn’t realize that then in Umno, because he was right on that path and only needed to follow through. Of course, people ask, “Why did it take so long (for you to realize this)?” He was in prison for seven years, so I cannot evaluate him then, because he is in prison. It was always my principle that I would make my decision only after he comes out from jail. Because I don’t want to be seen leaving a boss when he’s in hardship. That’s why I made my decision one or two years after he was released, because in that two years, I could see the real him – no statesmanship, no loyalty to the struggle and ideals, and basically, no long-term plan; it’s all short-term. You should be talking about the long-term Pakatan Rakyat coalition. You should be talking about a long-term building up of Keadilan, which is very weak in structure. Even in Selangor, which Keadilan is controlling now, the fundamental structure is very weak – for a ruling party. And Anwar doesn’t come up with a long-term strategy to strengthen, because he always looks at the short-term. That’s why he says now 16th September. If he passes 16 September, he will come up with something else for the next three to four months. This is Anwar. And I don’t think I can serve a leader with that sort of modus operandi – self-centred and short-termed. In a way, I can accept the betrayal, but you are playing politics to the extent of eroding the basic structure of the country, which is multi-racial, but Malay-based, to me, it’s a great betrayal of the country, and I don’t want to be part of that.

Q: If he didn’t betray the basic policy of a Malay-based country, but he was ‘playing politics’, it would be okay?

A: Once you go beyond the line – to me, you cannot go beyond the basic principle of religion, race and country. That is beyond repair.

Q: You’ve now rejoined Umno. But you’ve spent the last 10 years cristicising and slamming Umno. What makes you now have faith in the party?

A: I joined Umno in 1991 after meeting Anwar, on the basis of making change. Making an effect on change, reform. That is the principles of the prophets, the genuine freedom fighters – they always fight for change, for the betterment of society. That has always been my principle. That’s why I joined Umno through Anwar. Then, I was expelled. I didn’t choose to be out of Umno. My only sin was to criticize the president of Umno then (former Prime Minister then Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed). I have been punished enough. In fact, even after being re-admitted into Umno, I am still being punished by not being allowed to contest. I have no complaint about that. I want to make it clear that my rejoining of Umno is also on the same basis of reform. I always believe – especially after what happened to me in the last 10 years – that corruption is the core issue in the society – especially the Malays. We can see the change from the post-petroleum days – in the 80s, when Petronas was formed, you can see all the big fights in Umno – through the 90s, and 2000a, which involved the big figures – president, deputy president, former president and present president – I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, but I am saying that there was something wrong there. I remember a hadith which says, “Every generation has its challenges.” For my generation, the core problem is the management of wealth, and of course, this involves the corruption of power. So I keep that very strongly in my heart, and set up an NGO to fight corruption. Of course, after 2004, Pak Lah had announced certain measures against corruption, but it’s not really serious in terms of implementation at that time. But after the recent elections, he came up with a blueprint for setting up the independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency, which, to my mind, is the most significant step for reforms in this country. Because, the problem among Malay society, and Malay leaders at large, is because of corruption and the management of wealth. We’ve never had a prime minister making that kind of commitment before. Even Anwar, when he was the deputy prime minister then, or now, never said anything that was even close to what Pak Lah said. People might question Pak Lah’s motives, but I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in the future, and now we have a prime minister who has that sort of commitment. People will say, “Why don’t you fight this in the NGO?” My answer is, “Now I have a choice.” Before, I didn’t have a choice, that’s why I was in the opposition. But now I have a choice to help the powers that be, who are fighting corruption. That is my basic reason of joining Umno.

Q: But you’ve moved from an anti-corruption watchdog, into a system which you say is riddled with corruption.

A: I believe the civil society, the NGO, Gerak, is still there. But now I have the opportunity to be inside, with better elements and resolve. That day when I was joining Umno, (Anwar’s wife and Leader of Opposition Datin Seri) Wan Azizah said she was shocked that I was joining Umno. But she shouldn’t be shocked, because I did exactly what her husband did before – he criticized the government, then joined Umno in 1982. I am entering a better Umno than the Umno Anwar joined in 1982. I am entering Umno now, with a resolve from the prime minister to do reform. He not changing the ACA on just one or two issues – he is changing the basic structure of the ACA’s independence. Hong Kong changed because of this element of independence. It’s not easy, but I believe in it. But from my experience going round the country, there is some resistance when I keep pushing for reform on corruption. But there is also tremendous reception from the grassroot Umno leaders, who basically encourage me to go on. So, I believe there is enough space for us to make an effective change within the Umno structure today.

Q: What kind of reforms do you think Umno needs?

A: Umno needs to be seen as credible. The basic ingredient of credibility now is integrity. I think this is what is perceived to be lacking for the past few years. In fact, the very strength of BN and Umno before is on integrity. All the early leaders of Umno, MCA and MIC are known to be very moderate leaders, not wealthy, sacrificed their wealth for the party and the nation. There might have been other flaws, they had their personal problems, but when it comes to integrity, they were very strong in that. And this is what is very much lacking in the BN today. Or in the perception of BN today. So, what they need is for leaders to come out and strongly build up their credibility, and have very strong ideas on integrity. Making ACA independent is the most important, and a major step towards promoting integrity in an effective way. You can talk about integrity, but it won’t be effective in this world of wealth and opportunities when the ACA is not empowered to punish corrupt leaders. Now it is empowered, I can sense that the process of strengthening integrity among the leadership will be more effective, and that integral value will be the back bone for great credibility in Umno, and BN leadership.

Q: When you say you face some resistance, where is this resistance? From above or below?

A: It’s basically from above. From interested parties. I’m not saying that all of them or most of them resisted – I can tell you I have got very strong support from the very top leadership – the prime minister and deputy prime minister, who basically gave me their full support, to be in Umno and to do whatever I can to effect reform. Of course, other people are still coming up with all sorts of theories, which to me is fair, considering that I’ve been long outside and I’ve been very critical. But, if the theories keep on being pushed after one month of being in Umno and being very critical of Anwar and the opposition, they might have different motives. This is no longer the motive of safeguarding the party, but of safeguarding their own positions and interests.

Q: How do you think you’ve been received by Umno members this last month?

A: Very well. I’ve been very touched. Considering what I’ve done for the past 10 years, being in an opposition party, and being on the frontline, battling them, the warm reception that I’ve received everywhere is very touching. And it’s really encouraged me to move forwards, and given me the confidence that there is a future for reforms in Umno.

Q: Even so, some people suspect that you are a Trojan horse; that you’ve been planted into Umno to pave the way for Anwar to come back and to become prime minister. Are you?

A: No. This is a non-issue at all, as far as I’m concerned. When this question was put to me the first day I came back into Umno, what I asked was just to watch me, and to evaluate my record for what I’m going to do. And after 30 days or so, you can see that I’m the most critical person in Umno now, going against Anwar. I cannot be a Trojan horse then. Whatever it is, I don’t want to be bogged down by perceptions. I’m not really bothered about that. What is important is I have the trust of the leadership, and I just do whatever I can. Time will judge me – whether I’m being fair to the trust.

Q: You say how can you be a Trojan horse if you are criticizing Anwar. But isn’t that part and parcel of pretending to be something that you’re not, in order to eventually come out to be what you are? Maybe you’re pretending to criticize Anwar?

A: The issues are very contentious and very fundamental. I am criticizing Anwar not on his tactical move, but on his fundamentals. I’m telling the whole nation he has betrayed the whole nation. This is very fundamental – you cannot be pretending in making such accusations. It’s very difficult for us to make peace, or to reconcile when it comes to this battle on the fundamentals. Secondly, the record shows from the very first day I was in politics is that I’m not a big pretender. I’m not like Anwar. I don’t have these flip-flops – I’ve been very straightforward. I don’t really have the capacity to pretend; I just speak my mind. I think it’s very difficult for me to play that role of a pretender in whatever way.

Q: Even so, people will still be suspicious. Do you think you will ever be able to advance in Umno, given that there will always be some sections of the party itself that will always be suspicious about you?

A: I’m not that ambitious, so I don’t aspire for a post. In fact, even if there were no conditions for me not to contest, I would not be contesting. People know, when I took up the post of Keadilan Youth Chief, I was most reluctant. Anwar had to persuade me from prison, and Azizah had to come to Jakarta to persuade me. I’m basically not ambitious. I just want to serve an honest leader. That’s why it doesn’t bother me how big the segment is that is suspicious of me. I don’t move based on votes; I move based on my conscience and satisfaction of what I can do. I believe, eventually, if you are honest and sincere, this will prevail. And if comes to that stage where there are still people who don’t appreciate, then that’s not my problem, it’s their problem.

Q: You’ve said with Anwar, that because he wants to survive politically he’s willing to say things. Might not the same thing be said of you, that because you want to survive politically, you’d be willing to sell out on a friend?

A: It’s fair for people to say that. But I think my record shows that I’m very serious about reforms. I don’t see myself as a pure politician. And I’ve proven that it’s not easy to find a politician to miss the opportunity of contesting in the elections. I chose to miss two elections. I only contested once in 1999, which I almost won in Shah Alam. But I missed 2004 because of my commitment to fight against corruption by exposing documents (for which I was convicted for breaching the Official Secrets Act). I was advised against it by lawyers, because they said I would miss the opportunity to contest. But I said my focus was not to contest, because I don’t see myself as a politician; I want to do something good for the country. And in the last election (2008) I was offered safe seats by many parties to constest. But I still refused because at that particular moment, I think that my contributions towards society is much more meaningful through strengthening the civil society. So, that proves that my focus is not for myself. I only joined Umno much later, after I left Keadilan, and after all the hardship of building up an NGO, and only after a significant move by the prime minister on reforms. And until today, I’ve not been given any post, because that’s not the deal. The deal is for me to be here and to do what I can. So, the whole process about me in politics is not about myself and my position. This is completely opposite to Anwar, because his whole purpose is about his position and about himself in politics. I think that’s the difference.

Q: What were the conditions for your re-entry into Umno?

A: Basically, there were no conditions. Pak Lah is a simple man. When I met him, I expressed my gratitude and appreciation for what he has done, especially on the ACA issue, and I asked him what role I can play, and basically he said, “You do whatever is good for Umno and the country. I’ll be with you.” It’s as simple as that.

Q: What were your conditions for yourself?

A: The bottomline is my commitment to God, Islam, and the ummah, and to race and to my country. As long as there is no element of betrayal to this, I’ll continue. Secondly, reforms. If there is no space for reforms in Umno, I might… I want to be meaningful. As long as there is space for change, I will continue. When there is no space for that, if it’s all just empty reforms, which is against not only my conditions, but also against the conditions put by the prophets and the principles of Islam…

Q: Would you leave?

A: Of course.

Q: You have said that Anwar has six secret boxes. What are in those boxes?

A: I don’t really know what’s in the boxes. People have been asking about these six boxes and saying I’ve been running away (from telling). I don’t keep the boxes. It is in my knowledge that Anwar has the boxes. That’s why, when I made the statement and the police took my statement, I told the police that they’re in Anwar’s keeping. I don’t know where (they are). So, the matter of the boxes is between the police and Anwar. I don’t have the boxes. But it is in my knowledge. I’ve seen one – I didn’t go through all, because I wasn’t allowed to go through all. But the first few boxes are about Perwaja – audit report and so forth – documents on Perwaja. That’s basically my knowledge about it.

Q: And the others?

A: I’m not sure – because I don’t know. I haven’t seen the contents. But he (Anwar) told me it’s all about corruption and malpractices.

Q: During your time as political secretary, you never saw any corruption?

A: I received complaints from many quarters – mostly from politicians about other politicians. We don’t know the motive, which may be self-serving. What I did was I pursued it through the ACA to make investigations. That’s basically my capacity at that moment – that’s all I could do.

Q: So these six boxes exist?

A: Yes. As far as I am concerned, I saw them.

Q: Why is it Anwar kept the six boxes and never revealed them?

A: I don’t know. The few days between the time when he was expelled and jailed, 14-18 days, things are in havoc – there was no proper planning and strategy then, so what we have is that Anwar just showed them – I don’t know his purpose in showing them; maybe to convince me or to strengthen my resolve to fight. I really don’t know the motives and I really don’t know how he got it.

Q: Why didn’t he reveal them when he was in power?

A: That you have to ask him.

Q: Hishamuddin Rais said you said you have some boxes full of photos of (murdered Mongolian) Altantuya (Shaariibuu). Do you?

A: No. It is totally false. I’ve never even talked about Altantuya with Isham.

Q: Had you met her?

A: No, of course not. I don’t even know her. It’s very unfortunate. I have a high respect for Isham – he’s my good friend, I have a high regard for him, he’s my friend from Kamunting – he’s an avid reader and I really admire his commitment in reading. But, it’s very unfortunate for him to make such a baseless accusation. It never existed at all, even in conversation. Not just the photo, but even the name Altantuya has never been in our conversations. It’s a totally false statement.

Q: Do you have any boxes of your own?

A: No. What I have, I have already exposed.

Q: Do you have other knowledge about Umno or any members in Umno?

A: When I was chairman of Gerak, I received quite a few, and most of them I have already tendered to the ACA or the prime minister himself. When I left Gerak, all the files that I kept which have basis, I left to my successor in Gerak to work on it. As far as I’m concerned now, being a normal Umno member, I have no more evidence – unless, when it comes forward to me I will still work on it – in my different capacity.

Q: So, you wouldn’t be afraid to do that from inside? Wouldn’t you feel that your loyalty is to Umno first?

A: Yes, my loyalty is to Umno; but not to any Umno corrupt leaders. They are two different things. To me, if they are corrupt, they are disloyal to Umno. I won’t compromise with those people. And in fact, I have never retracted any of my police reports or ACA reports against any Umno leaders or individuals since I re-joined Umno. It all remains, as far as corruption is concerned. To me, the act of corruption is beyond politics.

Q: How do you feel about the fact that everytime you are interviewed, it’s always about Anwar and your relationship with Anwar? Do you think you exist in your own right?

A: I think it’s fair. I take it quite naturally; people ask a lot of questions about Anwar now, because they are thinking quite seriously about him, because he claims to become a prime minister soon. I don’t feel uncomfortable with it. And it is also my obligation to tell people who is the real Anwar. Because for the past 10 years, I’ve been doing a lot of convincing jobs to convince people that Anwar is someone whom we can hope for. And I think it’s my responsibility to un-do that. On whether I have my own identity, when the time comes, it will prevail. It is for me to prove myself. As far as I am loyal to the idea of reform and to my race and religion – people will judge me fairly. It has always been an Umno process that the delegates and members will rise to the occasion, in making the right choice in putting the right leaders (in the right positions). My focus now is to move forward to save this country from the false imagination of someone who is really crazy for power, and to do whatever I can to effect reform in Umno and BN, so that we can go back to the days when we are very stable.

Q: You’re already 41-years-old. How long do you think it’s going to take to shake off that Anwar attachment? The reason Umno was very happy to have you back was because you were known to be close to Anwar, and therefore you were seen as a trophy. How long will it be before you completely wean yourself off talking about Anwar and start talking about your own things?

A: It depends on many factors. Most of them are beyond my control. It depends not only on what my moves are, but also on what other people’s moves are, and it also depends on what Anwar’s moves are. Whether Anwar is still aspiring to be PM, or not aspiring anymore. And it also depends on the leadership of Umno – how they see me. How much trust they can give me, and the role they think I can play. All this will determine the amount of time it takes for me to come out in this political arena.

Q: What do you think about the PM’s announcement about the transition in 2010?
A: That shows a strong resolve and testimony of statesmanship on the part of Pak Lah. This is very important, especially when the country is now dominated mostly by politicians who mostly have no statesmanship. Now, suddenly, we have a Malay leader who shows that he puts the interests of the party above all. This is very important. It’s not a turning-point only for Umno, but by this act of great statesmanship by Pak Lah will be a turning-point for the country. I have the greatest respect for his leadership. Secondly, the way the transition has been sealed is the worst nightmare for Anwar. From the beginning, Anwar was always against Najib. He knows Najib is very brilliant and capable as a leader. I was asked by Anwar to go against Najib in the 2004 elections, but I could not, because the Election Commission rules disallowed me from contesting because of my conviction. I was the closest challenge then, because I was Keadilan Youth chief. This shows how much Anwar fears Najib. Not because of the allegations about Altantuya, but purely because he thinks Najib was a threat to him. By putting Najib next in line to be prime minister, and the fact that the transition plan is well received, to me, this is the worst nightmare for Anwar. I believe Bala’s statutory declaration on the Altantuya case is his last attempt to destroy this transition plan by Umno because he really wants to stop Najib from becoming prime minister.