Friday, 25 April 2008


That was the theme aired by RADIO SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL when they interviewed ANWAR IBRAHIM
ON 15 APRIL 2008 and subsequently air on the same day at 2005 HRS. Here is the full transcript:

Malaysia’s former deputy Prime Minister turned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim announced on Monday that he has enough support from MPs within the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to seize power. But he will not act till he has a bigger majority. He was speaking at a rally to end his ban on politics. At the rally, scuffles broke out between the police and Anwar’s supporters as authorities intervened and stopped the event claiming it was illegal. ( For the record, there was no scuffle when the police intervene to stop the rally. It ended peacefully)

Anwar, leader of the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, is expected to re-enter politics through a by-election in a seat held by his Keadilan party. However, he has said that his priority now is to build up the opposition and work with government lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawark who are in agreement with the opposition's new Malaysian agenda.

To find out more about the reasons behind Anwar’s comments, Shereena Sajeed spoke to Dr Ooi Kee Beng, a Senior Fellow from the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

Shereena Sajeed: “What is strange is that PKR has been saying this for a few weeks now and so I suspect that they might not have enough people yet but they are saying it to encourage those sitting on the fence to jump before it is too late so to speak, because I am wondering if he actually does have enough people then he doesn’t have to tell anyone about it, and can spring the surprise when it’s time to do so.”

Shereena Sajeed: “So you believe that he doesn’t have enough people and that’s why he’s not acting on this move now?”

Ooi Kee Beng: “I’m speculating on that being a possibility of course. At the same time, he is not back in parliament yet so what I suspect he might want to do is to first become an MP again, before springing the surprise. So we can only speculate on what the situation actually is. At the same time, I would think that the other side, the BN, the ruling coalition is bound to have certain information about who these defectors are suppose to be and I am sure behind the scenes there will be a lot of negotiating going on, trying to stop them from jumping over, while Anwar will continue trying to make them jump over.”

Shereena Sajeed: “Now according to reports, Anwar seems to be concentrating his efforts on East Malaysia, in states like Sabah and Sarawak, which according to him agree with the opposition's new Malaysian agenda, so why do you think he seems to be focusing on these states?”

Ooi Kee Beng: “Well, these states have always complained about not being given sufficient resources, despite them being very rich states and despite their resources being mined and being cut down for federal use, so there’s always been a latent dissatisfaction in these states, despite their large representation in parliament and so that would be the right place to go, for Anwar, if he’s going to get defectors. The alternative of course, is to go to parties that have lost very badly, like Gerakan or MIC and MCA but that I think, wouldn’t be the top choice.

Second choice would be UMNO, itself, getting certain UMNO people to jump over. I’m sure he still has his contacts within UMNO and he would know who would be willing to jump. East Malaysia, they could jump and block you see. Certain parties may be tempted to switch totally then you get a whole group instead of getting one at the time.”

Shereena Sajeed: “What do you think are Anwar’s immediate priorities now as the de facto leader of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance?”

Ooi Kee Beng: “Oh, I think that he will consolidate the parties, his party and the relationship of that party with the two allies. Now if you look at PKR, PKR has done tremendously well, it’s gone from one to 31 seats, which tells us something, which tells us that, it’s a very loose party, it’s almost like a coalition I suppose, all sorts of people who have been against the BN system, would have joined it, rather than joined more established opposition parties like PAS and the DAP. So PKR has been the new kid on the block in more ways than one. So there’s much more consolidating that’s needed on that front and that Anwar has to continue acting as the bridge between DAP and PAS and he will continue doing that of course.

BN itself, and UMNO especially seem to be in crisis. So that will be second priority really, I think Anwar will work on his own coalition first, making it stronger to await his return, I suppose to official power.”

Shereena Sajeed: “Looking at the uncertainty surrounding PM Abdullah Badawi and whether or not he will step down and who will be his successor, how do you think that will work to the opposition’s advantage and also in particular to Anwar’s advantage?”

Ooi Kee Beng: “I would think that the longer that the leadership issue is not settled, the better it is for the opposition because then UMNO will be in the state of uncertainty, Abdullah will not be able to make policy that will alienate any segment of UMNO. So they will have their hands tied as long as Abdullah is fighting to stay alive, politically. So that will work to Keadilan’s advantage. But then, whether or not, after a change in leadership, whether or not the opposition will be aided by it, that depends on who takes over of course, after Abdullah. Some will be stronger leaders and that would help UMNO and some might not be, and that might hurt UMNO, to PKR’s advantage.”

That was Dr Ooi Kee Beng, a Senior Fellow from the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore, speaking to Shereena Sajeed.

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