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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Friday's Connector: Anwar Ibrahim

June 22nd, 2010
08:55 AM ET

Anwar Ibrahim is one of Malaysia's most influential politicians, but he has also been one of the country's most controversial and divisive.

Anwar Ibrahim waves as he walks into court in Kuala Lumpur on May 31.

Anwar Ibrahim waves as he walks into court in Kuala Lumpur on May 31.

Born in 1947 in Cherok Tok Kun, Penang, Anwar served in the powerful position of deputy prime minister from 1993 to 1998 under the leadership of Mahathir bin Mohamad.

However, over the course of his involvement in the Mahathir government, Ibrahim emerged as one of its biggest critics.

Generally, Anwar's politics are viewed as reformist and after Anwar's falling out with the 50 year ruling party, his image was severely tarnished because of a series of harsh corruption and sexual charges that were put towards him.

In 1999, massive street protests accompanied news that Ibrahim was arrested and sent to prison for abuse of power.

Anwar was eventually sent to prison for six years under corruption charges.

A year later in 2000, Anwar was found guilty of a second charge - sodomy - which would carry a further nine-year jail term.

Anwar contested the charges and with a group of supporters, including his wife, he successfully overturned the second charge of sodomy and was released from prison in 2006.

Once released, Anwar was the stand-alone figure in Malaysian politics and was seen as the de facto opposition leader - although he wasn't allowed to serve in politics until 2008.

However, in the March 2008 election, Anwar and the opposition parties made huge advances towards the ruling coalition.

But, only five months later, Ibrahim was again arrested for claims that he sexually assaulted a male aide.

Anwar vehemently denied the charges and said they were part of a government conspiracy to discredit the opposition leader.

On August 26, 2008, Ibrahim ran for office and won a by-election which allowed him to return to parliament as the official opposition leader.

Today, Anwar continues to argue for strong reform in Malaysia and is calling for the liberalization of government policies including a free media and judiciary.

Please tune into our interview with Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday, June 29 at 2100 London or 2000 GMT.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. leowch

    Why do you, knowing that the government is waiting to find fault with you, choose to expose yourself to being charged with sodomy again?
    Writing from malaysia.

    June 22, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  2. Dr Sashi, PhD Oxford

    The preferential system favouring Malays in all spheres of public life, which some have compared to South Africa's old apartheid policy, has resulted in a brain drain Malaysia has been unable to stem. Preferential policies cover scholarships, entry to local universities and government jobs. Malaysia is perhaps the only country in the world affording economic protection to the majority race. Malaysian Chinese and Indians, including myself, are deserting the country in protest. If you were handed the reins of government, what would you do to level the playing field for all races.

    June 22, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  3. Awaal Oastad

    Malaysia is a country with two laws – Common Law and Shariya Law. Does Anwar support the status quo or supports having one law? Looks like the Chinese and minorities are getting discriminated in a big way and there is no democracy there. I am wondering what kind of position Anwar takes adn what kind of reforms he is about to bring should he be elected the PM and should his party wins the election. Why the government is after his private life? I am having hard time to comprehend.

    June 22, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  4. minority

    The Malaysian government does not welcome you back in politics because of what? I wonder how can a few state miniters in malaysia have so much money to buy then castle like homes? Is it true that those ministers are using tax payers money and also money politics to gain power and fame? If it is true,how come no one charge them? When will malaysia go bancrupt because of the misdeads of the present government?
    What reform can u bring to malaysia if u become the PM? Will there be a fair forum for the minority races like chinese,indians and the local native peoples(orang asli) or just another gimmick like the present government?

    June 22, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  5. Waddy

    You first belonged to PAS, then switched alliance and joined the national ruling party, BN, and now you are with PKR. How do you justify your different affiliations when they are all so individually different from each other and have conflicting ideologies?

    June 22, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  6. Gulraj, 16

    In Malaysia, we have a very different kind of government, like Dr Sashi said a preferential one. Maybe at the very start, when independence was achieved, it was necessary. The deal was to support the Malay's for 30 years and then it would all be over, there would be no more aid for the Malays at all. But now, what can we do? It still goes on, and now it has gone to whole new levels, the scholarship awards are affected, where the Mara students (95%+) Malays get to go overseas, but what about us? (the Chinese and Indians) Where do we go from here? Where are the opportunities that we deserve? We are one of the few countries in the world with so much oil resources. We, the citizens are supposed to enjoy this benefit. But where does it go? Politicians? Scholarships? Development? Even if we do know, what can we do about it? Because the democracy here is not really democracy, the separation of powers is missing, the police are under control by some ruling party's. It can be said that the people are being suppressed and oppressed. But what choice do we have? For a student like me, I can't do anything, even our media propagates the ruling party, something needs to be done, because it really is unfair for the rest of us.

    June 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Anwar bin Ibrahim and CNN friends,

    What is your opinion on the current JUSTICE system of Malaysia? How do Islamic people, Buddhism people, Christians and Other Religious people Live Together in Malaysia?

    Greetings,
    Jurgen R. Brul
    Paramaribo, Suriname

    June 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  8. Jln

    What do you propose to be the best way to wrestle the Federal Government from the ruling coalition given:
    1) The lack of quality, clout and resources amongst the opposition representatives
    2) The total control of the print and broadcast media by the current regime
    2) The loss independence of the judiciary, the election commission and the police force

    June 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Dr M

    Given Malaysia's hostile culture towards alternative political views and censorship of the domestic media, what role can the international community play in advocating for its people given that Malaysia is in itself a sovereign state.
    Which institutions would you consider as key to this?

    June 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  10. Natasha

    There are laws in the Malaysian Constitution clearly discriminating against ethnic minorities,some of whom have existed in Malaysia for centuries. I would like to know what you would do to change the clearly rascist "race base" politics in Malaysia to ensure a more transparent system and fairer representation of ethnic minorities.

    June 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  11. Jack Levy

    Malaysia is for Malay and not for chinese or black indians. Dr Sashi, PhD Oxford, your caste system doesn't applies in Malaysia and Malaysians don't need your. We Malays have been fighting for independence from Dutch, English, Japanese and communist (most of them are chinese) and you just come here to take all the profits away all from the stability we created. We don't like you..are you clear?

    June 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  12. Wei Ping

    Malaysia is falling apart because of people like Jack Levy.

    June 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  13. a malaysian

    People like Jack Levy can be compared to Mugabe and Kim Jong Ill who have no idea that the world is smaller these days and mixes are necessary to survive and live. Muslims in Saudi, Egypt and even Indonesia are laughing at Muslims such as Jack Levy as they do not realize that your race is not tied with your religion. People like Jack Levy does not realize that the non-Malays will always play by the rules and prosper despite the draconian and idiotic rules the government have set in place, because they believed in hard work and not 30% quotas for people like Jack Levy. People like Jack Levy are probably don't realized that their wealth has not been grabbed by the non-Malays, but by the ruling elite itself. Jack Levy, look at your PM, DPM and everyone in UMNO. Do they have the guts to come out alone in Malaysia without phalanxes of policemen?

    June 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  14. Elizabeth

    Clearly, the horribly racist laws and policies in Malaysia exist simply because too many of the people themselves are so racist. If the people were just-minded, they would never tolerate one race being held as disgustingly superior to the other as it is in Malaysia. They wouldn't even tolerate being labeled and separated into different races: they would see themselves all as Malaysians, and all deserving equal treatment.

    But the reality is the Malays even call themselves the "Princes of the Soil", and Malaysian citizens of non-Malay descent cannot even open many different types of business without finding a "prince of the soil" partner (often paying them to do nothing). Not to mention the scholarships, higher savings accounts returns for Malays, and etc, already covered. These actions represent a deeply ingrained terrible degree of endemic racism.

    So my first question for Anwar Ibrahim is how he, as a Malay who is seeking leadership of one Malaysia, can think of an EFFECTIVE way to lead the myriad racists out of their current selfish darkness and into the light of unity and justice. The people need to be educated about one Malaysia and one humanity: then only will they accept and even clamor for fair laws, as so many whites fought alongside the coloreds in America for equal treatment in the 1950s. How would he do it? My second question is how quickly could the government reverse its unfair race-based laws? Thousands of families do not have time to wait.

    June 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  15. Rexmond

    Due to such sentences from Jack Levy, as a Malaysian, it is very sad to see such pathetic opinion of yours. Don't stand your personal view and share it as 'Malaysia is for Malay'. You don't have the right to represent the Malays in Malaysia to say so. It is a fact that, Chinese and Indians and others minorities were sided by the government itself. What else that we can do to hope for a fair and harmony living country? If Anwar Ibrahim have ways to fix everything else, i will surely be glad to hear that. But things are not going in the right way. What can be done by communities from around the world to secure Malaysia to be a better country? Suggestions? Till the end, Malaysia itself need a true leader to lead the country.

    June 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  16. BlueMoon

    What a fuss of malaysian politics and it politicians. Talking darnest stuff straight from its head without knowing impacts on what they spoke. Liberalisation being 1malaysia just a SURFACE AGENDA. Education level among its so called lawmaker or politicians is low and unetnically superflous. Perhaps Anwar suppose to fight all the way for his justice. Another Zimbabwe and Greece in the making and UMNO and PERKASA will ruin future of malaysian, not chinese or indian but perhaps muslim from indonesian, bangladeshi or Pakistan. Not much genuine malays left in coming 20 yrs on which will be replaced by CROSS-MALAYS, Products vide indonesian-malays. All the best MALAYSIA.

    June 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  17. J Wong

    I'm one of those 300,000 Malaysians who left the country last year.

    June 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  18. BlueMoon

    Perhap people like JACK LEVY having raked from UMNO on AP or just sleeping partnership via UMNO or PERKASA in such he elaborate about chinese and indian position. Ask Jack Levy who and where Hang TUAH, JEBAT, KASTURI come from as im made know by msian friends. Where is NEGARAKU originate. Perhaps his ancestors having chinese-indian blood as well. Anwar must fight all the way for justice of 1malaysia and kick out people like JACK LEVY. I never believe Anwar numerous court case thrown to him, its totally political propaganda

    June 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  19. CY

    Malaysia's actually a really great place to live in, it makes me sick to know that politics have clouded all the good the country has to provide. The education system isn't helping, the country's just spiralling down if things don't change. People who can find a job outside the country cause brain drains, basically those who can run ......... they just run, those who can't get eaten up. There has been a surge in the number of Malaysians who migrate to other countries, it feels like every other week I'm attending a farewell party of a friend or relative, what has Malaysia become?!!

    June 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  20. Wii

    Jack Levy here could be real Malay nut or just one naughty non-Malay kid stirring around here. Let's be more neutral, civilized. Questions are,

    1. Do you frankly think in this country, for now and next 30 years, we have enough (if any) quality, educated talents turn politicians to lead the country?

    2. In your very frank opinion, could you name five politicians from any party (both BN and PRK) that you believe they are from the bottom of their heart to serve the people in the country (it's perfectly OK even if they are not clean under the subject of corruption)?

    3. (relax a bit) If for some unthinkable reasons, Mr. current M'sia PM and yourself being forced to migrate to Singapore, what would you think him and yourself will do in term of career? (Politician?? Lecturer? Businessman, etc?)

    4. If one day you manage to win the heart of majority of votes and become country's top man, what would be your top 5 agenda for the future of the country (if there is any future at all)?

    5. What is(are) your plan(s) if you do not win the heart of voters in next coming election?

    6. (i think i am a bit too much) What would you think Mr. current PM will advise his children and grand-children in term of their long term future if the juniors do not intend to set their foot in Malaysia politics?

    7. Exact same question for Mr. Ibrahim, what has you been advising your juniors if they are not going to be getting hands dirty in politics?

    Questions here from M'sia, and desperately hoping to see more international readers' comments/questions

    June 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  21. Zaid

    Mr Anwar,

    On religious freedom:

    You claim to be a champion of freedom and equality for all citizens of Malaysia. If your coalition party won the next general election and you were selected as the Prime Minister, how far would you go to safeguard and restore the religious freedom of the Malays (to leave Islam, to drink alcohol, etc.)?

    If you had no plans to grant the Malays this freedom, would it be fair to say that you do not care so much about equality and freedom?

    On the economy:

    You are often seen criticising the government for reducing subsidies of petrol and food items in your political speeches. Do you think that giving subsidies is sustainable for long term economic growth? Continued high usage of cheap petrol pollutes the earth and discourage usage and growth of public transport. Food subsidies encourage wastage and poor health; Malaysians are plagued by heart disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension (causing 34% of all deaths in Malaysia, according to WHO).

    If you were to form a government, would you continue this irresponsible practice of giving subsidies?

    On racism:

    You recently discredited the government's 1Malaysia program on the account that the program originator, APCO had Jewish links. Could you explain how does this not make you racist and anti-semitic?

    -
    Regards,
    Zaid, Paris, France.

    June 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  22. Betterdays ahead

    Every country has people like Jack Levy, hiding behind totalitarianism UMNO thinking they will have protectionism behind glass wall. Foolish of them to think that no one can see what is going on behind glass wall. The same old tactics and window dressing tactics are being used thinking that Malaysians are uneducated and don't have access to information to decide for themselves. Unfortunately, those are extreme minorities.
    The country is borrowing money from future generations to subsidize things that they currently can't afford. Malaysia is no longer the primary favourites for DFI. The world is moving forward and the ruling parties are still behaving like 'katak di-bawah tempurung'.
    Let's not give too much limelight at Jack Levy as this forum is on Encik Anwar Ibrahim.
    Sir, please help have some fundamental reform on the country before the well runs dry and all the 'intelligence' has left Malaysia.

    June 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  23. syahmi

    malaysia boleh

    June 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  24. Howie

    Dear Anwar,

    You are a strong man, who can still stand up and be (quite) patient despite the numerous attempts of sodomy charges which comes only when the other party sees that you're ready to challenge. Stay strong, most Malaysians are behind your back, looking forward for a CORRUPTION-FREE, non-racist nation.

    And Jack Levy, I don't think the "modern Malaysia" needs you either – pack your stuff and go back to your cave.

    Regards,
    Howie, Southampton, UK

    June 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  25. martin

    We family of 4 of those 300,000 Malaysians who left the country last year. reject jack levy and not fit to be Malaysian. Let's wait and see Malaysia will be rank far below 3 world country

    June 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  26. johan

    MALAYSIA NEEDS REFORM!
    MALAYSIA DIDNT BELONGS TO MALAY,CHINESE,INDIANS!
    MALAYSIA BELONGS TO ALL MALAYSIAN!
    MALAYSIAN DIDNT NEED BN ANYMORE!
    BUT SORRY FOR THOSE STUPID N IDIOTS IN MALAYSIA ESPECIALLY MALAY WHO ALWAYS THNK THAT UMNO N BN WILL SAVE THEM!
    PLZ TELL ME WHAT HAVE THEY DONE FOR MALAY FOR THE PAST 52 YEARS N PLZ COMPARE SINGAPORE MALAY N MALAYSIA MALAY!
    WHERE SHOULD WE PUT MALAYSIA MALAY STANDARD???BELOW PAR FOR SURE

    June 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  27. Musa Z

    hello, all you good people out there. this is your friendly neighborhood web surfer musa wishing you a very good evening. why is the malaysian government going after anwar's personal life? what anwar does in the bedroom is none of the business of the malaysian government!

    June 23, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  28. Adam Lutfie

    Dear Mr Anwar,

    i see the main problems with the current Malaysian politics that heavily affected the people are

    1) Corruption
    2) Judiciary independence
    3) Ethnic and religious equality

    How are you going to restore/solve the above problem?

    Regards,
    Adam
    Sydney

    June 23, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  29. Tok Sakai

    What is OneMalaysia? Can this propaganda works? Even the United State of America cannot achieved it... Until today they call themselves.. Afro-American, Caucasian-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American etc..

    If there is a majority race involved...there bound to be racism...

    Just thinking out loud...

    June 23, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  30. Prabakaran

    I'll sum everything up with this one question.
    With this you can see the true colours of Anwar Ibrahim.
    or will he thread this for political mileage..

    What is your stand on SRJKs? and will you abolish them, and have one education system, and schooling system for all?

    from a more micro perspective its hard to implement this nation wide at once..BUT will you do it by stages to say the least.

    stutter ..stutter..LOL!
    There you have it fellow Malaysians, the true Anwar Ibrahim 🙂

    June 23, 2010 at 4:08 am |
  31. Prabakaran

    Pease dont run rings around the question, just answer it

    June 23, 2010 at 4:09 am |
  32. AT

    in term of the unity of malaysian i am very agreed that we are one nation as MALAYSIAN....but the respects to the kings (raja2 melayu) and the respects to the special rights of BUMPUTERA (malay, ibans, kadazans, dusuns and others) must be always on the top priority....WE ARE different from the US because the US was formed by the immigrants so please DATO SERI, dont try to bring home the ridicoulos ideas from the west....

    June 23, 2010 at 5:23 am |
  33. Ridzwan Ismail

    Mr Anwar, Sir,
    if in the next general election, your coalition win and have the chance to form the federal government, will you still be able and fulfill your promises to give free education from primary school to university; to lower down the oil price; and etc. And how much time do you expect to be needed to let this change plans be real?
    Are you confident that Pakatan Rakyat will win the next general election?
    Could you please explain this and it is best if you could even brief the world, what you will do if you got to be in the office of Prime Minister and lead.

    When and where you will be providing your answers for our questions?

    – Ridzwan Ismail; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    June 23, 2010 at 6:23 am |
  34. carlos santana

    mr anwar ibrahim,
    when you were dpm and finance minister,you were very dynamic.
    there were new banks,rhb,phileo and hong leong and lots of securities companies,there were mrcb,nst and tv# which was very
    agrressive.

    now what happened to your selangor state?

    June 23, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  35. Salak

    Many people see Anwar Ibrahim as an opportunist in a constricted sense. As a politician he sees opportunities in reforming Malaysia. In the days when he was a proponent of PAS, there might have opened a window of opportunity to bring Malaysia into global mainstream community of independent nations. He made a mistake when he joined the Barisan National and it nearly cost him his life. He still sees and believe in that opportunity and many Malaysians see that, too, more so now than ever before.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  36. Methuselah

    Mr Anwar Ibrahim,

    In history, we know that to reform a country is a very long process.

    Do you think, in your lifetime, you will be able to see the results of your proposed reforms for Malaysia?

    June 23, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  37. Shaari

    What do you think of Indians Support to Pakatan Rakyat in the next General Election looking at the HINDRAF seems no longer having influence and siding PR. What is your comment on Tun Daim statement that PR can only retain 2 states (Penang and Kelantan) and very unlikely to capture Putrajay in the next GE.

    June 23, 2010 at 9:20 am |