Answering questions live on Google Hangout last night, Anwar Ibrahim assured voters that Pakatan Rakyat would not be the same as BN despite having defectors from the coalition.
PETALING JAYA: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim last night attempted to allay concerns that Pakatan Rakyat would turn out to be another Barisan National when it wrests Putrajaya , saying that it was “immaterial” if the current opposition leaders were former BN members.
He said what was important is that they (defectors) accepted a ‘new agenda and culture’.
He further explained that with an independent judiciary and “very powerful” anti-corruption commission – which are reforms contained in Pakatan’s Buku Jingga manifesto – the problem of wayward leaders trying to “sabotage reform programme” would be naturally stopped.
The PKR de facto leader was answering questions on his maiden Google Hangout session called “Borak Bersama Anwar” [Chat with Anwar] last night, where one online user “Guna Naiker” asked: “Will PKR one day be another Umno?.
Guna Naiker further said: “The reason I say this is 1. Many ex-Umno members are in PKR, a bit worried here but with you and Saifudin [Nasution]/ Rafizi [Ramli] / Tian Chua and others, I believe this can be overcome but you need to address this soon.”
Chuckling at the question but admitting that it was “pertinent”, Anwar replied:”To me, whether if you are ex-Umno, ex-NGO, ex-MCA… it is immaterial.
“You must come in to accept a new culture in our political life, you must accept the new agenda. You must accept the Buku Jingga.”
“These are clear policies which require transparency, a very powerful anti-corruption commission and independent judiciary.
“With these institutions in place, I frankly do not worry about individuals who may have the penchant and venture to embark on policies that would be deemed to be dangerous or would sabotage the reform programme.
“Because (an) institution, when it is independent and effective, would not be selective… irrespective of whether you are Umno or not,” he said.
He also added that an independent commission would not go after whistleblowers, citing the case where PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli was recently charged for revealing confidential bank documents while highlighting the National Feedlot Centre controversy.
Former Finance Minister
Fears involving loyalties and trustworthiness of defectors who have jumped ship have heightened in recent days following the resignations of Sabah MPs Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing (Tuaran) and Lajim Ukin (Beaufort) last month. Both have voiced their support of Pakatan’s agenda.
Anwar , who famously failed in the supposed Sept 16, 2008 mass crossover to wrest Putrajaya, has been accused of enticing BN defectors with speculations of more to happen as the 13th general election nears.
In last night’s live chat session, Anwar was also forced to defend himself against allegations that he had acted differently during his tenure as the Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
Posting up tweets on micro-blogging site Twitter last night, vocal Gerakan youth leader Tan Keng Liang had “wondered” why Anwar had not proposed all same policies now being touted by Pakatan Rakyat, including abolishing excise duties for cars, when he was in the government.
Anwar responded with a few examples of what he did before he was booted from his government position in 1998, asking viewers to see things “objectively” and “engage in healthy discourse”.
He urged Tan not to be a “lackey for Perkasa and Umno” and behave like a “typical Umno spokesperson.”
“During my tenure, I was Finance Minister, not [even] Housing Minister, (but) I embarked on a massive programme for public housing.
“I mooted special schemes for low cost housing and alleviated poverty,” he said adding that he had conducted programmes with [current Selangor Menteri Besar] Khalid Ibrahim when he was in Permodalan Nasional Berhad
Anwar said that together with Khalid, they had gone through all the districts.
“We gave awards to very very poor bumiputera RM5,000. Compared to the Umno policy that enriches the cronies by the billions,” he added.
He also said that he had told the then Chief Justice that independence of the judiciary did not mean ‘knowing the judge’ but ‘knowing the law’.
“Even in the judgment against Lim Guan Eng [who was jailed for Sedition], I was asked (this) in London. I remember my answer… I said this was a major predicament, because there is a wide perception in the public that the decision by the judiciary acted at the behest of the executive, or the political leaders,” he said.
Anwar also asked the public to look at the anti-corruption measures that he introduced in 1997, which he claimed resulted in “half of the Cabinet” appealing to [Dr] Mahathir [Mohamad] against the legislation.
Reminiscing about Raya
Meanwhile, Anwar was also asked several lighter questions, including his experiences of Raya during his teenage years and whether he would stay at Seri Perdana if he took over Putrajaya.
A more emotional Anwar then responded:”Wah, this is not only sentimental, but sad. I lost my mom when I was in prison, she was so endearing and Raya means everything… with your mom and dad around…new dress… whole family there…hardly any place to sleep [in the house] but it still gave me so much excitement.
“I can still recall every Raya. I dreamt of my mom last night… I told [my wife Wan] Azizah [Ismail]…. Well life goes on, I have beautiful children now.”
Asked about his experience going through Raya in the cell, Anwar winced, saying:”Why must you remind me of that? It was dreadful. But it was tough, because that [Raya] was an occasion when you are bound to be with your family, but you can’t.
“After some years I was allowed to meet up with Azizah and the children and my parents only, no one else. For about half an hour. That’s it.”
“But always you must acknowledge, you must strengthen your resolve, your tenacity of purpose, and courage of conviction.
“It is a lingering experience but it’s not all that bad, but [you learn] what justice is all about. If you can experience that (and) suffered in the process, be mindful that no single rakyat, should endure the same cruelty, injustice, afflicted against them.”
On the question of his accommodations if he became Prime Minister, Anwar replied:”I never thought of it. I just feel comfortable in my Segambut house. I don’t believe I will be comfortable in that ‘palace’.”
He also said that he was confident of taking over Putrajaya and seeing Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak becoming the Opposition leader.
But in the event that he failed, Anwar said that he would probably spend his time in retirement as a professor in a university and also be active in welfare work.
Reaching out to youths
The Google Hangout session, which was moderated by PKR’s Sharifah Shahidah, included seven panelists asking questions while other viewers from Facebook, twitter and Google Plus also contributed. It was broadcast on Youtube live.
PKR had proudly announced several days ago that Anwar was the first Malaysian politician to appear at such an event and also “first Southeast Asian politician to be featured on a Google Hangout”.
Other prominent world politicians who have been on a Google Hangout include US president Barrack Obama and Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The session is seen as Anwar’s attempt at engaging and expanding his social media circle appeal to more technologically savvy youths, which make up almost a quarter of the 2,270,002 voters.
His strategists had promised that he would be able to answer “uncomfortable questions”.
A check with the social media monitoring site socialbakers.com shows that Najib is ahead in the social media sphere with 1,165,409 “fans” on Facebook and 826,128 followers on Twitter; while Anwar’s 367,866 “fans” on Facebook and 184,481 following him on Twitter.