I have yet to receive my ‘prison’ books, Anwar jokes upon return to Utusan

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim (right) at the 33rd Sastera Kumpulan Utusan prize presentation ceremony today. With him are (from left) national laureates Ahmad Khamal Abdullah and A Samad Said and Utusan Melayu executive director Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir.

KUALA LUMPUR: PKR president Anwar Ibrahim marked his return to the Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad office today after over 20 years with a candid speech that left the audience in stitches.

Anwar spoke of how he had been persuaded by the daily’s executive director, Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, to attend the 33rd Sastera Kumpulan Utusan prize presentation ceremony, and he agreed to be present.

“Many of my acquaintances were shocked at my readiness to be here. I wish to say that I felt the need to come back to Utusan.

“I am of the view that Utusan still has a huge role to play in the country,” he said.

Also present were national laureates Anwar Ridhwan, A Samad Said, Ahmad Khamal Abdullah and Zurinah Hassan.

Anwar said the history of the Malay daily was synonymous with the history of the rise of the Malays.

He also cited how Utusan had played a part in the development of literature and culture, long before the new media came into existence.

“Personally, I feel that Utusan has contributed positively to my work in the community as well as in politics.

“At the same time, I have suffered. Utusan added to my misery as well.

“But I look at this from a very positive perspective. The attacks and the suffering I have had to bear have become normal. I hope it will not happen again,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

The Port Dickson MP then related a story of how he had once sued the Malay daily, and upon reaching a settlement, he imposed a condition.

“That condition was to have important books produced by Utusan to be delivered to me in the Sungai Buloh prison.

“Don’t clap just yet … I have yet to receive those books. I hope I can receive them soon,” he said, again sending the audience into fits of laughter.

Anwar said his acquaintances were surprised he had decided to accept the invitation to the event as they were afraid he may be on the receiving end of “fresh attacks”.

“But, in politics, I choose to be open-minded, not narrow. I think of the larger framework to bring the Malay community, and Malaysians at large, to a new level.

“I accepted this invitation with ease. I hope our cooperation can be continued, and the books delivered to me soon,” he said in concluding his speech.

Anwar is no stranger to the prize presentation ceremony, having given out prizes in a similar event in 1994, when he was deputy prime minister.

A total of 38 literary works were evaluated and chosen as winners for this year.