PETALING JAYA: Despite the diversity of the parties in the unity government, Anwar Ibrahim says they agree on one thing – that the country will go to the dogs if they do not take measures to effect change now.
In an interview with Al Jazeera released today, the prime minister was asked whether his partnership with Barisan Nasional and other parties meant he had to compromise on policy pledges made at the general election last November.
“There are diverse political parties, yes. But what is essential – do all of them agree that this country would go to the dogs if you do not take measures to effect change now? They agree.
“Do they agree the central problem is the issue of good governance? Yes. Do they agree that corruption has been endemic in this country? Yes. And then of course, we adjust policies,” he told the Doha-based satellite broadcaster.
Responding to a question on whether former betrayals and failed alliances had made it harder for him to trust others, Anwar replied in the affirmative.
“Yes, but people change. We made mistakes in the past but we were given the opportunity (to rule now). Why do you impose such harshness on others?”
He reiterated his commitment to reforming Malaysia’s affirmative action policies to make them based on need rather than race, emphasising that the country needs to change.
“Unless there is a clear political commitment, a resolve to change, I don’t believe Malaysia will survive,” he said.
In the episode Al Jazeera also interviewed Bersatu secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin who claimed the people were still with the opposition. “The people are still with us and they don’t believe that this current government can manage and … maybe they are just waiting for us to take over,” he said.
Commenting on the opposition flagging the possibility of taking over the government before the next general election, Anwar denied there was any serious challenge to his government’s hold on power, reiterating that his coalition has a two-thirds majority.
“They can put some pressure, but it will not affect the position of the government,” he said.
Now that he holds the job he long coveted, Anwar says he must deliver. “I’m no longer the opposition leader and (I) have to deliver. It requires a lot of patience and more tolerance to criticisms.”
The Al Jazeera documentary also features interviews with Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and daughter Nurul Izzah, and looks into how Anwar’s turbulent rise to the top has affected his family and taken a personal toll, particularly during his two stints in prison.
Referring to a beating in 1998 at the hands of the then inspector-general of police, Abdul Rahim Noor, Anwar said: “The night I was badly assaulted … I was thinking of my parents, Azizah, and the family. And I thought because of the severity of the attack, I thought I would not survive.”
The assault left Anwar with a black eye, which was adapted for use as the symbol of Parti Keadilan Nasional (now PKR). Rahim Noor was sentenced to two months’ jail and fined RM2,000 for the assault.