De facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim today revealed that the threat on his life was serious enough for someone to give him a bullet-proof vest.While he denied that he wore the bullet-proof vest at the 10,000-strong rally in Kampung Baru on April 14, Anwar said his wife, PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail ticked him off for not taking such threats more seriously.
“Azizah is, of course, very annoyed with me. She said, ‘Please take precautions.’ I promise her, yes, I will do it probably at public functions when necessary,” he told Malaysiakini in a 30-minute interview this morning at the PKR headquarters.
He however pointed out that even a bullet-proof car failed to stop the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
“I go through every single detail, it is the nature of the job, for example, … in minute detail even the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, you’ll be surprised - not as a journalist - just to see how they could do it. Look, she was in a bullet-proof vest, bullet-proof car. So…”
Anwar said that given his experience a decade ago when he was savagely beaten after he was arrested, there is legitimate fear that it could happen again.
“I went through it, I know what it is. If you were to arrested today, for example, I’m not saying that nothing would happen, I wouldn’t know. To me, it almost impossible, it’s incredulous to imagine that…”
When asked what he thought of the assurance of his personal safety given by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, this was what Anwar had to say.
“Well, the prime minister is a nice man, he says many things but I don’t know who will take him seriously. Look he says, “Well, we will give them protection.” I know Saiful has been given police protection 24 hours a day. Did you see any of them here? Not that I want police around me.”
Tell us what happened from the time you heard about the police report made by Saiful to the time you came out from the Turkish embassy.Weeks before that I was alerted that the IGP (inspector-general of police Musa Hassan) was concocting something, and that was five days or six days before someone came to convey to me that this was serious. Well, this was conveyed to me and I thought how they would allow the issues of ’98 to resurface.
At that time, did you have any inkling that it could be something similar to the accusations…Yes, yes. They said it was something to the effect. The information of this very senior (police officer) used the word zalim - the fact that it was cruel and unjust, that’s why it was conveyed to me.
The following morning I called my staff - the senior staff and also part-time volunteers including Saiful - they were all in. I said, “You guys better watch out. There is going to be problems ahead. This is coming from IGP’s office, the IGP personally.”
Interestingly enough, later one of my staff informed me that Saiful personally called Musa Hassan to inform him (that I spoke about problems ahead) about the meeting. Then I took it seriously, but it was a bit too late.
Saiful at that time was still working with you?Yes, yes. It is really, as you say, a breach of security. The three main staff - Nik Nazmi (Nik Ahmad), Sim (Tze Tzin) and Nurul Izzah (Anwar) - left to contest in the elections. Rahimi (Osman) was holding the fort. And of course Syed Husin (Ali) in the office, Ibrahim (Yaacob) and Din Merican.
The first to go around to contact the states and divisions, that was Rahimi. Then he brought in Saiful at the last moment as a volunteer. Saiful approached me, although he was known to be in Biro Tatanegara (civic consciousness bureau) and an Umno outfit before that.
I didn’t know, he actually started off as a driver, bringing even (former Anwar political secretary) Nasharuddin (Jalil)’s son (Salman) who was killed in a (hit and run) road accident - that’s still questionable until now. The case is closed. I want to reopen the case - the circumstances of the ‘murder’ or the death is still very questionable.
So later on, Rahimi was using Saiful a bit more, there were two of them. Then I had Sim to come back and we had another person, Farhash (Wafa Salvador) who just came back from London but because of the transition - that was it.
But I didn’t know about his (Saiful’s) connection. Because there were so many emails from his old friends attacking him, I called him in, “What’s this?”. He said, “Sir, swear to God, it was my connection with Najib’s outfit when I was in Uniten (Universiti Tenaga Nasional) and then some of them became my personal friends”. I said, “Okay”. We actually take things a bit easy.
But anyway, that night I was in Quality (Hotel), I heard about it early enough I think it was a leak from the police not from the hospital. You see it could all be orchestrated by the police but always when you see Musa is consulted, he’ll say Bukit Aman does not want to get involved and they will not want to take the police report. This all shows the sign that the police are not part of it. It’s a deliberate design to say the police are not involved.
Anyway, when we got the wind of it, it was almost Maghrib (7.30pm). Almost Maghrib time or before Maghrib time if I’m not mistaken. Very soon. Immediately after when he (Saiful) was on the way to the hospital.
So you suspected that Saiful had gone to the police station and the police brought him to the hospital.Yes, that seems to be sequence now. But we have to get the correct defence in the event this moves forward. I don’t understand how they are going to do it - trying to establish what happened, what didn’t happen. How can they concoct (the alleged sodomy) with all this media scrutiny. Unlike in the past, there is certainly a little more (scrutiny).
So I sense now there is a deliberate attempt on the part of government leaders to say, “Well, just leave it to the police, it’s nothing political.” Our worry is also leaving it to the police.
Now today, I’m calling a press conference on something very revealing in the Altantuya case which shows the same pattern of the IGP and AG (attorney-general) either fabricating or concealing evidence. So you see the same pattern from 1998 to Altantuya case to my case and of course, of hundreds if not thousands of cases.
Even here in this case, the moment Najib’s name is mentioned - delete. In this case for Altantuya, I will show you clear evidence how evidence given to the police, all these things were deleted even in the 112 statement (sworn witness statements to the police).
We will leave that to the press conference.Then I alerted the whole (party) leadership, Azizah and the whole family were here, the Quality Inn or Quality Hotel, then this Chong said, “You may have to leave” (for some place safe). I was very reluctant so I kept on ignoring it, talking about some other subjects.
Then they started, (Syed) Husin decided to convene a separate political bureau meeting to come out with a strong recommendation. I told Syed Husin, “Let me think about it. People may interpret it as running away or seeking political asylum.” Then of course, we started communicating with the relevant parties.
And Azizah said, “What will happen if they come in?”
So you were worried about the 1998 situation where you were arrested straight away.Arrested is something else. I’m not as worried about being arrested as being assaulted, and you know, accident or food, poison - I don’t rule (them) out because we know what is at stake - you see, we come out with the whole transition (to new government), the numbers we are talking about, so some of them are just really against it, the fear.
Can you imagine the position of the IGP and AG - I know the bitterness, the worry, it’s there. Although I did convey, I did actually deliberately send out messages even to them - and say “Look, I’m here in this country, take care”. Many of them know me well. Don’t continue provoking us.
So I decided then the morning after prayers that I will go now.
Early in the morning?Very early in the morning. The security guys have experience in this. I have said no right through until 6 o’clock, then I left. Very smart… [laughs]
So I left and went straight (to the Turkish embassy). The ambassador was there waiting. I went in. I had breakfast and then I went to sleep.
Did you sleep that night?No, about half an hour, an hour, because they were all there coming back and forth - the legal team, the security, issues. Because I didn’t know what it was all about, in detail, where, and things like that.
At the embassy, the ambassador was called up by (Foreign Minister) Rais (Yatim) and given very strong assurance for my personal safety. There was (Home Minister Syed) Hamid (Albar)’s statement, (Deputy Prime Minister) Najib (Razak)’s statement, although Najib’s statement said ‘leave it to the police’, so it’s a bit tricky. Anyone who said leave it to Musa Hassan, I think there is a big question mark.
But then, that was it. The moment we’ve all the statements, making explicit about my personal security then I told the ambassador, I think I’d leave.
I don’t feel comfortable (staying in the embassy) because a lot of things you’re not able to do. Unless you decide to seek political asylum, that’s normal. If you don’t, you have to be with your people, you have to plan, listen to them, you have to start meeting people.
Were you convinced by party leaders to go to the embassy or was that your own decision?Of course, I do take into consideration what Azizah and the family say. She is okay with the whole political situation. To deal with the malicious attacks, she is quite used to it. But to imagine another major assault on my personal safety, I saw her (face), it was very real.
She said, pleading, “Anwar, please, it is something beyond us.” The security situation is beyond us.
It is so serious that even people brought me in the last few months, a bullet-proof vest.
Where you wearing one on April 14 (the Kampung Baru rally)?No. I was given one.
Have you actually worn one?You know, not that I’m arrogant or impervious to this reality, I’m fully aware (of the situation). I go through every single detail, it is the nature of the job. Even the minute detail even the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, you’ll be surprised - not as a journalist - just to see how they could do it. Look she was in a bullet-proof vest, bullet-proof car.
But Azizah is, of course, very annoyed with me. She said, “Please take precautions.” I promise her, yes, I will do it probably at public functions when necessary.
How credible are these threats?Unlike these normal cases of threats from individuals, but here I have some intelligence reports - police and military intelligence. It’s not new.
(Kulim MP) Zulkifli Nordin said you also have information from a neighbouring country’s intelligence.Well, neighbouring countries do express concern even on issues of national security.
When did you first hear about a possible attempt on your life?This has been going on for some time but I think it has increased in the last few months, particular just before and after the elections.
Why did you reveal it now at this stage with the accusations of sodomy? Why now? Why didn’t you reveal it during the elections?I did. I made a lot, some references to that on my personal security. It has been picked up (by the media). But I didn’t want (to raise it) before the elections - all is political to them. Even the comment that “well, he will be safe”. Even the fact that the IGP, they just completely ignored (the threats) when it (the black eye incident) happened, they kept quiet including people like Shahrir (Abdul Samad), they just dismissed it (the threats).
I went through, I know what it is. If you were to arrest me now today, for example, I’m not saying that nothing would happen, I wouldn’t know. To me, it almost impossible, it’s incredulous to imagine that.
How do you see the prime minister’s assurances that you would not be ‘di zalimi’?Well, the prime minister is a nice man, he says many things but I don’t know who will take him seriously. Look he says, “Well, we will give them protection.” I know Saiful has been given police protection 24 hours a day. Did you see any of them here? Not that I want police around me.
So you’re not asking for police protection?No. “We will give protection to both of them.” What protection can you see? Nothing. I don’t know whether he is aware of what’s happening. And then he dismissed summarily the possibility of anybody involved. He has not even read our statement. He has not even read the SD (statutory statement).
I have at least a statement confirming the phone call between Saiful and Musa Hassan. Can you imagine to say there’s no arrangement when he (Saiful) was there in the (Najib’s) office? You just can’t dismiss it. At least investigate it.
Yesterday evening, a very senior policeman said that in all investigations, you also need to investigate the motive, the personality involved, who is he? His background, the motive. Nothing of that has happened.
Not that I want to (take issue with this). You see, normally I want to avoid talking about the issue. I will deal with it at the right time. If I do entertain this, then I’m trapped - their strategy is to deflect from other overall issues.
Anwar Ibrahim today conceded that he had made a mistake in hiring Saiful Bukhari Azlan who has accused him of sodomising him.
“It is a mistake in hindsight,” he lamented.
According to him, Saiful was not employed as a full-time worker in his staff and as such there was no background checks done on him.
Anwar explained that Saiful was first taken in as a party volunteer and was asked to be a driver.
“After weeks, he came slowly into the establishment. Until the day he left, he was still not a permanent member of the staff … We just pay him a part-time allowance,” said Anwar in a 30-minute interview at the PKR headquarters this morning.
Conceding that it was a breach of security, he revealed that Saiful was privy to some of the sensitive communications involving defections from other parties.
“He was also receiving calls from Sabah and Sarawak. And they (BN) know how and why … in such a way to pre-empt my announcement on the four crossovers.”
He also said that the sodomy allegations have delayed his plans to contest a by-election which will see him making a comeback to Parliament after an absence of 10 years.
Anwar has set his sights on the Kuala Kangsar parliament seat, which is currently being held by Umno Wanita chief Rafidah Aziz.
The Election Court will decided tomorrow on whether to call a fresh election after Rafidah’s victory was challenged by a disgruntled voter, who claimed that the former minister had failed to sign all her nominations forms.
Even if the court upheld Rafidah’s victory, Anwar said the party has shortlisted three other seats which he could be contesting in the coming weeks.
“The by-election is going to be deferred slightly because we don’t know (about what’s going happened to the sodomy allegations). You have this stalemate whereby I can announce it today and they will arrest me tomorrow.”
But he insisted that his plan for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition to take power by Sept 16 is still very much “on track”. However, that could change if he was arrested.
“As it stands, it is very much on track but it is also subject to what happens in the next few days.”
Malaysiakini: Now that ACA is investigating (police chief) Musa (Hassan) and (attorney-general Abdul) Gani Patail, do you have confidence in its investigations?
Anwar: Well, they can start but we have great difficulty (with ACA) under the present arrangement and laws. ACA is answerable to the PM. The power of prosecution is still with the AG. The ACA has to consult the AG on many issues even at the investigation stage. So it is going to be very difficult.
Although I know (ACA director-general) Ahmad Said (Hamdan) personally - he has worked under ACA while I was advising the government management group and that time (former ACA director-general) Shafee Yahya was the head.
Shafee has a lot of courage and I was quite happy with the team because they just went after - just name it, Rafidah (Aziz), Rahim (Tamby Chik), (Muhammad Muhd) Taib - they just went (after them).
But then after a stage - at the AG - it was blocked. That time, I was quite supportive (of ACA) - if people attacked the ACA, I would defend them. I saw their reports and they did their job. It was the AG or the PM (who stop the investigations), but I don’t know (whether that is still the case) now.
Given this, would you call for an independent commission?
It’s interesting to note the view of former US supreme court justice Sandra Day O’Connor when someone suggested to her to issue a statement supporting Anwar and recommend the setting-up of an international commission, she said, “Why give credence to such silly charges or allegations?”
She said that if you want a commission then have a commission on the judiciary or the entire police force. That’s why I find it difficult to comment because I don’t know what is the specific allegation - it’s dicey…
Do you think if the government was to level charges against you, public support will slowly abate or will it force a change (in government)?
It’s going to be a bit more difficult because you have this incessant and protracted attack so it allows to sink into the minds of people. It’s a classic (Nazi propaganda chief Dr Paul Joseph) Goebbels strategy - that is, to repeat all the time. I think this is why they chose this (sodomy allegations) instead of all other things … and evidence for this is very difficult so they plant somebody to concoct the story.
But I have a lot of confidence in the Malaysian public. We went through hell, not just me personally. The advice is for us to go down now, explain and dismiss it outright. But don’t allow this to deflect from the issues of mismanagement of the economy, the turmoil in Umno.
What’s next in terms of the by-election plan and the defection?
The by-election is going to be deferred slightly because we don’t know (about what’s going to happen to the sodomy allegations), that’s the problem. You have this stalemate whereby I can announce it today and they will arrest me tomorrow.
So you think this has delay your by-election plans?
Yes, which I think is manageable.
Some people said you’re playing up the issue because you cannot deliver your September promise and all this is to get you out of that situation?
They must be kind to the BN to assume that … the person (Saiful) was planted in my office. He was also receiving calls from Sabah and Sarawak. And they (BN) know how and why … in such a way to pre-empt my announcement on the four crossovers. What information is with the Special Branch and the police? They know exactly what’s happening.
I know for a fact that the police was already on the alert every time Parliament sits, they are on full security alert because of the possibility of the government falling. So it is not something far-fetched, but of course how they say it in the public domain is something else.
If a minister appears in a hotel in Singapore to meet me, you mean to say they wouldn’t know?
Are you saying there are ministers seeing you overseas?
(Laughs) We leave the details to Dr Watson.
Are you interested in the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary seat?
Yes, I did mention that possibility to PAS although we did not conclusively decide who will contest in the PAS seat. But I work well with PAS leaders and they were quite amenable to it. I’ve not decided (yet).
But you are seriously contemplating contesting in that seat?
Yes, (one of) the very few.
How many have you identified?
Seriously, four. Kuala Kangsar is one of them.
Is your September deadline still on target?
As it stands, it is very much on track but it is also subject to what happens in the next few days. Whether it’s going to be in place, or arrest and other repercussions.
Do you agree that the sodomy allegations has stymied your crossover plans?
No, it does not but it has impacted on our specific next move like the next date - we can’t plan the next date. But September is still very much on track.
Is there any truth that you took Saiful for trips overseas?
Yes, they take turns. (Personal aides) Ibrahim (Yaacob) went, Khalid Jaafar went, Saiful went, Rahimi (Osman) went. It depends, you know. I wouldn’t go into details.
So you totally deny the sodomy allegations?
It is as malicious and baseless like (the allegations) in 1998-1999 but in this case it is clearly planted, and it can be substantiated more easily on the involvement of the DPM’s outfit and the IGP as opposed to 1998.
Why do you think they keep attacking you on moral grounds by using this sodomy allegation, instead of say corruption?
Because they cannot adduce evidence for that (corruption) and I’ve challenged them on that ground to have a commission to check on the wealth, shares and contract of those in power but they couldn’t do that. The incessant (smear) campaign is very evasive, but what can they do?
Are you worried that the sodomy allegation will sow some seeds of doubt among the public who are supportive of you?
That is certainly their intention, there’s no question about that. You go on and you repeat. This is the standard propaganda from (Joseph) Stalin to (Adolf) Hitler - to give one message and nothing else even after a lapse of 10 years.
But if you create or fabricate, you also bear the consequence of being exposed. Under an authoritarian regime with all instruments of government at your disposal, that possibility is more easy. So you take one chapter from Hitler or Stalin and use it under the context of an authoritarian leadership, then okay.
But if you take that chapter and you have some semblance of democratic space here, then you are in a big mess. I can assure you that they are in a deep, deep mess.
Do you admit that it was a mistake in your office not to have scanned Saiful’s background first before taking him in?
Yes, but he was not taken in as a staff. He was taken in as a volunteer, who at that time was very critical (of BN). He said he is a supporter and he would “die for Anwar”. So they took him. After weeks, then he came slowly into the establishment. Until the day he left, he was still not a permanent member of the staff. He was not. We just pay him a part-time allowance.
But you shot down criticisms from people who questioned his background.
Yeah, you know it is my character. When you say that he was terrible when he was in Uniten (Universiti Tenaga Nasional), he was in the BTN (Biro Tatanegara or civic consciousness bureau), an ardent racist, pro-Najib, I said, “Okay, that was two years ago. He does not have access to other views. Is there any evidence if he’s doing anything (of this sort) now?” That’s me (laughs).
It is a mistake in hindsight. He was not taken in as a full-time member and so there is no vetting exercise. We don’t actually take some criticisms from his university mates or blogs seriously. It is inexcusable for my establishment, but overall we have thousands of volunteers but somehow he got into the establishment.
Now if you look back as to how it happened - a day before (he was accepted as a PKR volunteer) there was communication between him and an Anwar Ibrahim Club guy in London battling because he (Saiful) was defending Umno. The following day, he saw this staff of mine (Rahimi) and said he was a die-hard supporter of Anwar. So he started off as a driver. He was driving a car, so he came in for 10 days as a driver.
How do you feel? Are you going to fight this?
I’m determined to fight, no questions. More so … these guys are desperate and they are damn bloody dirty in their method and operations. They don’t care about morality, they just want to stay in power.
We have to expose them, but never allow this (sodomy allegations) to be used to deflect from the central issues about governance and the economy.