Ex-journos hope “Anwar of today” ain’t “Anwar of the early 1990s”

Letters to editor

FIRSTLY, I would like to congratulate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on his appointment as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister (PM).

No matter what the critics say, it has been a long, hard and painful battle for Anwar and his family. The strongest who stood the test of time was none other than his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

As a veteran newsman and one who regularly covered Anwar’s assignments when he was the then deputy PM (DPM) and finance minister, I think it is only fair I share my thoughts and also some kind advice to Anwar.

The Anwar we know today is definitely not the Anwar of the early nineties.

Ask any journalists of that era and he/she will tell you that Anwar’s assignments back then were the most dreaded.

For one, it was difficult, if not impossible for the local media at that time to get a sit-down press conference with Anwar after any event.

For reasons only known to him, he always gave preference to the foreign media as opposed to the local media at that time.

We had to play a game of cat and mouse each time an event was over and among the senior journalists, we would nominate one “victim”.

That “victim” would be the one who would have to carry his tape recorder and run behind Anwar to get in one or two questions.

Apart from having to run behind him – as Anwar back then was always in a hurry – we would also have to deal with his hordes of bodyguards who were very ruthless and rude.

I recall an incident where one of the bodyguards pulled a cameraman from a local English newspaper so hard that he fell off the stage.

Similar trend re-emerging

Sadly, from the recent TikTok videos, we can notice this similar trend re-emerging. Prior to this, we never saw any PM where his bodyguards would readily be standing with doors open in their moving SUVs to jump out and run alongside their car till his car stopped.

This is something practised in certain foreign countries and also what we see on television.

This kind of practice is totally irrelevant in a peaceful nation like Malaysia. And also, there is no reason for Anwar to be surrounded by so many bodyguards. This gives the people a sense of insecurity and paints the picture that he is an untouchable.

To me, after 28 years in the news industry, this is unpleasant déjà vu of the old Anwar.

Apart from fulfilling his promises to the nation, Anwar has to make himself more approachable and media friendly.

He also has to ensure he surrounds himself with people who are genuine and not those only out to make use of him.

Anwar’s family has undergone a lot during his times of struggles, and I for one so clearly remember daughter Nurul Izzah at that time. She was just a little girl who was wailing continuously when policemen clad in balaclavas dragged Anwar away from his residence.

I was among the journalists present at that time and the pain the family went through was truly agonising.

Exorcise demons of the past

I pray and hope that the saying a tiger never loses its stripes is not true and that Anwar is truly a changed man from what he was.

Recently, during a teh tarik session with several senior journalists – now mostly editors – everyone hoped that Anwar would not let the power get to his head like he did back then, and revert to that arrogant, snobbish person he once was.

Veteran politicians like the late Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and even M. Kulasegaran can probably bear testimony to what I am saying.

Anwar should keep people like Kulasegaran always close to him as he was among the very few who has stood the test of time and can bear witness to everything that brought Anwar to where he is today.

Anwar is definitely the right person to lead the country out of the economic rut it is right now, but he has to be wary of the demons of his past.

He and his family must never forget the struggle and what Reformasi is all about. – Nov 26, 2022


Kuala Lumpur

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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