Assange Show Final Episode: Anwar Ibrahim - ‘the voice of democracy’ in Malaysia

In the final episode, Julian Assange talks to Malaysia’s opposition leader, who faced prison terms twice in what he calls politically-motivated cases. But he never gave up fighting for democracy in a country he brands less democratic than even Myanmar.

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When Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and currently leader of the opposition party, says democracy, he means “an independent judiciary, free media and an economic policy that can promote growth and the market economy.”

However, at the same time, he told Assange that the people of Malaysia should understand what abuses all these elements of freedom may bring to their country.

“Arab Spring – one area clambering for freedom. Then we have Occupy Wall Street… and the limitations, the unbridled greed and the gap between the very rich and very poor, the complicity between the big business groups and politics – these we need to avoid,” Ibrahim says.


From prison to parliament

Nowadays Ibrahim’s opposition political party is gaining more and more support from the people. However, before his voice was heard, he went through six years in solitary confinement in prison and two criminal cases.

Ibrahim was first arrested for supporting land farmers in the north and demanding better treatment from the government. As a result he spent two years in detention without trial.

The activist was released after Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister, whose reforms he supported. He even became his deputy.

But in 1998 Ibrahim was imprisoned for six years ‘for corruption and sodomy’ after he fell out with his boss.

He was released in 2004 largely thanks to campaigning by his wife. Thousands of people went into the streets in his support.

In 2008, a significant year for Malaysian politics, Ibrahim tried to get elected to parliament. He maintains this was a real challenge because his opposition party was not given even a minute of air-time.

“We won 10 out of 11 parliamentary seats, and so I believe we are ripe for some sort of Malaysian Spring through the electoral process,” he says.

And despite the fresh allegations of sexual harassment he faced in 2008 and the abuse he suffered on a daily basis at the hands of the national media, his party gained more support from people.

In January 2012 he won the case. But with Malaysian elections looming and Anwar tipped to win, he has recently been charged with unauthorized assembly.  

On Monday he faced fresh charges over his part in a mass rally for electoral reforms.

If he is found guilty, Anwar might be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine. This will mean that he could be disqualified from standing in elections.