Credit where credit is due. There is no-one in Malaysian politics better at granting softball interviews than Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and there’s a good reason for this. Globe-trotting Anwar has had plenty of practice playing the martyr before the foreign media.
The Choice has followed Anwar’s interviews for the Wall Street Journal, BBC World and London’s Financial Times, but his latest is a textbook performance with Singapore-based Asia 360 Magazine.
The questions from interviewer Goh Chien Yen were a sure sign to Anwar that he would be in for yet another easy day.
“What keeps you going?…Where do you draw your inspiration?…Do you have any regrets?… You’re also a man of ideas…There’s a strong moral conviction behind your political action. What keeps you true?”
These were all Goh’s words and Anwar lapped it up. He was only really tested when Goh asked: “The Malaysian economy seems to be doing quite well, registering about 5 per cent growth for 2011 despite the global slowdown. What can you do differently or do better on the economic front?”
Anwar replied that “this figure, the 5 per cent growth, does not really resonate with the masses.”
Just as he did in Dubai recently, Anwar had no shame in talking down the greatest achievement of this nation, its economic success, for his own benefit.
Interviews such as this are easy enough for Anwar, but they carry with them the risk that he might fall into the trap of being sucked in by the flattery – which, on this occasion, he did to cringeworthy effect.
Goh asked: “You’ve been scandalised, beaten, stripped of your title and thrown into jail. What keeps you going?”
Anwar: “I’m just plain crazy!”
Goh: “Where do you draw your inspiration?”
Anwar: “I’m not crazy; I was just quoting Mandela. After I was released, he invited me, [Datuk Seri Wan] Azizah and the children to visit him. So we went to Johannesburg, because he wasn’t doing too well. He was very apologetic, he said, ‘Anwar, I’m sorry we’re not able to do much.’ I said, ‘Look, you did your best.’ He had immense influence and he was successful in even getting me out of the country for treatment in Johannesburg. He said: ‘People like us, people say we’re mad, we’re crazy.’ Then I intercepted and said to him, ‘Mad, for sure we are not, but crazy, yes.’ But I don’t know. I’m grateful for my parents, they were quite idealistic, my late mum and my father.”
This was Anwar in full flow. Shutting down legitimate questions about the economy in as few words as possible before releasing a cascade of name-dropping about his time with a living legend.
Oddly enough, Mandela has never felt the need to talk publicly about his time with Anwar Ibrahim.
Goh also asked Anwar: “What would you consider your greatest political achievement to date?”
“I’ve not achieved much,” replied Anwar.
He then went on about “cementing three parties together” (yes, he means Pakatan Rakyat) but perhaps he should have stopped talking while he was ahead.