Anwar Appears on the BBC: Not His Best Performance

Anwar Appears on the BBC: Not His Best Performance

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was on quite a media tour in the wake of his Sodomy II acquittal, and it must have been tiring, and in fact it began to show a bit. In a recent interview on BBC World News, Anwar continued his usual themes — the elections will be unfair, Barisan Nasional is dirty and out to get him, etc.

The full video is worth a watch. Things start to fall apart at the 1’25” mark, when Anwar’s left earpiece falls out, looking for all the world like a bird just relieved itself on his shoulder. That moment becomes symbolic of the rest of the interview, as the BBC talking head actually starts asking Anwar harder questions. Poor Anwar’s smile is gone by the end. He stumbles a bit. Even stutters.

We have spent some time poking fun at Anwar, because it is easy to do. But of course we view Anwar as an intelligent man, very shrewd. He certainly knows how to play the mat salleh media. He has all the moves, all the sound bites. Usually. But not this time. In fact we feel bad for the BBC journalist who had to handle Anwar. The reporter, after the first few minutes of Anwar’s list of horrors, could be forgiven for assuming our country to be some banana republic or military dictatorship where gays are being stoned to death daily and people tortured and then summarily executed without trial. But the BBC reporter turned out to be quite good, asking reasonable questions.

We offer here what we imagine must have been going through his head as the interview progressed. We offer the questions in bold, Anwar’s thoughts as we imagine them in italics, and portions of Anwar’s response in plain text.

BBC: Will you run for political office?

Anwar’s Thought: I’m sorry, what? I know you chaps don’t follow my country that closely — I’ve made my entire international speaking career on that fact. But how do you imagine I became Opposition Leader? I won a lottery? Stupid mat salleh journalist. Straight face. Keep a straight face. Call for free and fair elections. Warn against election fraud.

Anwar’s Response: I am, er, a Member of Parliament, I lead the Opposition in Parliament, I coordinate the parties of the Coalition…

BBC: Ok, a fraudulent process in the elections — in effect, you’re saying that the Government has to be seen to be totally clean. Following you on Twitter just this week, you were talking about how corrupt the Government was. You’re a free man. Demonstrably, the Government as is, is doing its best to make sure that the atmosphere, that the ‘mood music’ doesn’t lend itself to allegations of corruption.

Anwar’s Thought: Finally, someone gave him the right cue card. Do these people think we spend hours prepping them on this so that they can ask questions we didn’t tell them to ask? All right, remember the talking points: Surprise at the verdict, total surprise, had my toiletries and medicines packed, it’s still corrupt. Go.

Anwar’s Response: I welcome the decision, however surprising it was, I came to the court prepared with my medicine and my toiletries … but notwithstanding we still call for judicial reform … um …

Did something just land on my shoulder? My earpiece fell out. Must focus. Myanmar. Zimbabwe. Corrupt Government. Warn of fraudulent elections. Stay on message.

BBC: How far do you want that message of freedom to go? Because your case, that you’ve just been acquitted of, that generated a really, uh, a really newly-invigorated gay rights movement in your country.

Anwar’s Thought: Huh? Gay rights? What on Earth does this have to do with the message? Human rights, censorship. Damn that Raja Petra. Have to balance the hudud crowd with gay rights, 50-50. Oh, but this is the BBC.

…There were a lot of people stepped up to bat over that, even though you’d been acquitted. Are you prepared to take that idea of anti-discrimination as far as gay rights?

Anwar’s Thought: Seriously-lah? I know what you want me to say, but you have to be mad. Perkasa and PAS will have me stoned when I touch down if I say what you want. Why are you even asking this? Stay calm, close the mouth. Give the idiot something that splits this one down the middle so I can deny it no matter where I have to answer for it.

Anwar: Uh.

Deep breath. Try again.

Anwar’s Response: We will, um, have to review some of the archaic laws. We, um, Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia, we believe and are committed to support the sanctity of marriage with a man and a woman, but we should not be seen to be punitive…

BBC: Do you also have to change the skeleton if you will of the legal process in your country…

Ok-lah. Finally. Back on track.

…because I mean you’ve been at the forefront of Malaysian politics for what 14 years, since 1988, when you first got onto the front pages…

It’s been longer than that, you twit.

There is a sense in which people are saying very negative things about you still, and it is this: They are saying you were allowed several appeals over the past two years. The father of your son’s accuser is saying he was allowed no appeals whatsoever…

Ok, that’s it for the BBC. Saiful? Saiful’s father?

They’re saying the kind of thing that’s been said about the judiciary in your country for a long time, which is it’s one law for people like you who’ve got the money and the traction, and it’s another law for real people?

Real people? Money and traction? Real people? My friend, I am the Voice of Democracy in Malaysia. I am Democracy. I am the Rakyat. Trying me is like trying Democracy itself. Democracy demands extra appeals for Anwar, and Anwar will have every advantage, because otherwise DEMOCRACY DIES. Do you hear me, you ignorant BBC boob? DEMOCRACY DIES WITHOUT ME. Stop. Stay calm. Talking points: Corrupt judiciary, unfair laws, unfair elections. Breathe. Go.

Anwar: Um, um, that is, um, incorrect! To suggest that we’re stopping. The decision is purely the decision of the prosecution. They used the police, they used the prosecutors, they used the judiciary, to the advantage …

Not working. I’m tired. I said prosecution. I should of accused Najib of something. Try to bring this back on track.

Anwar: …and uh smeared me, they used the media, the international media do interview me …

Forget it. Who cares. Just go for broke.

Anwar: …but not one word in the local media, the television stations, I’m Opposition Leader, I don’t have one minute of air time …I’m in no position to influence the prosecution, the prosecution says they will take it up at the appeals stage. I made all the appeals, technically yes, but in reality all of these appeals were rejected as something that is not procedurally correct.

Strong finish.

So you say you can appeal but it was rejected summarily by the appellate court. Now in this case it is up to the prosecutors to take it up. It is not my, um, responsibility, nor have I any influence with this.

That does it. Must remind Azmin to take the BBC off our preferred list.