March 24, 2013
Nurul Izzah takes on Federal Territory Minister
by Wong Choon Mei, Alaa Soleiman, Malaysia Chronicle
When Nurul Izzah Anwar won the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat in 2008, she became the toast of the nation. Her political enemies from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s UMNO lost no time trying to tie her up in controversy.
Make her life difficult, they certainly did. They also dented her political standing with their accusations. Even so, just ask around the length and breadth of Malaysia – who do the people think will be the first woman Prime Minister of Malaysia or even the first Prime Minister to come from the Pakatan Rakyat Opposition, and her name will invariably crop up.
Why? Well, the combination of reasons most commonly cited are, firstly, Nurul’s political heritage, her intelligence and savvy, an enviable image of being someone you can trust. And of course, there’s her good looks, decorum and fine sensitive features – crowd winners by any account. Many of those offering their opinions would also complete their assessment by comparing her to Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck, they are quick to point out, won the Thai premiership not just based her political street smarts and family standing but also because of her undeniable beauty and freshness in outlook. As the Thais hungered for change after long years of political stubbornness and stalemate, Malaysians too may not be unwilling to accept a new face of politics, where a softer and more people-centric approach is central, and finally ending the chapter on ham-fisted rule and despotic tactics by yesteryear strongmen like Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew.
New politics and the era of change
Be that as it may, this year, Malaysia will hold its 13th general election and Nurul’s most immediate challenge will be to defend her parliamentary seat won against all odds in 2008.
The daughter of Malaysian political stalwart Anwar Ibrahim, she will turn 33 this November. Nurul is expected to face the Lembah Pantai UMNO chief, Raja Nong Chik, a man who at 60 is not only twice her age but old enough to be her dad.
Ironically, the political roller coaster and grind that Nurul was put through the past 5 years have prepared her well to face UMNO’s contender for the Lembah seat. Nurul is not fazed by Nong Chik, who is also the Federal Territories Minister. She gives back as good as she gets.
At a ceramah (political rally) held at Kampung Baru, the proudly Malay enclave in Kuala Lumpur near to the Petronas Twin Towers, Nurul minced no words telling the crowd that they had to reject UMNO and its ‘sore loser’ ways if Malaysia was to be ‘saved’ from further economic harm and social damage.
“The SOP (standard operating procedures) of the UMNO-BN is to blame the Opposition when things don’t go right. 15 years ago, it was Anwar Ibrahim. They labelled him an American agent, a Jewish agent and now it seems, he has become a Sulu agent. Please don’t be influenced by their madness, think of the future for the future of your children,” Nurul told the small but enthusiastic crowd that had braved a steady drizzle to hear her speak on Thursday.
“And (this can be seen again) in the context of Wilayah Persekutuan, 10 seats were won by PR – DAP, PAS and Keadilan (in the 2008 election). The people chose DAP, PAS and Keadilan. This is a clear indictment. UMNO in 1969 could not get a majority in Selangor. Kuala Lumpur was under Selangor. Of 28 seats, only 14 were won by the Alliance and the rest they lost. And when they lost and came under pressure, they thought of the concept of Wilayah Persekutuan.”
She also hit out at Nong Chik, who has been accused of devising dubious means to oust her and covertly padding up the Lembah Pantai electoral roll with BN supporters. Pointing out Nong Chik’s unelected status as he did not stand in any election in 2008, but was appointed a Senator by Prime Minister Najib Razak, Nurul exposed the FT Minister’s background and why he was able to get so many development programs going.
“The Minister doesn’t even need to get elected… who gets all the contracts in Kuala Lumpur. Check a bit. Who has such absolute power … no need to get approval or budget. He can even kick out the Mayor and replace his own sidekick,” said Nurul.
“Let me tell you about Geng Rosmah. From their Island & Peninisular days, 3 close friends Shahrizat Jalil, Rosmah Mansor and Raja Nong Chik, their friendship has lasted till now. This is why all they can announce so many development projects and activities.
To the delight of the audience, Nurul went on to lambast her Lembah Pantai predecessor Shahrizat Jalil, whom she won the seat from and who has been embroiled in the RM250 million Cowgate scandal.
There is no such thing as Revenge
Nurul also shared a glimpse of how her life was affected by the 1998 persecution of her father by the then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who sacked and jailed Anwar on false charges of sodomy. Anwar, who has denied sodomizing his wife’s driver, was acquitted in 2004 after serving 6 years in jail. Sad to say in 2008, Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor were accused of rehashing a similar scandal against Anwar.
“Former IGP (Rahim Noor) hit Anwar until his eye swelled, he was handcuffed, and hit repeatedly. But that night, an ordinary policeman with low rank helped to wipe the blood from him (Anwar). So there is no such thing as revenge That is what separate us from BN. To Dato Seri Najib and to Hishammuddin, you don’t know us at all,” she said to loud cheers from the crowd.
From their response, the crowd which was 90% Malay seemed willing not only to hear Nurul out but to support her. And this is a significant development. Despite inroads made by the Opposition, the Kampong Baru area is still basically an UMNO enclave. Many of the residents have relatives who are in some way or other connected to the ruling party but the rapport is clearly dwindling. Like Malays around the country and who form the predominant electorate, those in Kampung Baru appeared willing to let their guard down and move towards a society where there is less racial prejudice.
In his prime, Anwar had been the darling of the Malay community until his career was derailed by Mahathir’s sodomy charges. As Nurul had said in her speech, since then Anwar has been tarred by various accusations that he was pro-Israel or would sell out the Malays to the Chinese should his coalition ever win the federal government. As his oldest daughter, Nurul too has felt the impact of such rhetoric aimed to create disaffection amongst the Malays towards Anwar and his party.
For example, when Nurul wrote a 3-part essay Malaysia or Malay-saja (Malaysia or Malays only), the UMNO press including Malay rights extremist Ibrahim Ali attacked her for not ‘defending’ her own community, even demanding that she be charged for Sedition and treason. However, they were not able to shake her.
“We believe in justice, in reforms. We want reforms to the system in the country, an A_G (Attorney General) who is fair. Let those who are guilty be punished by the courts, let those who are guilty be sent to the lock-ups, let those who are guilty like Ibrahim Ali be punished but don’t let him be free to sow hatred in Malaysia,” said Nurul.
BR1M proves BN’s economic failure
A first-term Member of Parliament, Nurul also attacked Najib’s prized cash aid scheme of doling out RM500 to each household that earns less than RM3,000 per month. The BR1M scheme has been called an election goodie by the Opposition but the BN has promised to make it a recurring annual affair.
“Think 55 years of BN rule, 60% qualify for BR1M, imagine how many are poor. 40% earn less than RM1,500, 60% earn less than RM3,000. That statistic alone shows BN has failed us as Malaysians,” she said.
Warning of economic doom, the Lembah Pantai MP ended her speech by calling on the crowd to support the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in its quest to win the federal government.
“Kali in bantu kami sampai ke Putrajaya (help us to make it to Putrajaya). I fear in GE14, it might too late. Bankruptcy or worse can befall our country.”