KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, in the Meet Anwar dialogue with youths here today, touched on a range of current and people-oriented issues and struck a chord with the audience of the role played by his parents in his upbringing and his love for reading.
A female participant from Indonesia triggered the conversation when she expressed her admiration for the 75-year-old leader, whom she described as a ‘true fighter’ with unique leadership values, and went on to ask him about the educational methods and values his parents had instilled in him.
“I believe you bring a MADANI version of humanity, what was instilled and advised by your parents from when you were young to end up having your ‘fighter spirit’ tested not only at home but in prison too,” the young woman, who introduced herself as Nur Irma Watoni, asked.
Cracking a smile in response while saying he was ‘happy’ with the question, Anwar said one of the main foundations of his parents’ upbringing was reading.
“My parents really encouraged me to read. My father was more into English. My mother preferred the Malay language. They also often encouraged me to be active in social and community activities.
“Although we come from a middle-class family, my parents were strong supporters of Umno and my father had been the Permatang Pauh MP. But they always took me to poverty-stricken areas. So our concern had been strong from an early age, and so was our religious training,” he said.
The Prime Minister said while studying at Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), he received strong discipline training from his teachers whom he described as exceptional.
“That is why when people talk about race, even though I am a strong-minded Malay who champions the (Malay) language and am proud of my culture, I have no hatred for the other races.
“Although it was a Malay college, the teachers who had sacrificed and contributed so much for us were Malay, Chinese and Indian teachers and their love for us showed that they were never prejudiced towards the Malay students. All these influenced our character.
“But how I remained steadfast and survived was never easy. I was in prison for almost 11 years and prison is hell on earth, so it was never easy. But I was stubborn enough to insist on changing the system,” he said.
Anwar said despite being behind bars, he remained determined to make Malaysia great and ‘humane’, which prompted him to carry out charity work, memorise the Quran and read as many books as possible.
“During the early stages, books were not allowed in my prison cell. But after a few years, they got tired of banning them and finally allowed it… and friends from all over the world sent books. The latest books from India, Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom were sent to me.
“And that is why, when I got out of prison in 2004, I was asked to be a fellow at Oxford University and then a professor at Georgetown University because I read a lot. But how to be able to be strong is difficult to answer. The important thing is to pray to Allah SWT to be strong,” he said.
The dialogue, organised by the Anwar Ibrahim Club (AIC), was moderated by celebrity Amelia Henderson and participated by over 5,000 youths, who took the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister questions on a range of issues.