Inside the Sungai Buloh prison, Anwar Ibrahim remains jailed for the 19th day, but little does he know that the atmosphere beyond his prison bars last night was one of noise and merriment.
A pair of lions pranced around at the entrance of the prison, dancing merrily away to the drum beat of a Chinese New Year song.
Sounds from the huge loudspeaker tied to a long pole erected outside the prison added to the season’s cheer.
Several prison guards stood in the dark inside the prison compound, beyond the iron gates and barbed wire, watching the entire show.
A supporter who wanted only to be known as Hafizan remarked, “The real lion is inside (the prison). He is the one with the lion heart. These two lions are here just to say, we are with you, Anwar!”
Another supporter, Dineswari, who came all the way from Johor to see for herself what the nightly vigils for Anwar was like remarked, “It is surreal.”
“I am overwhelmed by the support Anwar continues to have although it has been more than two weeks he is in prison here.”
In spite of the smaller crowd, the vigil cum Chinese New Year event organised by PKR Shah Alam and Wangsa Maju divisions saw candles continued to be lit, oranges distributed to all, shouts of “reformasi” filled the air, Muslim supporters prayed to Allah for Anwar’s well-being and freedom, alongside their Buddhist, Hindu and Christian friends, and the night ended with a “Lawan Tetap Lawan” number from the NGO Jingga 13.
‘Can dad hear all this?’
Anwar’s eldest daughter and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah told the crowd, “I don’t know if dad could hear all this.”
“You have to go through 13 iron gates before you can go to the lock-up which holds my dad,” she said as the crowd appeared shock to hear this.
“There is a CCTV recording, installed three months before his jail sentence on Feb 10, to record his movement 24 hours, seven days a week!” she claimed.
However, these incidents have only fueled the courage and resolve of her entire family to fight the injustice and cruelty inflicted upon Anwar, she said.
She related that her siblings were in several places to speak about Anwar and the current political scenario in Malaysia – her only brother Mohd Ihsan is speaking in New York, sister Nurul Nuha is on a two-day visit to Penang with her two young kids in tow. while her two younger sisters Nurul Ilham and Nurul Iman were in Malacca.
Nurul Izzah herself has just returned from a speaking tour in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
“We want to go to all the programmes we’ve been invited to attend, to shock and awe people about what is happening to the country, and about Anwar’s condition as a prisoner of conscience.
“We’re not doing this just because we love our dad. If it is only about loving our dad, we would be out of this country with him.
“But we are here so that when he is free, we can continue his struggle for reforms, to fight against injustice and cruelty, ” she told the crowd.
‘Persecuted since age 29’
“It’s not been an easy journey as we continue to be attacked and slandered by our enemies,” she lamented, recalling how the authorities have persecuted her father since he was 29 for defending the plight of farmers in Baling in 1974.
Anwar was jailed four other times since then, with the latest being on Feb 10 when the Federal Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision to jail him for five years for sodomy.
“But the difference now is my brother Ihsan, who is a lecturer in New York, will help spread the message of reformasi,” Nurul Izzah said.
Ihsan has traditionally shied away from the limelight during all these years preferring to stay and work in the United States while refusing to be politically active, unlike his MP sister, who since her early 20s was in the forefront of the campaign to release Anwar from his jail sentence from 1999 to 2004 for abuse of power related to his first sodomy charge.
“Recently, Ihsan was asked by Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin to join PKR but he said no; instead he vowed to be a reformist forever and ever,” she added to loud cheer from the crowd.
Tan’s daughter shows solidarity
Anwar remains parliamentary opposition leader and Permatang Pauh MP until the agong decides on a royal petition submitted by the family led by Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on Feb 24 to seek for his pardon and release.
During the vigil, Nurul Izzah was joined by Tan Su Mei (left, with microphone), daughter of Wangsa Maju MP Tan Kwee Keong, who strongly condemned Anwar’s imprisonment and pledged support for him and his family.
She said her father could not attend the vigil as he had just undergone a minor brain surgery at the Tropicana Medical Centre.
“Both my dad and Anwar are of the same age, they were born in 1947 and have passed the official retirement age of civil servants.
“They – Anwar is locked away in a hotel here in Sungai Buloh, while my father has ‘two holes’ in his head as a result of his brain surgery but they are still fighting for the cause.
“Both of them could have done something better if they wanted, for example, many of their friends are taking care of their grandchildren, travelling the world or taking it easy,” she added.
“But Anwar and my dad are in the Justice Party (PKR), fighting for justice although I do not know if what they are doing to themselves represents justice at all,” she stressed.
“People who have sacrificed so much for the country should not be in prison for their good intentions,” she said, ending her brief speech with shouts of reformasi.
Meanwhile, Kota Anggerik assemblyman Yaakob Sapari (left, in blue) urged the people to support the reprint of his booklet ‘Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim Yang Saya Kenali’ (The Anwar Ibrahim I Know).
The 11-page booklet includes the story of Anwar’s political struggle as a student activist in the 1970s, his incarceration under the Internal Security Act to his rise to the second highest government post in 1982 and his fall from grace when he was sacked from his deputy prime minister’s post in 1998.
“Whether it is RM10, RM100 or RM1,000, please support this effort to tell the public who is Anwar Ibrahim, especially to the youths who may not have had access to enough information about him,” he said.