12 January, 2008

Anwar makes 1,400 'friends' on Facebook !!

THE speeches he gave in Malay at Umno's general assembly when he was deputy prime minister used to send reporters scrambling for their dictionaries.

Now, Mr Anwar Ibrahim, 60, grapples with words like 'jude' (local lingo for good-looking) as he uses the Internet to engage young voters and gain more support.

The opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader told The New Paper he updates his Facebook profile regularly via his Blackberry, but he is shy about it.

'These young kids are asking me some embarrassing questions, but you have to entertain them and engage them,' he said yesterday.

And questions from some of his more than 1,400 Facebook friends range from the name of his hairstylist to the brand of fragrance he uses.

Even the choice of words, Mr Anwar said, is something he is not used to.

'Words like 'jude' are used in these messages to me. This is language my kids are used to,' he added.

'I know I'm not Hillary Clinton, to talk about the latest hairstyles, but this interactive feature of the Internet is effective for Malaysia,' he said.

And, it doesn't stop there.

As part of his efforts to further engage Internet-savvy voters, he set up accounts with Friendster and MySpace, other popular social networking websites.

He revealed he has connected with about 4,800 people via these websites.

Mr Anwar shared some of his campaign efforts after a press conference at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies' Regional Outlook Forum here yesterday.

At the forum's luncheon talk, he delivered a 20-minute speech on Reconciling Islamisation with a Democratic Society in Malaysia.

The ballroom at Shangri-La Hotel was packed with academics, researchers, bankers, policymakers and the press.


Mr Anwar was also asked if he still intends to be Prime Minister of Malaysia, a question he evaded by reiterating his support for PKR and the principles the party stood for.

Prior to his arrest, Mr Anwar was widely expected to succeed then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, and take over the leadership of Malaysia.

But there was growing tension between the two leaders, particularly over economic policy, and in 1998, Mr Anwar was sacked and arrested over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 1999, the trial led to a six-year jail term for corruption. In 2000, he was found guilty on a second charge, of sodomy, and jailed for a further nine years, to be served concurrently with his other sentence.

In 2004, he was released after the courts overturned his sodomy conviction.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Anwar said he has been campaigning hard prior to Malaysia's general election, expected in two months' time.

He also hinted that he may contest in a by-election in May, should the general election take place in March.

He is facing a five-year ban from contesting in the polls due to his conviction. The ban ends in April.

'It will be a safe seat,' he said, when pressed about which seat he is eyeing.

The politician doesn't discount that he could take on International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, due to the rousing support he (Mr Anwar) received at Friday prayers last week.

Datuk Seri Rafidah is the Kuala Kangsar Member of Parliament and head of the United Malays National Organisation's (Umno) Woman Wing.

Mr Anwar said: 'I have not precluded the possibility, I know the terrain quite well, I have studied there for seven years.'


But, he said, if he chose to contest in Kuala Kangsar or Kepala Batas (Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's constituency), 'it was nothing personal'.

He remains confident that PKR would do well.

'If the elections is free and fair, we will have an impressive performance, I have no doubt about that,' Mr Anwar said. 'I travel every day in the urban and rural heartland. While some (supporters) are scared to come out in the open, they come (to me) quietly and agree that it is time for a change.'

What Anwar spoke about yesterday

# He claimed Malaysian government appears to be appealing to Muslim puritanism borne more by racist sentiments than religious principles.

'It is this kind of theology that leads to the rejection of constitutional freedom of other faiths.'

# He labelled it 'ridiculous nonsense' that only Muslims can use the word 'Allah' and backed up his assertion by quoting from the Koran.

# He said respecting the constitutional rights of all citizens of all faiths is an Islamic imperative.

# He said Malaysia should avoid secular or Islamic state 'labels'. Instead, it should spell out constitutional sanctities which respect all religions and races.

(By Susan Tam- The Electric New Paper)



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