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ANWAR IBRAHIM

Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993-1998. He also served as Minister of Finance for Malaysia from 1991-1998. Highly respected for his principled stance against corruption and his skillful management of the Malaysian economy during the turbulent period of its financial crisis, Anwar is also viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations. He is ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice bridging the widening gap between East and West.

Anwar is currently the de facto leader of the Justice Party (KeADILan) of Malaysia. He is an outspoken opposition leader in Malaysia and plans to return to active political life in April 2008 with a bid for a seat in Parliament. Since 2004 he has held lecturing positions at Oxford University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. In March 2006 he was named Honorary President of the London based think-tank Accountability and he is also the Chairman of the Foundation for the Future.

EARLY YEARS

Born in Penang in 1947, Anwar received his early education in his hometown before gaining admission to the prestigious Malay College at Kuala Kangsar. He continued his studies at the University of Malaya which was the vantage point from which he witnessed the tragedy of the 1969 race riots and . There he led protests against the Vietnam War and demonstrations on domestic social issues such as corruption, poverty and the plight of the marginalized. In recognition of his leadership and intellectual abilities he was appointed as a member to the Ad hoc Advisory Group to the Secretary General on Youth Affairs in 1973.

By the time he completed his university studies Anwar was already a popular national figure actively pursuing the reform agenda. In 1971 he formed the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM) to promote and uphold the principles of moderate Islam and to campaign for moral upliftment and social justice. A weak economy in the early 1970s caused great hardship among some sectors of the rural population of Malaysia . Anwar, who was at that time president of the multi-ethnic National Youth Council, was detained without trial for 22 months for championing the cause of hard-pressed poor farmers in a northern Malaysian state.

IN GOVERNMENT

Anwar was invited to join the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party, and the government in 1982, by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. His rise in the party and in the government was meteoric. He was elected in 1984, as Leader of UMNO Youth and in 1986, became a Vice-President of UMNO. He served as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983; Minister of Agriculture in 1984; and Minister of Education in 1986, prior to his tenure as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the 90s.

As a public servant in Malaysia Anwar was unrelenting in his campaign against corruption and has been committed to the ideals of empowerment, justice, and equity. He has stressed the need for internal reforms in order to reinforce civil and democratic institutions and to expand the democratic space. Some of these themes, articulated in his book Menangani Perubahan (Managing Change), were seen to be departing from the authoritarian ideals of Mahathir Mohamad, and sowed the seeds that eventually led to the confrontation between the two leaders. As acting Prime Minister in 1997, for example, he introduced the controversial but effective Anti-Corruption Legislation which held public officials accountable for corrupt practices even after their departure from public service. His emphasis on social justice, poverty eradication, education and civil society has guided his career in government to the present.

A LEADER WITH GLOBAL STATURE

Active on the national front, Anwar has also been highly engaged in the international arena. He has been a strong advocate for civilizational dialogue and has worked tirelessly towards the ideals of Convivencia, the mutual coexistence of civilizations and the interplay of different social, cultural, and spiritual ideas. Between 1995 and 1998 he organized a series of conferences on the Asian Renaissance, aimed at crossing geo-political barriers between societies and nations and creating political structures to promote dialogue across cultures.

He has also supported inter-faith dialogue to promote inter-religious tolerance and understanding, working with among others, the World Council of Churches, the East Asia Christian conference, the World Federation of Buddhist Youth and the Hindu Youth Council. In 1996 he convened a Seminar on Islam and Confucianism in Kuala Lumpur which inspired a new field of scholarly research and analysis into the relationship between these two world traditions.

During this period Anwar also co-chaired the Pacific Dialogue. The group, comprising leaders from various disciplines across many nations in the Pacific Rim, addressed the many challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region in the 21st Century and sought strategies on how it might attain lasting peace and prosperity. These gatherings culminated in the drafting of the ?Pacific Charter,? which proposed a bold vision of a ?feast of civilizations? characterized by interdependence, democracy, and a rising tide of economic growth to uplift all nations.

In 1989 Anwar was elected as President of the UNESCO World Council and he was also Chairman of the Development Committee of World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1998. During his tenure he strongly endorsed the initiatives of debt cancellation and reprieve for poor countries, particularly those in Africa. In March 2006 he was named the Honorary President of AccountAbility, an international think-tank specializing in the development of innovative practices to promote accountability and good governance in the public and private sector. Later in 2006 he was also named Chairman of the Foundation for the Future, a grant-making foundation dedicated to advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

For his many contributions to humanity, in 1996, Anwar was awarded the Presidential Medal by Georgetown University and an honorary doctorate by the Ateneo de Manila University, in the Philippines.

THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES

During his tenure as Finance Minister, Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth and joined the ranks of other Asian countries as an ?Asian Tiger.? Anwar?s impact on the economy was immediate. In 1993, shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as one of the top four finance ministers and in 1996, Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year.

In the midst of Asian Financial Crises of 1997, Anwar was hailed for guiding Malaysia through this period of instability. He backed free market principles and called for ?creative destruction?, highlighting the need to reconsider the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia. He advocated for greater accountability and refused to offer government bail-outs to companies facing bankruptcy. He also instituted widespread spending cuts and gut government expenditure on mega projects. These prescriptions saved the Malaysian economy and earned Anwar many accolades, including the title ?Asian of the Year? by Newsweek International in 1998.

As Anwar amplified his calls for reform in 1998, fearing that he was losing his grip over the country, then Prime Minister Mahathir dismissed Anwar from the government on September 2nd and had him tried on trumped up charges. Anwar?s trial and subsequent conviction were widely discredited by the international community. Many world leaders called for his release from prison and Amnesty International stated that the entire trial proceedings ?. . . exposed a pattern of political manipulation of key state institutions including the police, public prosecutor's office and the judiciary. . .? After six years of appeal to a pliant and subservient judiciary his conviction was overturned by the Malaysian Supreme Court and Anwar was finally released from solitary confinement on September 2, 2004.

THE FUTURE

During this time he was a voracious reader, reviewing an entire corpus of Eastern and Western literature. While rereading the entire works of Shakespeare four and a half times, he also delved deep into the disciplines of Islamic theology, philosophy and law. This period of forced solitude afforded him ample time to study and to reflect on his commitment to and passion for freedom and justice, and to contemplate the future of his country, enlightened by the company of the great thinkers of the world.

Upon his release, reunited with his wife, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and his six children, Anwar quickly returned to public life. He lectured around the world on freedom, justice, and human rights and was outspoken in his belief in the compatibility of Islam and democracy. He has inspired audiences on college campuses around the world, and at major international forums from Davos to Brisbane and Palo Alto to Manila.

The global reach of his message of freedom and democracy has also resonated inside Malaysia. Despite ongoing restrictions on his ability to speak publicly and a media blackout on his speeches and writings, Anwar regularly draws audiences as large as fifty or sixty thousand people. Although he is legally barred from holding public office until April 15, 2008, he remains a vocal and formidable political force within the country.

 


 
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