Malaysian Opposition Leader

Anwar Ibrahim

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 an ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice bridging the widening gap between East and West.

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. There he led protests against the Vietnam War and demonstrations on domestic social issues such as corruption, poverty and the plight of the marginalized. 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.

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.

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.

As Anwar amplified his calls for Malaysian political reform in 1998, 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, his conviction was overturned by the Malaysian Supreme Court and Anwar was finally released from solitary confinement on September 2, 2004.

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.

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.

In July 2008, Anwar was arrested over allegations he sodomized one of his male aides, but was acquitted of the charge in January 2012.  On August 26, 2008, Anwar won re-election in the Permatang Pauh by-election and returned to Parliament as leader of the Malaysian opposition.  He has stated the need for liberalization, including an independent judiciary and free media, to combat the endemic corruption that he considers pushes Malaysia close to failed state status.


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Malaysian Opposition Party Politicians

Dr. Wan Azizah

Dr. Wan Azizah is a Malaysian politician and wife of Anwar Ibrahim.  She is currently the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) and she was the Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh from 1999 to 2008.   She was also the Leader of Opposition in Dewan Rakyat from March 2008 until 31 July 2008.   She resigned her parliamentary seat for Permatang Pauh on  July 31, 2008 to make way for her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, who won the subsequent by-election on  August 26, 2008.

Born in 1952, Wan Azizah received her early education in St. Nicholas Convent School, Alor Setar.  She was to continue her education at Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban.  She went on to study medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where she was awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynecology and she later graduated as a qualified ophthalmologist.
Dr. Wan Azizah served as a government doctor for 14 years before deciding to focus on volunteer work, when her husband, Anwar Ibrahim was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1993.  As part of her voluntary pursuits, she became a patron of MAKNA (Majlis Kanser Nasional or National Cancer Council) in that period and became the second woman to lead a political party in Malaysia’s history (Ganga Nayar founded and became the first president of the Malaysian Workers’ Party in 1978).

Following the dismissal and arrest of her husband on September 20, 1998, Dr. Wan Azizah earned the respect and admiration of many Malaysians as the leader of the fledgling Reformasi movement.  She first led the Social Justice Movement (ADIL), a civil rights NGO, before helping to establish the Parti Keadilan Rakyat on  April 4, 1999.  The establishment of the party saw Dr. Wan Azizah being elected as the first party president.

On  August 3, 2003, she brought the party into a merger with the older Malaysian People’s Party (or Parti Rakyat Malaysia), which saw the establishment of the People’s Justice Party and was elected as the president of the newly merged party.  In the first elections competed by the party in 1999, she led the party to win 5 seats in the Parliament and was herself elected as the Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh; the seat formerly held by Anwar Ibrahim; with a majority of 9,077 votes. She successfully retained the seat in the 2004 elections with a reduced majority.[

As a political party leader and also a parliamentary representative, Dr. Wan Azizah is involved in many programs and activities domestically and internationally.  She has spoken at UN-sponsored programs, and the local and international media.  She is also the Vice-Chair of the Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus for Democracy in Myanmar and a member of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus.

Wan Azizah won her parliament seat of Permatang Pauh in the 2008 12th General Election of Malaysia with a majority of 13,388.   She was supported by all the component parties of Pakatan Rakyat to lead the opposition in the lower house of parliament, House of Representatives.



Nurul Izzah

Nurul Izzah is the current Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai and is the daughter of Anwar Ibrahim and Dr. Wan Azizah. Since prior to being an MP, Nurul Izzah has been a strong proponent of human and civil rights, with a special interest in prisoners of conscience and the rights of women working both at the national and international level. She has worked with a number of agencies and institutes on advocacy work, among them are Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Women Leaders International Forum (WLIF) Friedrich-Ebert Stifung (FES). She has advocated on behalf of Malaysian political prisoners and Malaysian human rights movements at the international level, most notably in an intervention in the main session at the 55th Commission on Human Rights, Geneva.

Nurul Izzah’s political career began with the creation of the People’s Justice Party (KeADILan) in 1998, where she played a vital role in its establishment and is currently the Head of Division for Lembah Pantai. In the 2008 general election, Nurul Izzah contested the seat of Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur, which was contested by three candidates. There were speculations that she ran for the seat with the intention of handing it over to her father, who was disqualified from running for office until April 2008, though she quickly rejected such claims. The seat was defended by three-term incumbent Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who was Minister for Women, Family and Community Development in the Barisan Nasional government. Initial reports suggested that Shahrizat would retain the seat, as she had been a popular Minister, and in the 2004 election retained her seat with a majority of 15,288. However, on polling day, Nurul Izzah won 21,728 votes to Shahrizat’s 18,833, and was elected as the new MP for Lembah Pantai. The defeat of the powerful three-term incumbent by a new face was one of the many surprises in the 2008 election, which saw significant losses of parliamentary seats by the ruling party. In November 2010, Nurul Izzah was elected one of the Vice Presidents of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Prior to entering politics, she earned her Masters’ Degree in 2007 from John Hopkins University studying International Relations (with specialization in Southeast Asia Studies from SAIS). Her Bachelors’ Degree was in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from University Tenaga Nasional, where she graduated in 2004.


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Yusmadi Yusoff

Yusmadi was born in Balik Pulau, Penang. A Kampung Boy (his story was written in an article entitled From Balik Pulau to Washington D.C. in Al Islam Magazine issue February 2006). He had his early education at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Korok in Balik Pulau and continued his high school at SMKA Al-Mashoor (Lelaki), Pulau Pinang and Sultan Alam Shah Islamic College in Klang.

Yusmadi is a graduate of law (LL.B) from International Islamic University Malaysia where he studied both common law and Islamic law.. He is a Partner at a regional law firm law firm in Malaysia where he specializes in public interest litigation and criminal defense cases. Yusmadi’s involvement in Human rights activism at the local and international level was duly recognised when he was nominated by the US Embassy of Kuala Lumpur to participate in the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) for Multi Regional Human Rights Advocacy Programme, 2004 in USA.

Apart from practicing law, he is a Fellow at the Institut Kajian Dasar (Institute for Policy Research) and a founding Director of GERAK (Movement for Democracy and Anti-Corruption) in Malaysia. Yusmadi was also a founding member of Malaysia America Friendship Alumni Association (MAFAA). In early 2005 Yusmadi was selected by Phoenix TV (a Hong Kong based TV station) to represent the Malaysian Youth for a documentary on successful Asian youths entitled The Neighboring Country Story. Yusmadi is a prolific writer and his views on law and politics are sought after by both print and electronic media in Malaysia.

He writes a weekly column, “Dengan Izin” (“May It Please the Court”), for the leading Malaysian daily, Utusan Malaysia. In 2006 he was nominated as Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow for Law & Human Rights at American University Washington College of Law, American University Washington D.C.

In Summer 2008, he was selected as Draper Hills Democracy & Development Fellow at Center on Democracy, Development & the Rule of Law, Stanford University.

In the recent Malaysia 12th general election, Yusmadi was elected as Member of Parliament of Malaysia for Balik Pulau, Pulau Pinang and was also appointed as Chairman of International Affairs, People’s Justice Party (KeADILan). Yusmadi is married to Fahda Nur, a lawyer and they are blessed with two children (Aqil and Rayidah).

As at April 11, 2011.



Former Malaysian Prime Minister

Mahathir Mohamad

Mahathir Mohamad is a Malaysian politician who was the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. He held the post for 22 years from 1981 to 2003, making him Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister. His political career spanned almost 40 years.

Born and raised in Alor Setar, Kedah, Mahathir excelled at school and became a medical doctor. He became active in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia’s largest political party, before entering parliament in 1964.  He served one term before losing his seat, before falling out with the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and being expelled from UMNO.  When Abdul Rahman resigned, Mahathir re-entered UMNO and parliament, and was promoted to the Cabinet.  By 1976, he had risen to Deputy Prime Minister, and in 1981 was sworn in as Prime Minister after the resignation of his predecessor, Hussein Onn.

During Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister, Malaysia experienced rapid modernization and economic growth, and his government initiated a series of bold infrastructure projects.  He was a dominant political figure, winning five consecutive general elections and seeing off all of his rivals for the leadership of UMNO.  However, his accumulation of power came at the expense of the independence of the judiciary and the traditional powers and privileges of Malaysia’s royalty. He also deployed the controversial Internal Security Act to detain activists, non-mainstream religious figures, and political opponents including his sacked deputy, Anwar Ibrahim.  Mahathir’s record of curbing civil liberties and his antagonism to western diplomatic interests and economic policy made his relationships with the likes of the US, Britain and Australia difficult.  As Prime Minister, he was an advocate of third-world development and a prominent international activist for causes such as the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the interests of Bosnians in the 1990s Balkans conflict.

He remains an active political figure in his retirement, having become a strident critic of his handpicked successor, Abdullah Badawi, and actively supporting Abdullah’s replacement by Najib Razak.


Expert Commentators

Abdul Aziz Bari

Biography Coming Soon.

James Chin

James Chin is Professor of Political Science and Head of the School of Arts & Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia Campus.  Prof Chin is a leading commentator on Malaysian politics and has published extensively on Malaysia and the surrounding region.  In addition to his academic work, he is currently on the Advisory Board, Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS); Senior Fellow, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) and a member of the Executive Committee, Transparency International (Malaysia Branch).


Source:  James Chin

Premesh Chandran

Premesh Chandran is a human rights activist, writer, and co-founder and CEO of, an independent Malaysian news website established in 1999.  Now the leading online publication in Malaysia, the site reaches over 300,000 readers per day in four languages (English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil).  Chandran is also the founder of Malaysiakini’s non-profit training organization, the Southeast Asian Centre for E-media.


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Munawar Anees

Munawar Anees (in archive footage) is a Pakistani-American writer and a social critic.  From 1991 to 1998, he served as an advisor to then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim.  He was arrested on September 14, 1998 and was held incommunicado until he was produced in court and pleaded guilty to being sodomized by Anwar.  Anees, however, filed an affidavit in court giving details of being subjected to torture prior to capitulating to the police demands he agree with the lies they fabricated against Anwar.  Anees subsequently served four months in prison, maintaining both his and Anwar’s innocence.

A biologist by training (Doctorate: Indiana University), his contributions in the monthly Inquiry (London) have played a pioneering role in the Muslim dialog on religion and science. One of his books, Islam and Biological Futures, has brought the Muslim bioethical problems to the forefront of contemporary discourse.

Author of half a dozen books and over 300 articles, book reviews, and bibliographies, he has contributed to the Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, among others.  Philosophy of Islamic science and the study of Sira and Hadith are among his perennial interests. His book, Guide to Sira and Hadith Literature in Western Languages is considered a “classic.”
He founded the world’s premiere journal of current awareness on the Muslim world: Periodica Islamica. It has been recognized as “an invaluable guide” for all multidisciplinary discourses on the world of Islam.  He is a founding editor of the International Journal of Islamic and Arabic Studies, and an advisory editor of the Journal of Islamic Science and Islamic Studies.  In 2000, he was selected as Religion Editor for the new online encyclopedia, Nupedia.  Dr. Anees is an elected member of the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research, Jordan, and a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion, Cambridge, England.

An American citizen, he is married to Nadia with their children, Aisha and Omran. In February 2002, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Christopher Fernando

Christopher Fernando (in archive footage) was one of Malaysia’s top criminal lawyers and the lead defense counsel for Anwar Ibrahim in his 1998 sodomy trial.   He was a former Sessions Court president before he joined a private practice in Seremban.   Reportedly, many prosecutors and officers did not like going up against Fernando because he often caught them out, especially in cases involving entrapment.   He shot to national acclaim when he joined Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s defense team.  Fernando died of a heart attack on January 20, 2008.

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Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan

Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan (in archive footage) is a former aide to Anwar Ibrahim.  On June 29, 2008, he lodged a police report claiming that he had been sodomized by Anwar.  Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and whipping under Section 377B of the Malaysian Penal Code.  Anwar responded that the complaint was politically motivated and intended to discredit him, and called it a “complete fabrication” and asserted that he had an alibi.  Anwar subsequently filed a lawsuit against Saiful.  On January 9, 2012, almost two years after the trial started, Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah found Anwar not guilty of sodomy.


2 thoughts on “Malaysia

    1. Hi there friends at Cine en Violeta! Thanks for posting about the film! It’s available on DVD and Digital Download on April 16th!!! Best wishes, Lynne Moses, Executive Producer – “A Whisper to a Roar”

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