Anwar to chat live with Yahoo! users

Marc Lourdes

Parliamentary Opposition Leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim will be the first Malaysian to appear on Yahoo! Malaysia's newly-launched interactive ‘Question Time’ segment at 11:30 am this Thursday, May 19.  The politician will spend at least an hour with Yahoo! Malaysia editors who will act as facilitators during the live chat session.

Early indications point to a strong interest in this event from Yahoo! users not only from Malaysia but also from South East Asia and other parts of the world where Anwar has a strong following.

The live Q&A session will be conducted via the ‘Cover It Live’ platform, which features real-time chat sessions. Yahoo! Malaysia Country Editor S Vicknesan said it was a great opportunity for the man-(and woman)-in-the-street citizen to interact directly with Anwar, one of the country's most prominent politicians.

"Questions from our audience, which can be in English and Bahasa Malaysia, must be concise, on topic, to the point and relevant to the discussion at hand," he said, adding that brevity would be important due to the large volume of participants expected.

"Of course, Yahoo! users need no reminding with regards to respecting the dignity of the forum as the conversations they generate will help raise the level of political discourse in Malaysia.

"We will try our best to accommodate all questions but constraints of time and volume may not allow this. We pray for the understanding of our users,” he said, adding that the main aim of the event was to provide a more direct and frequent link for interaction between the Malaysian public and their leaders.

'Empowerment for voices'

In a pre-event release, Anwar said the live session was an opportunity for him to hear the ‘concerns of the wider audience’ and questions people may have on the path of Malaysian politics.

“I am excited to be working with Yahoo! on this interview as they demonstrate their commitment to provide an open and truly transparent platform to communicate and engage with people.

"I want to hear the concerns of the wider audience and address any questions that people may have about the future of politics in Malaysia. The Internet delivers true empowerment for voices, however small, to be heard” said Anwar.

Anwar, politically active since his days as a radical Muslim youth leader, has one of Malaysia's most remarkable political careers. Once seen as the country's brightest political star, he was elevated to the deputy prime minister-ship by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who, along with many others, saw Anwar as his heir apparent.

But Anwar fell from grace as dramatically as he rose to prominence. In 1998, he was sacked from his post as deputy prime minister and investigated for corruption and sodomy – charges widely believed to have been trumped-up.

The charges led to open and widespread demonstrations in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. However, the chants  of 'Reformasi' ('Reforms') from Anwar's army of supporters did not save him from being found guilty and jailed by the Malaysian courts.

Political tsunami

He was released in 2004 and from there went on to rebuild his shattered political career, notably spearheading the co9ming together of three opposition parties - his own PKR (People’s Justice Party)  along with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Islamist PAS - into a single coalition know as ‘Pakatan Rakyat’ (The People’s Coalition).

Harnessing the power of the Internet and social media as well as Anwar's unmatched oratory skills, the opposition Pakatan made tremendous gains in the March 2008 general elections, sweeping up five states and denying the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition a two-thirds majority, an event which was later described as a political tsunami.

However, just as things were looking up for the Permatang Pauh member of Parliament, controversy struck again in 2008 when a male aide claimed he was sodomised by Anwar. Anwar has denied the accusation but nevertheless arrested was today ordered by the High Court to enter his defence on the charge.

Anwar’s situation hasn't been helped with the emergence of a sex video allegedly featuring him with an unknown woman. Once again, he has been vehement in his denial.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, left, and his wife Wan Azizah arrive at a courthouse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, May 16, 2011. Malaysia's High Court will decide on Monday whether to dismiss the sodomy charge against Anwar or order his lawyers to start calling defense witnesses. Anwar faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomizing a male former aide in 2008.
Anwar accuses judge of ‘prejudging’ sodomy trial

Anwar's situation as it stands  today is complicated. On one hand, he is at the vanguard of the first true threat to Barisan Nasional's political hegemony. On the other, his court battles could spell the end of his political career and quite possibly the tenuous coalition that is Pakatan Rakyat.

Whatever the final outcome, one thing is for certain - Anwar will continue to be a headline maker for a while yet.