It's 'my mistake' to hire Saiful - Malaysiakini
Malaysiakini team Jul 3, 08 7:49pm
Malaysiakini team Jul 3, 08 7:49pm
Anwar Ibrahim today conceded that he had made a mistake in hiring Saiful Bukhari Azlan who has accused him of sodomising him.
“It is a mistake in hindsight,” he lamented.
According to him, Saiful was not employed as a full-time worker in his staff and as such there was no background checks done on him.
Anwar explained that Saiful was first taken in as a party volunteer and was asked to be a driver.
“After weeks, he came slowly into the establishment. Until the day he left, he was still not a permanent member of the staff ... We just pay him a part-time allowance,” said Anwar in a 30-minute interview at the PKR headquarters this morning.
He also said that the sodomy allegations have delayed his plans to contest a by-election which will see him making a comeback to Parliament after an absence of 10 years.
Anwar has set his sights on the Kuala Kangsar parliament seat, which is currently being held by Umno Wanita chief Rafidah Aziz.
The Election Court will decided tomorrow on whether to call a fresh election after Rafidah’s victory was challenged by a disgruntled voter, who claimed that the former minister had failed to sign all her nominations forms.
Even if the court upheld Rafidah’s victory, Anwar said the party has shortlisted three other seats which he could be contesting in the coming weeks.
“The by-election is going to be deferred slightly because we don’t know (about what’s going happened to the sodomy allegations). You have this stalemate whereby I can announce it today and they will arrest me tomorrow.”
But he insisted that his plan for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition to take power by Sept 16 is still very much “on track”. However, that could change if he was arrested.
“As it stands, it is very much on track but it is also subject to what happens in the next few days.”
Malaysiakini: Now that ACA is investigating (police chief) Musa (Hassan) and (attorney-general Abdul) Gani Patail, do you have confidence in its investigations?
Anwar: Well, they can start but we have great difficulty (with ACA) under the present arrangement and laws. ACA is answerable to the PM. The power of prosecution is still with the AG. The ACA has to consult the AG on many issues even at the investigation stage. So it is going to be very difficult.
Although I know (ACA director-general) Ahmad Said (Hamdan) personally - he has worked under ACA while I was advising the government management group and that time (former ACA director-general) Shafee Yahya was the head.
Shafee has a lot of courage and I was quite happy with the team because they just went after - just name it, Rafidah (Aziz), Rahim (Tamby Chik), (Muhammad Muhd) Taib - they just went (after them).
But then after a stage - at the AG - it was blocked. That time, I was quite supportive (of ACA) - if people attacked the ACA, I would defend them. I saw their reports and they did their job. It was the AG or the PM (who stop the investigations), but I don’t know (whether that is still the case) now.
Given this, would you call for an independent commission?
It’s interesting to note the view of former US supreme court justice Sandra Day O'Connor when someone suggested to her to issue a statement supporting Anwar and recommend the setting-up of an international commission, she said, “Why give credence to such silly charges or allegations?”
She said that if you want a commission then have a commission on the judiciary or the entire police force. That’s why I find it difficult to comment because I don’t know what is the specific allegation - it’s dicey...
Do you think if the government was to level charges against you, public support will slowly abate or will it force a change (in government)?
It’s going to be a bit more difficult because you have this incessant and protracted attack so it allows to sink into the minds of people. It’s a classic (Nazi propaganda chief Dr Paul Joseph) Goebbels strategy - that is, to repeat all the time. I think this is why they chose this (sodomy allegations) instead of all other things ... and evidence for this is very difficult so they plant somebody to concoct the story.
But I have a lot of confidence in the Malaysian public. We went through hell, not just me personally. The advice is for us to go down now, explain and dismiss it outright. But don’t allow this to deflect from the issues of mismanagement of the economy, the turmoil in Umno.
What’s next in terms of the by-election plan and the defection?
The by-election is going to be deferred slightly because we don’t know (about what’s going to happen to the sodomy allegations), that’s the problem. You have this stalemate whereby I can announce it today and they will arrest me tomorrow.
So you think this has delay your by-election plans?
Yes, which I think is manageable.
Some people said you’re playing up the issue because you cannot deliver your September promise and all this is to get you out of that situation?
They must be kind to the BN to assume that ... the person (Saiful) was planted in my office. He was also receiving calls from Sabah and Sarawak. And they know how and why ... in such a way to pre-empt my announcement on the four crossovers. What information is with the Special Branch and the police? They know exactly what’s happening.
I know for a fact that the police was already on the alert every time Parliament sits, they are on full security alert because of the possibility of the government falling. So it is not something far-fetched, but of course how they say it in the public domain is something else.
If a minister appears in a hotel in Singapore to meet me, you mean to say they wouldn’t know?
Are you saying there are ministers seeing you overseas?
(Laughs) We leave the details to Dr Watson.
Are you interested in the Kuala Kangsar parliamentary seat?
Yes, I did mention that possibility to PAS although we did not conclusively decide who will contest in the PAS seat. But I work well with PAS leaders and they were quite amenable to it. I’ve not decided (yet).
But you are seriously contemplating contesting in that seat?
Yes, (one of) the very few.
How many have you identified?
Seriously, four. Kuala Kangsar is one of them.
Is your September deadline still on target?
As it stands, it is very much on track but it is also subject to what happens in the next few days. Whether it’s going to be in place, or arrest and other repercussions.
Do you agree that the sodomy allegations has stymied your crossover plans?
No, it does not but it has impacted on our specific next move like the next date - we can’t plan the next date. But September is still very much on track.
Is there any truth that you took Saiful for trips overseas?
Yes, they take turns. (Personal aides) Ibrahim (Yaacob) went, Khalid Jaafar went, Saiful went, Rahimi (Osman) went. It depends, you know. I wouldn’t go into details.
So you totally deny the sodomy allegations?
It is as malicious and baseless like (the allegations) in 1998-1999 but in this case it is clearly planted, and it can be substantiated more easily on the involvement of the DPM’s outfit and the IGP as opposed to 1998.
Why do you think they keep attacking you on moral grounds by using this sodomy allegation, instead of say corruption?
Because they cannot adduce evidence for that (corruption) and I’ve challenged them on that ground to have a commission to check on the wealth, shares and contract of those in power but they couldn’t do that. The incessant (smear) campaign is very evasive, but what can they do?
Are you worried that the sodomy allegation will sow some seeds of doubt among the public who are supportive of you?
That is certainly their intention, there’s no question about that. You go on and you repeat. This is the standard propaganda from (Joseph) Stalin to (Adolf) Hitler - to give one message and nothing else even after a lapse of 10 years.
But if you create or fabricate, you also bear the consequence of being exposed. Under an authoritarian regime with all instruments of government at your disposal, that possibility is more easy. So you take one chapter from Hitler or Stalin and use it under the context of an authoritarian leadership, then okay.
But if you take that chapter and you have some semblance of democratic space here, then you are in a big mess. I can assure you that they are in a deep, deep mess.
Do you admit that it was a mistake in your office not to have scanned Saiful’s background first before taking him in?
Yes, but he was not taken in as a staff. He was taken in as a volunteer, who at that time was very critical (of BN). He said he is a supporter and he would “die for Anwar”. So they took him. After weeks, then he came slowly into the establishment. Until the day he left, he was still not a permanent member of the staff. He was not. We just pay him a part-time allowance.
But you shot down criticisms from people who questioned his background.
Yeah, you know it is my character. When you say that he was terrible when he was in Uniten (Universiti Tenaga Nasional), he was in the BTN (Biro Tatanegara or civic consciousness bureau), an ardent racist, pro-Najib, I said, “Okay, that was two years ago. He does not have access to other views. Is there any evidence if he’s doing anything (of this sort) now?” That’s me (laughs).
It is a mistake in hindsight. He was not taken in as a full-time member and so there is no vetting exercise. We don’t actually take some criticisms from his university mates or blogs seriously. It is inexcusable for my establishment, but overall we have thousands of volunteers but somehow he got into the establishment.
Now if you look back as to how it happened - a day before (he was accepted as a PKR volunteer) there was communication between him and an Anwar Ibrahim Club guy in London battling because he (Saiful) was defending Umno. The following day, he saw this staff of mine (Rahimi) and said he was a die-hard supporter of Anwar. So he started off as a driver. He was driving a car, so he came in for 10 days as a driver.
How do you feel? Are you going to fight this?
I’m determined to fight, no questions. More so ... these guys are desperate and they are damn bloody dirty in their method and operations. They don’t care about morality, they just want to stay in power.
We have to expose them, but never allow this (sodomy allegations) to be used to deflect from the central issues about governance and the economy.