Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter expected to go far


Nurul Izzah attacks defamation attacks on father by goverment, says ruling party has excessive influence on judiciary, calls for end to goverment’s race-based politics.
Arnaud Dubus, AA  

The Malaysian opposition leader’s daughter has lashed out at what she alleges are “vilification tactics” by the government to destroy its political enemies, exhibiting the mettle and charisma that many expect will take her to the top of the country’s political ladder in years to come.

Nurul Izzah, the 34-year-old daughter of Anwar Ibrahim and current People’s Justice Party (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, told the Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview this week that such attacks are “something new” to the country.

All reason has been lost, she added, “[if] leaders feel it is necessary to attack and defame one’s character in order to destroy his or her particular popularity.”

Her father, seen as the key challenger to the ruling party, has repeatedly been accused of sodomy and corruption by the government in proceedings widely believed to be unfair. He spent six years in jail before the Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2004.

In 2008, he was again accused of having sex with a male aide. After a High Court cleared him of the charges in 2012, citing a lack of evidence, he then led the opposition to its strongest ever performance in the May 2013 general elections. The government appealed the High Court’s verdict, the Court of Appeal overturning the acquittal March 7 this year, sentencing Anwar to five years in jail.

Both opposition and human rights groups have described the charges as a political vendetta by the governing party, with Human Rights Watch calling it “a dark day for the Malaysia judiciary.”

Nurul was a senior high school student when her father was sacked from his deputy prime minister position in 1998 after a fall-out with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad. From that moment, Nurul was plunged into the murky waters of Malaysian politics, campaigning for the release of her father.

In 2004, Nurul graduated from university with a Bachelor degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, studying her Masters at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. where she graduated in 2007 with a Masters in International Relations.

She entered politics in 2008, contesting against three other candidates for a seat in the parliamentary constituency of Lembah Pantai in the southwest of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where she was quick to reject claims that she was purely running with the intention of handing the seat to her father, who had been disqualified from running for office. Despite expectations that the three-term incumbent Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development in the Barisan Nasional coalition government, would retain the seat, Nurul won 21,728 votes to Shahrizat’s 18,833, and was elected as the new MP.  The defeat was one of many surprises in that year’s vote, which saw significant losses of seats by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In November 2010, Nurul was elected one of the Vice Presidents of PKR.

Malays have since seen her as a fresh face in a political scene tainted by allegations of ethnic bias and a lack of transparency.

Nathaniel Tan, a Malaysian writer who has published several books on Malaysian politics, told AA that Nurul has the potential to be an important politician.

“She is intelligent, and her ideology is moderate, reasoned and sound. One of her main strengths is her public appeal,” he said. “She has a good grasp of the main issues Malaysians are facing.”

Talking to AA this week, Nurul expressed great disappointment at what she claimed is a “campaign” being waged against her father by the UMNO.

“They feel that if Anwar is ever made the head of the country, then their own future would be destroyed,” Nurul said at her modest office in Lembah Pantai.

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