Saudara Anwar -- Tuesday April 1, 2008
It was the summer of '78, as I recalled. Ok, ok...so everyday is summer in this country. Always wanted to use that phrase.
Sometime in '78, after I had just started work with NST, I was assigned to cover an event at Yayasan Anda in Jalan Pantai Bahru.
The person holding the Press conference was Anwar Ibrahim.
I was 22, fresh out of college. Did I know who Anwar Ibrahim was? I'd be stupid if I didn't.
He was the student (mahasiswa) who fought against poverty for which he was detained under the ISA.
He fought for the poor.
Every Malaysian student knew Anwar Ibrahim. And as a student, I was a Guevara-ist. Very anti-establishment. I might not have been from an impoverished class but I certainly was not removed from the problems of poverty and the disenfranchised.
Now before I proceed, this is not an apple-polishing piece on Anwar, ok? Just something anecdotal about my first encounter with every mahasiswa's hero then.
Back to the Anwar Ibrahim assignment my dear editor (the late) Pak Cik Dahari Ali sent me to -- I took the assignment as I would any other.
I cannot remember now what the assignment was about but I remember lucidly some things Anwar uttered during the Press conference and my meeting with him after the assignment, as though it was just yesterday. And this I could never forget and something I have related to my friends and family who by now must already know the story by heart and in detail.
After meeting Anwar, I began to understand the meaning of charisma. Really. I'm not stupid and was not born yesterday. But, I know what charisma is. I'm sure many others too.
I was a newbie. A rookie. But I was not nervous because I had done my practical training with NST in my second and final year.
I was quite lucky because my sister, Maria (Kak Ton), was a senior journalist (with Bernama then) and I knew many of her friends in the Press. They treated me like their younger sister.
At the Anwar assignment, I met (the late) Norijah from Bernama. She made me sit beside her throughout the Press conference.
Arwah Norijah was one of Kak Ton's dearest friends. She was warm and witty. I liked her a lot.
After the assignment, as usual, all the reporters would approach the man-of-the-hour for further clarification, to say hello/goodbye, have a chat (if he/she was a close contact) or whatever. Press people are friendly people. They usually hang around....part of the job.
By the end of the assignment, I was impressed by what I saw and heard. As simple as that.
I remember, in reply to a question (I forget what it was, but I can remember the reply), he said: "......we are brothers in Islam " (to the Muslim reporters) and "we are brothers in humanity", (to the non-Muslim reporter who asked the question.
I liked what he said. I still do.
Everything over, Norijah and I were at the table in front where Anwar was still talking to reporters.
Norijah made herself visible to him, which was not hard, if you knew Norijah.
Anwar looked up and smiled. I think he knew who she was.
He looked at me and smiled.
I, of course, smiled back.
"Nuraina, from NST", I offered.
Before Anwar could say anything, dear dear Norijah said: "Ni anak Samad Ismail."
(I was -- and still am -- a little uneasy whenever anyone introduced me that way. Not so much because of how I'd react but more of how the other party would.)
I was about to say something to Norijah when Anwar unhesitantly, said: "Aaah...Pak Samad. How is he?"
You see, for me at that time, I'd get moved very easily by anyone who asked about Bapak.
I replied: "Alhamdulillah....he is fine."
Anwar, his face a little grim: "What does he do to pass the time?"
Me: "I think he reads the Quran".
His face softened. He took three books on the table.
"Here, please give Pak Samad these books," he said, and proceeded to scribble something in the books, one by one.
"Please, you don't have to sign the books... the Special Branch takes a look at them first and if you have your name there....", I said.
Anwar looked up, smiled and continued to scribble.
"That's ok. That's ok... Not a problem," he replied, as he kept on scribbling.
Anwar handed me the books.
"Please kirim my salam to Pak Samad," he said.
"Inshallah. And thank you," I replied. So impressed was I by his "fearlessness" of the Special Branch.
I decided there and then that I liked the man. I didn't know him and I didn't care.
Norijah seemed pleased that she introduced me to Anwar. I was too.
The following Tuesday during our meeting with Bapak at the police station, I handed the books to Bapak.
"These are from Anwar Ibrahim. He signed them and dia kirim salam," I said.
"Ya kah..Waalaikumussallam." Bapak replied, as he looked at the gifts from Anwar.
I asked Bapak whether he had ever met Anwar.
No, he said. They had never met.
"Please tell him thank you, and kirim my salam," Bapak told me.
I never met saudara Anwar after that, until much much later.
Sometime after Bapak's release from detention, he accepted an invitation from his "girls and boys" at the Star to be its editorial adviser.
It was also the same time Anwar was invited to join Umno.
Just before Anwar joined Umno, he met with Bapak. That was the first time they had ever met. And, certainly, it was not the last.