January 12, 2023
JAKARTA – Speaking to an Indonesian crowd on Monday, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said those who expected to read his autobiography would have to wait a little bit longer because would put aside the work of writing in favor of governing the country.
“Usually an autobiography is written by someone who is retiring from his job. I have just been in this [Prime Minister] position for a little over a month,” Anwar said responding to a query from one member of the audience who joined a public lecture organized by businessman Chairul Tanjung in South Jakarta.
Anwar was in Jakarta on Monday for his first foreign trip after winning a confidence vote and cementing his mandate last month following an inconclusive election.
The 75-year-old former opposition leader, was sworn in as the country’s 10th prime minister on Nov. 24, 2022 to head a unity government in a shaky alliance with the graft-tainted party of his former political rivals.
The public lecture took place shortly after Anwar held a meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for talks at the Bogor Palace in West Java, during which he called for the formation of “an OPEC-like cartel” for palm oil.
In his opening speech, Anwar shared stories about how he spent his time in prison reading books and writing on a number of issues.
In 1999, Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption, triggering street protests and drawing international condemnation. The following year he was found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to nine years in prison.
“If I have to write something, it will be on current issues. Probably on the deficit of trust affecting politicians,” he said. In Monday’s event,
Anwar also paid tribute to Indonesian writers who had inspired him since his youth, politicians like Indonesia’s first vice president Muhammad Hatta, the country’s first prime minister Sutan Sjahrir and socialist thinker Soedjatmoko.
“Why did I read the writings of Hatta? Because his thinking always focuses on how to improve the livelihood of poor people,” Anwar said. Anwar credited his love for Indonesian writers to his mother Che Yan Binti Hussein who was an avid reader of Indonesian literature.
“Her favorite writer is Sutan Takdir Alisyahbana,” Anwar said.
His mother’s love for Indonesian literature rubbed off on young Anwar who later developed habit of reading Indonesian novels, especially those delving on difficult political topics.
“Writers like Mochtar Lubis likes to portray Indonesians as being corrupt. I don’t think this is particularly true but I understand this to be an expression of their art,” Anwar referring to what the author wrote in his 1977 speech “Manusia Indonesia” (The Human of Indonesia).