"I will be vindicated"

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Anwar Ibrahim is allowed to jog once a day. He pays the state $2.60 daily for food. He has lost 6 kg since his Sept. 20 arrest, though his wife says he is in great spirits. The former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, now in solitary confinement at Sungai Buloh prison, is guarded by three senior officers at all times to prevent other guards from fraternizing with him. Through an intermediary, TIME was able to obtain written answers from Anwar to a series of questions. Excerpts from the exchange:TIME: How are you holding up?
Anwar: I am in prison not because of being convicted of any crime but simply because I'm denied bail, which is most unique and unprecedented in Malaysian legal history. I'm extremely fine, as it can possibly get in prison--busy with prayers, devouring books, strategizing reformasi, avoiding the indolence of prison life.TIME: How about your family? How are they coping?
Anwar: Azizah [his wife] is superb, and the children are supportive.TIME: What was your interrogation like?
Anwar: Solitary confinement needs no description. They did not issue any threats. Initially the interrogators were adamant in wanting me to enlighten them on reformasi. I challenged them to write down my statement. I proceeded to mention about the billions amassed by [Malaysian officials]. They realized that they had stirred the hornet's nest and changed the proceedings into friendly conversations on inconsequential matters.TIME: Can you tell us about the beating?
Anwar: Shortly after being brought to the police cell, blindfolded and handcuffed, I was severely beaten on the head, neck and face, rendering me somewhat unconscious till morning. I gathered information later from police officers and personnel that the direct involvement of the police top brass cannot be excluded. Dr. Mahathir was monitoring developments by the minute. Tan Sri Rahim Nor, the Inspector General of Police, has yet to offer an explanation. Nothing was said prior to or after the assault.TIME: What do you hear of the outside world and the protests?
Anwar: I'm kept informed through my family, counsels, police personnel and prison staff who are generally sympathetic with me. I'm deeply touched and encouraged by the concern and support shown by leaders, ngos, friends and individuals.TIME: Have your attitudes changed toward the Prime Minister and the government he has created?
Anwar: My perception of his leadership is that he is drunk with power, and that he has lost all sense of rationality and sanity. It's a tragedy that he is unable to see that absolute power corrupts absolutely! In his desperate attempt to cling to power, he has no qualms about using all instruments of government to serve his ends.TIME: What do you think the Prime Minister's legacy will be?
Anwar: He will be remembered as one who spurred economic development and brought prosperity to the country, only to eventually destroy it because of his megalomania. He has condoned abuse of power, corruption, cronyism and nepotism.PAGE 1  |  
 
TIME: How long do you think he will remain in power? Will you try to bring him down? What's your strategy?
Anwar: He should have been gone if the democratic process were allowed to take its course and the people were allowed to exercise their legitimate constitutional rights. Even though I'm in prison, my resolve to bring about reform will continue.TIME: You've known Mahathir for years. What is he thinking now?
Anwar: His immediate preoccupation is to save himself and his family. Now that he is aware of the growing public discontent against his rule, he will resort to more repressive measures. And, possibly after APEC, an emergency will be declared.TIME: You've mentioned before that you might be prepared to talk about deals between Malaysian officials and foreign governments. Any deals with Burma, for example?
Anwar: They will charge me with treason if I respond to this question. But on officials' business deals, I've been releasing information in batches.TIME: You once said that the Prime Minister often expressed concern about the way the South Korean presidents have been treated. Why?
Anwar: He has a paranoia about the fate of past leaders being prosecuted after leaving office. He despised the trial of President Chun [Doo Hwan of South Korea], for example, and was heard to comment that the action would cause disunity in the country and that its people were ungrateful. Similar feelings were expressed in regard to the fall of Suharto.TIME: If you ever became Prime Minister, would you order an investigation against Mahathir and others who have turned against you?
Anwar: The people would have to decide whether or not Dr. Mahathir should be investigated. It should not be dictated by anyone's personal vendetta, or out of malice and desire to go on a witch-hunt. Leaders must be accountable for their actions under the law.TIME: If you could talk to Mahathir now, what would you say?
Anwar: Enough is enough. Resign!TIME: Are you a homosexual?
Anwar: Definitely not. This is nothing but vile character assassination calculated to prevent me from becoming PM. I've produced evidence to prove a high-level conspiracy against me. The allegations include all forms of sexual misconduct, corruption, treason, complicity in a murder and other heinous crimes. Ultimately I will be vindicated. Insya Allah.  |  2