KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 27 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim finally makes it to his alma mater, Universiti Malaya (UM), which had tried earlier to keep him from delivering his address to the student population by closing all the gates into the campus here.
The Dewan Tunku Canselor, the venue for the talk titled "Anwar Ibrahim: 40 Years from UM to Jail" and organised by the university's student council, is closed and blanketed in darkness.
The university administration had cut power to the area just hours earlier, ostensibly for maintenance reasons, though the timing is questionable.
But the 67-year-old UM alumnus is undaunted.
He climbs onto the back of truck parked across the road from Dewan Tunku Canselor, where the streetlights are still switched on and speaks into a microphone to the hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of students who braved the evening downpour and helped open UM's gates for him.
"I am very grateful to be invited by PMUM to speak here tonight. I did not organize this event. I am a guest," Anwar says in Malay, thanking UM's student council whom he calls by its Malay abbreviation.
He is instantly met with a roar of approval from the crowd that nearly drowns out the rest of his speech.
He speaks to them about his days as a student activist in the late 1960s, of a time when there was more space and freedom for the undergraduates to express their thoughts.
"Why is the university’s administration so afraid of me? Is there any harm for me to return to my alma mater to address the students?
"During my time as a student here, UM’s management and faculty allowed me to continue instead of stopping," he says.
Anwar had made a name for himself as a fiery student activist. He had led the UM Malay Language Society as president as well as several other youth movements, including the National Union Of Malaysian Muslim Students and the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), which he co-founded.
"Our places of higher education are producing students without a soul when in the past, UM was respected on an international level.
"Where is the educational quality which the rakyat expects from our system? Why is Malaysia still behind other countries despite starting on equal footing?" he thunders.
He notes that honour and dignity is now lacking in Malaysia's institutions of higher learning, and blames it on the federal government for failing to improve on the country's educational rankings.
He calls on the young students to step up for the country's future.
"Malaysian youths should be the conscience of the country. They should remind Putrajaya that Malaysians will not keep quiet and accept multi-billion dollar corruption, wastage and leakage," he tells them.
He speaks further about his trial tomorrow in the nation's highest court, of his challenge to shake off the sodomy conviction — the second in his life — as decided by the Court of Appeal in March this year, overruling the 2012 acquittal by the High Court on lack of evidence.
The Permatang Pauh MP was charged with sodomy for the second time after a former male aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, complained of being sodomised by the politician at the Desa Damansara condominium in upscale Bukit Damansara on June 26, 2008.
Anwar has repeatedly maintained his innocence, insisting that the charges were trumped up to kill his political career as he poses a threat to the Barisan Nasional coalition's decades-long rule with the Pakatan Rakyat alliance, which he now leads.
If Anwar fails to reverse his five-year imprisonment sentence and conviction in the Federal Court tomorrow, he would lose his seat as the law bars anyone fined RM2,000 or imprisoned for one year from serving as a lawmaker.