KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — It has been a harrowing fortnight for Nurul Nuha Anwar, who has been actively campaigning for her father Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s release from prison since he began his five-year sentence for sodomy on February 10.
Thrust into the spotlight, the 31-year-old is now leading a nationwide drive to free her father and has featured as a speaker numerous times in Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) events.
Her sudden, uncharacteristic appearance in the political rally circuit has fuelled rumours that the mother-of-two could become PKR’s candidate for the Permatang Pauh federal seat, currently held by her father.
Nurul Nuha and PKR leaders have kept silent on the rumours, however, and with response to Anwar’s application for royal pardon still pending, it is yet to be determined if the federal opposition leader will be disqualified as MP.
But according to Nurul Nuha, a visual arts and technology graduate, her involvement in politics, direct or otherwise, is inevitable given the circumstances surrounding her father’s latest incarceration - the second in the span of 16 years.
“From 1998, I have been indirectly involved in politics.
“It is already in our circumstances,” Nurul Nuha, the second of Anwar’s six children told Malay Mail Online in an interview on Monday.
‘I was nominated for Nibong Tebal seat in GE13’
Asked repeatedly if PKR is considering her candidacy for Permatang Pauh should her father be forced to vacate the seat, Nurul Nuha merely said that the issue has yet to be discussed.
But she revealed that PKR had previously proposed and shortlisted her name to contest the Nibong Tebal parliamentary seat for the 13th general election, although PKR’s Datuk Dr Mansor Othman eventually ran for and won the seat in the last national polls.
“My name came up with other candidates for the Nibong Tebal seat, as per discussion with the party it was decided that someone else would contest it,” Nurul Nuha explained.
‘Time for me to take the torch’
The decision to lead the “March to Freedom” campaign for her father was of her own volition, Nurul Nuha said, as she felt it was time she stepped up and took charge of matters for her family.
“March to Freedom campaign is very much of a family effort. With Nurul Izzah (Anwar) being busy herself as an MP and mum (Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail) facing the plight of dad’s second time in prison, it is time for me to take the torch and fight for his unjust incarceration,” she said, referring to her eldest sister and mother who are both currently federal and state lawmakers.
Nurul Nuha’s younger sister, Nurul Ilham Anwar, who was also present during the interview, said family members have been taking turns to be present at the nightly gatherings outside the Sungai Buloh Prison where Anwar is currently held.
To keep the momentum going, she said a roster has also been set.
“Everyone takes turns,” Nurul Ilham told Malay Mail Online, adding that one of the highlights of these gatherings is that attendees read out excerpts from Anwar’s favourite books.
“We’re reading his books out aloud, we are keeping it real,” Nurul Nuha added.
Both Nurul Nuha and Nurul Ilham also related their respective experiences speaking in their maiden ceramahs to publicise the campaign, and said the response so far has been positive and encouraging.
“I got stage fright in the beginning, but there is a common message we are sending out, about the injustice which is being perpetrated by the current ruling regime.
“Although as mothers, Nuha and I are sleep deprived, and tired… it is still better than being locked away in prison,” Nurul Ilham said.
Beyond free Anwar campaign?
Both sisters believe that there are other crucial issues that need to addressed beyond the campaign to free their father.
Those they identify closely with are concerns surrounding employment, education and affordable housing for Malaysian youths.
“For me, I see these three main issues affecting youths who are around my age or younger - affordable housing, education and work opportunities.
“In terms of housing, many youths find it difficult to repay their housing loans, added with the burden of high living costs in Kuala Lumpur,” Nurul Nuha said, adding that the federal government has yet to come up with holistic measures to tackle the situation.
She added that the majority of youths in Malaysia support PR, and proof of this is the fact that there many more younger, educated leaders and lawmakers within the federal opposition compared to Barisan Nasional.
“Pakatan empowers youths, and I believe this is something we should continue to work on and enhance, we must be able to relate these examples to university students and other youths.
“We (PR) have the youngest MPs and leaders. Take for example Hannah Yeoh- the younger state assembly speaker in Malaysia’s history,” Nurul Nuha said.