KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali feels that, at age 64, it is time to set the record straight and clear up any misunderstandings about himself and his life.
How? With an 800-page autobiography titled The Misunderstood Man — The Untold Story.
Ibrahim has worn many hats since his university days: student demonstrator, politician in various parties, elected lawmaker, and now the leader of an eight-year-old pressure group that has often been at the centre of many controversies.
“I’m a good man, I still maintain I am a good man... that’s why when people know me, they love me. When they know me, they like me — everybody; and when I make friends, I don’t lose them,” he told Malay Mail Online recently.
Victim of his own success
Ibrahim is familiar with accusations that he is racist, an extremist and a frog — labels which he says further fuel his popularity despite his status as a “small man” without important political posts.
Although Ibrahim does not deny the “frog” label, he said he has dedicated an entire chapter in the book to explain his history of changing party affiliations multiple times in his political career.
“Then I prove in my book that there are a lot of frogs in this country — not only me — so why focus on me? When people say ‘extremist’, there are other people more extremist than me. When you say ‘you are racist’, there are other people (more) racist than me. But why everything focus about me? (sic)
“Why? This I consider jealousy. I am a victim of success, because I tend to be too popular, even without any posts I become popular,” he said.
He insisted that he is misunderstood as a racist or an extremist as his statements are allegedly not reported in full by the media.
“No, if I am an extremist, I would carry guns, attack people, punch people. When I was a student leader, I liked to organise demonstrations, that’s why I was arrested under ISA. But after 1990 until now, I haven’t been involved in any demonstrations,” he said, referring to the Internal Security Act (ISA).
He also said Perkasa, the right-wing Malay group he started in 2008, should not be seen as extremist, arguing that no one can show that it had, at any point of time, organised anti-Chinese or anti-Indian demonstrations or shouted on the streets.
Ibrahim emphasised that he has business partners who are ethnic Chinese, to dispel the perception that he is racist.
However, he said affirmative action is necessary to narrow the income gap between the Bumiputera, who form the majority of Malaysia’s population, and the others to ensure national security.
“I am just talking about tomorrow when the Malays are dissatisfied. I don’t want in the future — even though I will not be in this world anymore — for there to be a quarrel, burning here and there. What for, let everybody be a bit happy,” he said.
Though he said others have misread him and think he is quarrelsome because he is naturally a “loud” person, his Chinese friends have stood by him.
“But in conclusion, even my Chinese friends have also told me, ‘Ibrahim, actually you are a good person, only people misunderstand you, even though you bising (make noise), but you have a good heart’,” he said.
What else can we expect from the book?
The book goes back more than 40 years to when Ibrahim first rose to prominence for leading the April 22,1974 march of 6,000 students from the then-Institut Teknologi Mara (ITM) in Shah Alam to Parliament and causing the one-month shutdown of the institution, which he claimed later led to then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s 1999 recognition of ITM as a university.
Ibrahim also said the book details his experience of protesting yet again six months later in 1974 over the Baling incident, being arrested and fleeing the police with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and going into hiding, before ultimately being re-arrested and thrown into detention with Anwar under the now-abolished ISA.
He said he completed his final two semesters with flying colours while in Kamunting camp before his 1976 release.
The book will also detail Ibrahim’s unique love-hate relationship with key political leaders who were, at times, Umno rivals, such as Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Dr Mahathir and Anwar.
Ibrahim said he talks frankly and argues with everyone, including Dr Mahathir who can “take it”, adding that he does not hesitate to criticise these top leaders.
“When I get a business, I consider business (as) business, so if I got the business, it does not stop me from criticising even the leader who gave me business. Because business is (through) my merits, I got through proper way, it’s not corruption. So I don’t owe them anything, that is my principle,” he said.
Too young for an autobiography?
Ibrahim considers this to be just the right age for him to pen his memoirs, saying that he may lack the courage and focus to write when he becomes too old, noting that he’s becoming forgetful even now.
“I think at the age of 65, even if I am still active, I don’t think much awaits me. The important events are already over so I should record them while I’m still young, because, in another five years, I will be 70. In these five years, what important event is going to involve me? I don’t think there’ll be anything important, I don’t think I am going to be prime minister anyway,” he said.
He said he started dictating into a tape recorder as he had time on his hands after his 2013 Pasir Mas election defeat, ending up two years later with almost 1,500 pages of a transcribed manuscript that was further trimmed down thrice to about 900 pages.
He then handed over the manuscript for vetting by legal experts to avoid being sued for defamation, saying that his lawyer took about two to three months to do so.
“He took out almost 300 pages, he said this one definitely you are libel, because I want to tell the truth. When I tell the truth, there are some things that when I mention names, things like that, they might deny, they might say ‘no’, even though it is true. But on his advice, I took it out,” he said, adding that it was finally sent to those well-versed in Malay to polish up before photos and appendixes were added.
Ibrahim, who does not regard himself as a statesman just yet, considers himself a good strategist and confessed to the marketing gimmick of publicising his book launch date as May 13 — a date which he said would surely grab the attention of his prospective readers.