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You can't make up history, Ibrahim Ali says on Anwar film

The colourful politician speaks about his long friendship with Anwar Ibrahim and his views on the recent film, 'Anwar: The Untold Story'.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Putra president Ibrahim Ali speaks in an interview with MalaysiaNow.
Putra president Ibrahim Ali speaks in an interview with MalaysiaNow.

Controversial politician Ibrahim Ali never thought that a speech he made at the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kuala Lumpur would go viral on social media in the same week that a film promoting his former ally Anwar Ibrahim hit the silver screen. 

In fact, he never knew that the speech, made over a decade ago, had even been recorded. 

Today, though, as screenings of "Anwar: The Untold Story" continue at cinemas nationwide, Ibrahim stands by what he said about the opposition leader-turned-prime minister. 

"I wish him all the best, and I hope that his ambitions have been achieved. 

"But I don't know how he is going to erase the things he has been involved in. In the film, it is said that there was a conspiracy against him, and that he was oppressed and so on. 

"Now that you are the PM, do something," Ibrahim told MalaysiaNow in an interview at his party's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. 

The video clip, which has been making the rounds on WhatsApp and TikTok, shows Ibrahim recalling behind-the-scenes incidents ahead of Anwar's dismissal from government on Sept 2, 1998. 

It is believed to have been recorded at an event organised by Tolak Individu Bernama Anwar Ibrahim, an NGO which rejected Anwar's political struggle.

Ibrahim, who is no stranger to colourful and controversial remarks, told MalaysiaNow that nothing he had said was an accusation or a form of slander or political propaganda, or even an attempt to poke fun at anybody. 

On the contrary, he said, he had only spoken about what really happened on the night of the Umno Supreme Council meeting which turned into the culmination of the political turmoil between Anwar and his one-time mentor, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

When asked about the movie itself, Ibrahim said he did not intend to watch it as it did not depict the true events of Anwar's political journey leading up to his dismissal from government. 

He also criticised the filmmakers whom he said had ignored the views of other parties in the film, contrasting this with the way character films are made in Western countries. 

At the very least, he said, the producers could have met with Mahathir and asked for his take on what had happened. 

"This is history, you can't add and remove as you please," he said. 

"You can make things up, but this does not mean that they are facts. When you dig a little deeper, people will find out."

'Love-hate relationship'

Ibrahim, a former Kelantan Umno strongman, was close with Anwar during the student demonstrations of the 1970s, which saw them both detained for two years in Kamunting under the Internal Security Act. 

When asked about his ties with Anwar today, Ibrahim laughed. 

He said they met in 1971, when Ibrahim was a Form Six student in Kelantan and Anwar was at university. 

After he began attending university himself, he said, he felt as though Anwar had come to "love" him. 

At times, he said, Anwar had seen him as a competitor to his position and reputation, whereas Ibrahim himself had only appreciated his friend, especially his skills in public speaking. 

While help and acts of friendship went both ways, Ibrahim said that his principles and way of life eventually took him further away from Anwar. 

He said he was not good at hiding his feelings and would be open and vocal in his views, especially in matters which he felt deserved a stand. 

He said this was not the case with Malaysian politics, where individuals are expected to remain silent, nod, and kiss the hands of those in power. 

"I was not born to do that," he said. "I believe he will not be offended because he is already at the top. 

"Leaders must be ready and able to accept all views, even if they are not pleasing. Anwar himself always said, we must be forthright."

Ibrahim nonetheless added that in his experience, Anwar did not appreciate criticism. 

"He can hand it out, but not the other way around," he said. 

But until today, he said, he considered Anwar a friend even if the feelings were not mutual. 

"My relationship with Anwar is a mix of love and hate," he said. "How are we to go on from there?"