Malaysia - Husband and Wife at the Top Levels of the Country


Malaysia tops the world in presenting a couple, husband and wife as the waiting prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the country. All the credit goes to these two top leaders of the country, Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah who as a husband and wife complemented and supported each other not only in the family but also in the political world and finally achieved a marvellous success.   They proved the hollowness of the myth that a man and a woman born and married in some so-called royal families alone may be crowned as the King and the Queen of the given country. They practically demonstrated that a man and a woman born and married in some normal and regular families may be also crowned as the Democratic King and Queen of a nation who reached the top positions through ballot boxes by the dint of their God-given spiritual strength, political wisdom and moral courage.

Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the current Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and also the Minister of Women and Family Development and her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is  the waiting Prime Minister of the country. The long waiting couple is blessed with their ‘re-union’ in the blessed month of Ramadhan which is by itself a testimony of their self-less love for each other and for the nation. Wan Azizah born on 3rd December 1952 in Singapore, raised up in Malaysia as a Malay Muslim,   received a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology and also qualified as an ophthalmologist in Ireland in 1978. In 1980 she got married to Anwar Ibrahim, who was then a young Islamic speaker and an emerging politician. In 1982, Anwar Ibrahim joined UMNO, United Malays National Organization, the largest party in the then ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, BN. During the Premiership of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, Anwar Ibrahim headed several ministries -- Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983; Education in 1986 and Finance in 1991.  In 1993 he is appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister and he was also the Minister of Finance at the same time. However during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, some rift developed between the top two leaders, Dr. Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim on the policies and strategies responding to the crisis. Meanwhile Anwar Ibrahim also became critical of the cronyism and corruption growing within UMNO and wanted to stop it. But Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from his positions on 3rd September 1998 and from UMNO on 4th September the same year. Anwar launched a Reformasi Campaign’ on 20th September, 1998, but he was arrested in the night on the same day and after six months of trial, he was sent to the prison in 1999  on charges of corruption and sodomy. Since then, Anwar Ibrahim suffered three prison sentences and eleven years of imprisonment and was finally released on 6th May, 2018.

During this whole long period of twenty years from 1998 to 2018, Wan Azizah who served as a successful doctor for fourteen years before Anwar was arrested, left her medical profession and took over the ‘reform campaign’ launched by her husband while taking care of her small children, who were aged 17 to 6 when Anwar was arrested. Wan Azizah launched a new NGO, on December 10, 1998, the Movement for Social Justice, or Adil to press for political, economic and social reform. In the following year, on 4th April, 1999, the reform movement formed its own political party, Parti Keadilan Nasional - National Justice Party (PKN) and this party merged with another party later, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and formed a new party, People’s Justice Party, Parti Kaedilan Rakyat, Kaedilan or PKR on 3rd August 2003. Wan Azizah remained the President of the party, Kaedilan since its formation in 1999. Since then, Kaedilan under the leadership of Wan Azizah contested five General Elections consecutively in 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2013 and recently in 2018 through an opposition coalition of other political parties which was earlier called Pakatan Rakyat and its recent formation is called Pakatan Harapan, PH.  Parti Kaedilan performed well in all the General Elections (GE) – won 5 seats in GE 1999; 1 seat in GE 2004; 31 seats in GE 2008; 30 seats in GE 2013 and 47 seats in GE 2018. The over-all performance of the opposition coalition has been also fast and over-powering --- 82 seats in GE 2008; 89 in GE 2013, and 113 seats in GE 2018. In this last GE 2018, with its 113 seats, the Sabah Heritage Party and one independent candidate also aligned with Pakatan Harapan, PH which brought PH to 122 seats altogether in the Parliament and thus PH defeated the 61 year old ruling coalition Barisan Nasional, BN and formed its own government.

Behind the success of this whole story lies a historic rapprochement between the top three leaders of Malaysia, Anwar and Wan Azizah on one hand and Dr. Mahathir on the other side. Wan Azizah not only continued her consistent efforts for the reform campaign through political leadership of the party and the coalition, but both these husband and wife, Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah gave priority to the national interest before their own personal grievances against Dr. Mahathir who back in 1998 before twenty years sent Anwar to jail. The rapprochement was made because Dr. Mahathir stated clearly that his main purpose of joining the opposition coalition with his party is to fight corruption that is growing in the country particularly at the leadership level.  By the way,  it seems pertinent to mention here that Dr. Mahathir expressed two important facts which the media reported -- firstly that he felt that Anwar Ibrahim could have been appointed as the Prime Minister after his own premiership; and secondly he assured that he would facilitate in getting the royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim to be released from the prison if opposition coalition, PH wins the 14th GE, General Election. Thus the positive development from both these sides of these trio-leaders of Malaysia helped the leaders of the other opposition parties of PH for the historic rapprochement among all the parties of PH to get united and fight for the 14th GE which as mentioned above, won a great success and formed a new government.

It seems pertinent to highlight here the fact that Wan Azizah while continuing the ‘reform campaign’ through remaining politically active as clear from the above, but took full care of her family as a wife and mother. It is reported in several articles on her particularly based on interviews with her eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah, currently one of the Vice Presidents of Pakatan Harapan, HP and the Member of Parliament, that Wan Azizah has her old parents and she attends them without fail. At the same time, she never neglected her children and even makes sure they finish their home-works. She also makes sure of organizing a sort of family get together at regular intervals through inviting all the family members on the favourite food dishes of her children so that the family bond remains united and strong. It is also said that she remains sportive and active with her grandchildren and tactfully tackles their tantrums.

As a wife, Wan Azizah not only shouldered the ‘Reform campaign’ launched by Anwar, but she also made sure that she would not miss any chance of visiting Anwar in the prison while facing all kinds of restrictions around her and also the Rehabilitation centre where Anwar was sent for his treatment. Furthermore, it should be remembered that when the ban on Anwar on joining any public office was expired in 2008, Wan Azizah wanted Anwar to come back to the Parliament. For this reason, Wan Azizah sacrificed her seat in the parliament to bring him in the parliament through a by-election. People sent to her several posts expressing their thoughts and feelings about her, mostly in these terms:  “I am not sure if Kak Wan (Sister Wan) should relinquish her seat and make path to (DSAI) for Anwar Ibrahim. Kak Wan has been an excellent role model as a wife, a mother and a leader to many Malaysians like me. I have deep respect for her.”

Once she described her high regards for the reform and political struggle of Anwar in these words:

“My fate is that I have a husband who is involved in everything that is called politics. As a Muslim wife, I strive to be an exemplary wife and a good mother”..... “I have gifted my whole body and soul to my husband for his struggle without regrets. Because I realise his struggle is not for himself, nor only for our family. It is clear, ever since I met him to this moment; his struggle was for the people and the country. That philosophy of his has never changed.”

The same sort of love and confidence is shown by Anwar to Wan Azizah. After he was sacked from his positions in 1998, he tried to keep Wan Azizah always with his side during his talks and rallies for ‘Reform campaign’. It is also said that in his last address to the rally of more than 50,000 thousand people, few hours before his arrest on 20th September 1998, he said that if anything would happen to him, his wife Wan Azizah would take up the cause of ‘Reformasi’. When he was jailed and Wan Azizah used to visit him in the prison, he used to say her not to cry and continue the reform campaign to reach its goal. These and several other facts of their life particularly throughout that long painful period of twenty years of their life show their self-less love for each other and for the nation.

The most important that needs emphasis here is that their faith in Allah Almighty never dwindled in any circumstances. It is said that Anwar Ibrahim continued offering prayers in the prison even while lying down when he suffered from immense pain at his back that is caused by the brutality of the police in the prison, the very first day when he was arrested. As for Wan Azizah, she manifests Islam not only through her appropriate full- sleeved shirt and Malay traditional skirt and beautiful scarf, soft speaking tone and a graceful smile in her face, but she has strengthened herself with strong faith inside herself which helped her to encounter every challenge with firm and solid action necessary for the party, coalition and the nation. Once she wrote the following words in her memoir in her blog:

“I steeled my heart, strengthened my spirit. Because I know, if I fail, my children will fail. Perhaps, my husband will not make it. Only my prayers and surrender to Allah with the effort I put in.”

No doubt, Allah Almighty seeing their deep faith in Him and their consistent efforts in the noble cause of ‘reform’ for the country despite facing heavy psychological burdens and emotional set-backs in their life to which their children also became the victims, that they are rewarded by the top two positions in the country, never ever enjoyed by any couple earlier.


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