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Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998, also serving as Minister of Finance from 1991 to 1998. Early in his career, Anwar was a close ally of Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad but subsequently emerged as the most prominent critic of Mahathir’s government.
Highly respected for his principled stance against corruption and his skillful management of the Malaysian economy during the turbulent period of its financial crisis, Anwar is viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations.
Anwar joined the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling political party and government in Malaysia, in 1982. His rise in the government was meteoric. In 1984 he was elected as Leader of UMNO Youth and in 1986 became a Vice-President of UMNO. He served as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983; Minister of Agriculture in 1984; and Minister of Education in 1986, prior to his tenure as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the 90s.
Anwar was Chairman of the Development Committee of World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1998. During his tenure he strongly endorsed the initiatives of debt cancellation and reprieve for poor countries, particularly those in Africa.
Throughout his career in public service, he was unrelenting in his campaign against corruption and has been committed to the ideals of empowerment, justice, and equity. He has stressed the need for internal reforms to reinforce civil and democratic institutions. As acting Prime Minister in 1997 he introduced the controversial but effective Anti-Corruption Legislation. His emphasis on social justice, poverty eradication, education and civil society has guided his government involvement to the end.
During his tenure as Finance Minister his impact was immediate; Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth. Shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as a top four finance minister and in 1996 Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year.
In the midst of Asian Financial Crises of 1997, Anwar was hailed for guiding Malaysia through the period of instability. He backed free market principles and highlighted the issue of the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia. He advocated greater accountability, refused to offer government bail-outs and instituted widespread spending cuts. These prescriptions saved the Malaysian economy and earned Anwar many accolades, including the Asian of the Year from Newsweek International.
As Anwar amplified his calls for reform in 1998, fearing that he was losing his grip over the country, then Prime Minister Mahathir dismissed him from the government and had him tried on trumped up charges. His trial and conviction were widely discredited by the international community.
Amnesty International stated that the trial proceedings “exposed a pattern of political manipulation of key state institutions including the police, public prosecutor’s office and the judiciary”. Many world leaders, including US Vice President Al Gore, called for his release from prison. His conviction was overturned by the Malaysian Supreme Court and Anwar was finally released from solitary confinement on September 2, 2004.
Since then he has held lecturing positions at St. Anthony’s College at Oxford, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and at the School of Foreign Service in Georgetown University. Anwar was appointed as Honorary President of the London-based group AccountAbility and Chairman of the Beirut-based Foundation for the Future. Anwar is also an advisor to the People’s Justice Party (Keadilan), Malaysia.
He is an internationally renowned speaker on the subjects of democracy, freedom, governance, Islam and democracy and the need for accountability.
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