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Nurul Izzah Anwar

2002: Article


Nurul Izzah Anwar

Puteri Reformasi



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by Nurul Izzah Anwar

Regrets, they say, are a part of life. A life led without regrets is a life not well lived. I've had regrets, as I'm sure most of us have. I am not regretful of how my life turned out (yes, I am aware that this is only my 21st year on Earth) but instead, regretful of how slow I am in reaching the realm of idealism.

Life for me began with a certain sense of normalcy, and definitely devoid of any feeling of youthful exuberance mingled with any leaning towards a meaningful idealism. This was certainly the existing scenario, up until the September of 1998.

The month before of the same year, saw me as a young teenager without a strong sense of conviction or idealism -they say ignorance is bliss. Perhaps that categorically explains much of the feeling at that particular time. A time of busy studying, hanging out with friends and unconscious of worldly cares. Then one fine month in 1998, I wrote a letter to my dearest father. It was his birthday letter, since there was very little choice of presents in the dusty town of Tronoh, while you were experiencing your early days of student life. I wrote him of my soul-searching endeavour to find the deeper meaning in this life of ours, on how I often wondered of his younger days, filled with excitement and rebellion. But most of all, I wrote to him to inquire on how it felt like to lead a life filled with meaning and filled with idealism; the core ingredients in the struggle for justice and truth. It was in the month of August, written while I was obligingly ignoring my lectures and missing my family, especially my father. I don't know why I wrote it, but I remembered how curious I was, filled with eagerness and glee, awaiting impatiently for a reply.

I knew very little of his heydays back in campus, except for the things that my uncles and aunts would tell me. He would often joke about his cabinet experiences, or rather, mishaps. But about Baling, UM, the famous demonstrations, we kids know so little of. His earlier incarceration in the year 1974 was never discussed thoroughly with the rest of us. I wondered how he overcame that particular challenge. In having a sense of pride, I did wish I had a first hand insight as to how it all went.

Dissatisfaction overcame my whole being. How could I then, ever be satisfied with the life I was leading, lacking in excitement and meaning, and all things spicy -only to be boring down educational books, on atoms and force and Einstein's theory of Relativity? I must know everything there is to know about this father of mine to satisfy my hunger for knowledge and cure my soul of this longing and emptiness!
I've waited until now for my queries to be answered. But, as God had planned it, September 1998 arrived the next month and before I knew it, ironically, my wishes were granted. That is not to say it did not come with a heavy price.

Everything happened all at once. The world, filled with such innocence and lighthearted candor before, slowly became blurred with the picture of uncertainty and apprehension.
And then it slowly came to me. In reliving these tragic moments, I had found my answers. You go through life experiences and relive moment to moment. Every moment has meaning that is not to be missed. Events on the month of September 1998 have been discussed at length by various personalities. We could, venture further -in reliving the tragedy, supposedly seen from my eyes. But I will not go there. I will, instead discuss on how it had shaped me into who I am now, although not very different from the young, impressionable teenage girl I was before but yet, some things are altered. And everything, from how you greet each coming day to how meaningful a fatherly hug can be has changed forever.

How you view suffering -especially seen happening to others and how you value ideals and principles, as the very meaning of life itself has changed tremendously for me. I could no longer shut my eyes from the truth. I could no longer hide in my cocoon of safety and not knowing. I must embrace this challenge and accept it as the will of God.
For we will never be burdened with a burden greater than our strength and there exists hikmah in every single experience that graces our life.

"On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than he can bear" - Al-Baqarah, verse 286

One of the things I remembered most is the ISA period. The period of pure darkness and fright. Where your only solace comes from your belief in God and the phrase that was constantly repeated was that whatever happens, whatever anyone did to us, God will somehow save us. Then a small flicker of hope appeared about a week after my father's detention under the Internal Security Act. Destiny had it that I should travel abroad -to further the cause for reform, to advance the call for justice and to reach out to the outside world.

It proved to be one of the most difficult and formidable tasks that I had to perform. Challenges and choices present themselves in a most peculiar way. I was torn between what I deemed as right and at the same time, what others thought as unwise.
It was a time of reckoning and coming to terms with maturity. With a single act, I felt and was made to feel as though I could free my father and secure success for the movement or fail everyone and face the impending doom.
All of this depended on the choice of whether I would or would not meet with the Presidents of Indonesia and the Philippines respectively. Being 18 years of age, and clueless of world politics were both extremely discouraging and far from being helpful.

You hear advices, taunts, threats and praises being thrown to you while the people who are dear to you try their very best to secure success. It is not that the things they spoke of were exaggerated. It is just that at times, one must always keep focus of things and never blow them out of proportion. Politics takes time to digest, I suppose. Naivete alone helped the girl of eighteen to believe that she could help free her father and triumph the movement during her short trip overseas.

But there is beauty in being naïve. Because you never lose sight of hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, in the Asian context; a more constructive diplomacy. That took place as I shook hands with President Habibie and President Estrada. I remembered the risk taken and the kindness granted to a daughter of a prisoner, who was wrongfully accused. Yes, maybe it was easier for me to champion his cause for I am his daughter, but for them and the hundreds of thousands of people who have thrown caution to the wind? It is they who should be applauded for within them lies the true meaning of idealism, of holding to what is true and principles that are outlined in our religious and moral values. But all this proved to be only the starting point, of something far more arduous than any one of us could have imagined.

Time is to be of essence. Time helps us understand and helps us gather strength in the days to come. And at times, it can make one grow increasingly impatient. As the frequency of the trips made abroad increased, so did my hopes decrease. I have wondered from time to time, when will the struggle eventually lead to success. I have searched deep within my soul, spent restless nights thinking and worrying. It did seem so easy and short when we first started but now…
Then, stopping myself, I started to remember those who have spent each restless night in an empty, dark and lonely cell.

How on earth are they to cope with the bleakness of reality? Time goes by very slowly, and more so when you're imprisoned. These people have suffered greatly, but their souls remain strong, their convictions harder than steel. They have persevered because they hold firmly to their beliefs, the belief that truth, justice will prevail, the iron bars but a short journey in the life long struggle of upholding all that is good.
It has been three years since the tragic events took place. The movement has taken a quieter tone, with repression of speech, the total government control of mainstream media, the jailing of opposition leaders and the September 11th attacks have further lend credence to increase the crackdown on opposition.

But all this should not be a seen as a despondent time in the struggle. All movements have its high and low junctures, but we must always remember that to achieve success, one must always observe a certain degree of patience and perseverance. This in turn, will help in generating success, however small.
My heart quenched in fear every time my father made any reference to the laboriously long struggle of Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail, before apartheid was successfully abolished. But yet, it did provide a sense of solace and a glimmer of hope of the impending future.

Nelson Mandela remained unscathed in the efforts of his captors to leave him embittered. He maintained his dignity and showered others with his magnanimity. He held no grudges against his oppressors and treated them with civility. We can only strive to reach that level of human spirit.
3 years is not a long time, by normal standards of a struggle, and we will certainly pass through many trials and tribulations before we succeed. As people of the book, success is not measured in worldly accomplishments only, but of a further attainment, that with sincerity and pureness of heart, shall be rewarded in the hereafter.

"And fight them on, until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah" - Al-Baqarah verse 193

"And do thou be patient for thy patience is but from Allah; nor grieve over them, and distress not thyself because of their plots. For Allah is with those who restraint themselves and those who do good." - An -Nahl verse 127-128

We will encounter questions in this life - questions, from the simple and mundane ones to the philosophical meaning of our existence. The important thing is to remember to reach out to the answers and try with all your might, to fulfill our mission in reliving humanity. Never take happiness, love, justice and all things virtuous for granted. Hold them dearly within your heart, for in all these virtues, lie the essence of God.

And to all this, and so much more, I have one main person to thank and to cherish for the rest of my life -my beloved father, Anwar Ibrahim.

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