Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993-1998. He also served as Minister of Finance for Malaysia from 1991-1998. 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 also viewed as one of the forefathers of the Asian Renaissance and a leading proponent of greater cooperation among civilizations. He is an ardent supporter of democracy and is an authoritative voice bridging the gap between East and West. Anwar was invited to join the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the ruling political party in Malaysia, and the government in 1982, by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. His rise in the party and in the government was meteoric. He was elected in 1984, 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.
Active on the national front, Anwar has also been highly engaged in the international arena. He has been a strong advocate for civilizational dialogue and has worked tirelessly towards the ideals of Convivencia, the mutual coexistence of civilizations and the interplay of different social, cultural, and spiritual ideas.
Anwar also 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, Anwar 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 in order to reinforce civil and democratic institutions and to expand the democratic space. 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, Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth and joined the ranks of other Asian countries as an “Asian Tiger.” Anwar’s impact on the economy was immediate. Shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as one of the top four finance ministers 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 this period of instability. He backed free market principles and called for “creative destruction”, highlighting the need to reconsider the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia. He advocated for greater accountability and refused to offer government bail-outs to companies facing bankruptcy. He also instituted widespread spending cuts and gut government expenditure on mega projects. These prescriptions saved the Malaysian economy and earned Anwar many accolades, including the title “Asian of the Year” by Newsweek International in 1998.
As Anwar amplified his calls for reform in 1998, fearing that he was losing his grip over the country, then Prime Minister Mahathir dismissed Anwar from the government and had him tried on trumped up charges. Anwar’s trial and subsequent conviction were widely discredited in the international community. Amnesty International stated that the entire 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 as well as the US Senate 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 2004 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 recently appointed as Honorary President of the London-based group accountability as well as Chairman of the Beirut-based Foundation for the Future. Anwar is also currently 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. He resides in Malaysia with his wife and six children.