I’m reminded, by my young Malaysian subordinates, how long ago this really was. More than the somewhat depressing change in my features over time, what would really stand out to one of my attachés transported back to that time would be how truly different the country was then, how many men who have passed into legend or would make themselves legend now were struggling to push, pull, and drive Malaysia to a destiny even they could not fully see.
Anwar Ibrahim, of course, was one of these, and his story continues here. But through the mists of time it is important to remember his patron not as Tun Mahathir, as the young of today call him and think of him – the larger than life figure whose time as Prime Minister still shapes Malaysia today – but rather the outwardly self-assured man working desperately to consolidate his power base in Umno, to pull the reactionaries and progressives into something like a working harmony in a country still finding its identity in the world. Before he was a legend, he was an unlikely Prime Minister, threatened by the men he’d defeated to reach that spot, and by PAS and a world already hostile to him outside his country.
It is this time, just before Anwar’s sudden entry into my world, that my story in Malaysia begins.