“The late Member of Parliament for Titiwangsa Dr. Lo’ Lo’ (Mohd Ghazali) told me that women sometimes feel timid to air their voices, their views. If you don’t speak up or voice out, who will be the person who airs those grievances. Please speak up,” she opens.
At 17, Nurul Izzah Anwar was thrust into the limelight when her father former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked from office and subsequently imprisoned. Despite still being in her teens, she became a symbol of reform when she was dubbed “Puteri Reformasi,” and alongside her mother, the former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail galvanised the nation, in a quest for justice.
While she played an integral part in the early days of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), it was only after she completed her education that she decided to throw her hat into the political ring, contesting in the hot seat of Lembah Pantai, during the 12th general elections. In 2008, she defeated the veteran Tan Sri Shahrizat Jalil and retained it in 2013.
During the elections in 2018, Nurul Izzah contested in her “fatherland” of Permatang Pauh, the seat once held by her father, winning with a majority of more than 15,000. After stepping down from her position as Vice-President of PKR, Nurul Izzah has focused her attention of battling drug addiction, pushing for the use of harm reduction programmes instead of punitive measures conventionally adopted by authorities. A pilot programme has been launched in Permatang Pauh, using Naltrexone maintenance treatment as a means of helping addicts cope with addiction.
“When I went to visit my father in prison, there were so many drug-related cases. I felt so sad that many of them were from the B40 group and I felt that I needed to do something to address their plight.”
She is also looking to empower the women in her constituency with the Permatang Pauh women’s project.
“You have to own every decision you make. It wasn’t easy but we took it one day at a time. I really believe that sometimes life has to be more than just the pursuit of financial stability. It should be more than just living a comfortable life.”
“We each make our own decisions based on the cards we are dealt with,” she says. “There was a part of me that wanted to do my bit as a gesture of appreciation because so many supported our movement, our multi-racial entity and the struggle to free an innocent man. The party needed a new generation to continue the quest or the effort for further democratisation and reforming Malaysia.”
There was an element of being thrust into the limelight but it was a conscious decision. It wasn’t just about “freeing one man,” which many detractors accused her of doing at the time but because she wanted PKR to have a generation of leaders who believed in a progressive and multi-racial Malaysia.
Nurul Izzah continues to be a strong advocate of human and civil rights with a special interest in prisoners of religious prejudice. In December 2018, Nurul Izzah announced her resignation as the party’s vice-president as well as chair of its Penang chapter, and currently serves as as the Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh.