Address by Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Mr Roger Quiambao,
In 1997, the Order of the Knights of Rizal made Anwar Ibrahim one of its Grand Knights by awarding him its highest award, the Grand Order of the Knights of Rizal. This is a distinction that he holds in great respect for it was a recognition of his commitment to the advancement of the principles of truth, human dignity, social justice and patriotism, ideals which Dr Jose Rizal had empowered generations of Filipinos with. These universal ideals form the foundation of your freedom and vibrant democracy here in the Philippines.
A true patriot, Rizal lived by these ideals. He was implacably opposed to the evils of colonial tyranny for he knew that there would not be slaves in this world if there were no tyrants. As I visited the Rizal Shrine at Intramuros this afternoon, I could not but appreciate the heroism of your greatest son, who paid dearly with his life at the age of 35 for exposing the "social cancer" of his enslaved Filipinas.
In 1996 you celebrated the centenary of your independence, and this year you celebrate the centenary of the Malolos Republic, which was the first constitutional democracy and representative government established in modern Asia. Over the last hundred years, the Filipino people have demonstrated that freedom and independence do not come on a silver platter.
Your recent experiences have shown that you did not remove one form of tyranny to have it replaced by another. In 1986, in the great tradition of your revolutionary history, People Power restored your freedom to you. The Filipino people have also shown that the Rule of Law and People Power are indivisible if freedom and democracy are to endure. Malaysians have learnt the lessons of the lack of vigilance of our democratic institutions, which have been completely subverted.
In a speech before the Ateneo de Manila in May 1996, my husband, Anwar, argued that the basis for a new global order must be founded on a vision of a common humanity that is animated by a sense of justice and mutual respect. All of us share this vision. But to reach this goal, we must realise that our fight to eradicate religious and racial intolerance, underdevelopment and poverty is inseparable from the fight for justice, freedom and democracy.
As we go into the new millenium we should therefore ensure that future generations of our people can live by basic standards of legal, political, economic and social justice. There must not be two Southeast Asias, one that is free and the other unfree, just as much as we must not want one that is rich and the other poor.
I consider it indeed a great honour and privilege to be given this award by theKnights of Rizal and I respectfully accept it on behalf of all the brave women and men of my country who have resolutely championed the cause of freedom and social justice and who stand in solidarity in a cause that has transcended communal and religious differences.
A new wind of change has swept the country that has made people more aware that the struggle between right and wrong is an eternal one and is not irrelevant to their condition now and in the future. Reform begins with consciousness.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Grand Order of the Knights of Rizal in the Philippines and its chapters throughout the world for their support of Anwar Ibrahim in these trying times and for understanding that his only crime was attempting to "lift the veil that conceals the evil" of abuse of power, corruption, nepotism and cronyism in my country.