19 July, 2008

Eye on Malaysia - a black eye !

Anwar Arrest A Black Eye For Malaysia

The dramatic arrest of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday was a real black eye for Malaysia. It showed how paranoid the current leaders are about the former deputy prime minister's political potential in the weeks and months to come. That paranoia was heightened recently when Anwar appeared on a televised debate on the current oil prices. He did well and declared that he would stand for election and that he intended to form a new government by mid-September. This kind of confidence does not augur well with the current political uncertainties after the March 8 political tsunami, especially for the ruling National Front or Barisan Nasional.

The arrest has also once again raised questions of the credibility of the Malaysian police force. The police arrested Anwar before he was due to report on the same afternoon. When he was incarcerated back in 1998, he was beaten and had his eyes blackened by a police chief. The photo of him with his eyes bruised was seen around the world. The injustice has haunted Malaysia's dynamic image ever since.

The timing of the sodomy allegation was apparently aimed at disrupting the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, and its ascension to power. Anwar said that he would become Malaysia's next prime minister by mid-September through a by-election, which has yet to be determined, coupled with a massive influx of National Front politicians. Obviously, government bigwigs are betting on the weakening of coalition partners made up of People's Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Reports of dialogue and consultation between the United Malay National Organisation and the PAS have stirred up such speculation.

Malaysian politics is full of intrigue, especially among leading Malay politicians. Several critics have already said out loud that Anwar's chances of realising his dream of becoming prime minister are slipping away quickly. The ruling parties are not giving up their fight. Pro-government newspapers have ridiculed Anwar and his actions throughout. When Anwar took refuge in the Turkish embassy, citing safety reason, the state-controlled media said it was a plan to deflect attention from Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's alleged links to the murder of a Mongolian translator.

Now that Najib is the prime minister-in-waiting in 2010, he still has a lot to prove because he has lots of baggage. Prime Minister Abdullah, who was recently under siege, has now regained his composure and moved on. More debates focusing on Anwar's case and Najib's suitability would allow Abdullah extra time to run the government and manage the growing economic crisis at home. The decisive factor will continue to be Malaysian voters, who still dictate the future political direction of the country. The National Front is trying harder these days to woo them back. But with myriad issues vying for public attention, Malaysian politics will never be the same. (The Nation/ ANN)


Anwar Ibrahim was released on bail on Thursday after being held for 21 hours. He refused to give a DNA sample, saying it could be manipulated to frame him.

Anwar says he is the victim of a personal vendetta, and has called the allegation "complete fabrication".

"You must establish a case. A case that is considered to be at least with some grounds in order to proceed. But here the case is not established," Mr Anwar said.

"We are clear, absolutely clear on the alibi, every single minute of the day."

Mr Anwar says the allegation is a set-up - a repeat of similar claims 10 years ago for which he was sacked from his post as deputy prime minister, tried and jailed.

Malaysia's Supreme Court eventually overturned the sodomy conviction against Mr Anwar and he was released in 2004 after he had served six years.

He had always strongly denied the claims, calling them a smear campaign.

The police arrested Anwar before he was due to report on the same afternoon.

When he was incarcerated back in 1998, he was beaten and had his eyes blackened by a police chief. The photo of him with his eyes bruised was seen around the world. The injustice has haunted Malaysia's dynamic image ever since.

Then, Rahim Noor ordered Anwar to be handcuffed and blindfolded before beating him up on 20 September 1998, less than one hour after his arrested.

The assault left him with a black eye and injuries which doctors said could have been fatal.

Rahim Noor, Malaysia's highest ranking police chief at the time, confessed nearly five months later and has now resigned.

Rahim Noor, who was fined 2,000 ringgit, is the first police chief to face jail.

Judge Akhtar Tahir told him the punishment should serve as ''a lesson to the police''.

The offence admitted by Rahim Noor attracts a maximum one-year sentence. But the judge said he had taken into account his 30 years of service in fixing the penalty.

The former police chief played a key role in ending the communist insurgency in 1989, before becoming inspector general in 1994.

Commentators were swift to compare the sentence to Anwar's six-year term and the fact Rahim Noor was granted bail while his victim was not.

Twists and Turns (1971 - 2004)

1971 While a university student, Anwar launches the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia to promote Islam and fight poverty

1974 Anwar is arrested during anti-government protests and spends 22 months in jail

1982 Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad persuades Anwar to join the ruling party, heading its youth wing

1986-1997 Anwar rises to be Education Minister, Finance Minister and finally Deputy Prime Minister, making him Mahathir's heir apparent. But their once close relationship sours, as they disagree over government policy, especially how to tackle the Asian financial crisis

September 2, 1998 Mahathir sacks Anwar and later says he's "morally unfit" to be a leader. Anwar starts to tour the country, galvanizing ever larger numbers of supporters with his call for reform

September 20, 1998 Police armed with submachine guns storm Anwar's house; he is arrested and charged with abusing power and committing sodomy

September 29, 1998 Anwar, who insists the charges against him are politically motivated, appears in court with a black eye. National police chief Abdul Rahim Noor later admits to striking him

April 14, 1999 Anwar is convicted of corruption and sentenced to six years in prison

August 8, 2000 Anwar is convicted of sodomy and sentenced to an additional nine years' jail

July 10, 2002 The three-man Federal Court, the nation's highest judicial body, unanimously dismisses Anwar's final appeal of his corruption conviction

October 31, 2003 Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeds Mahathir as Prime Minister

September 2, 2004 The Federal Court quashes Anwar's sodomy conviction 2-1, setting him free



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