Today marks day 489 of Anwar Ibrahim in prison. In May 2016 the trend of gross abuse of power by the Malaysian government continues while Anwar remains languished in prison for daring to fight for a change.
The Malaysian authorities continue its crackdown on dissent. The Malaysian police are targeting billboards that have been erected nationwide calling for the release of Anwar. Besides removing the billboards by force, they have also proceeded to investigate key figures using the draconian The Sedition Act for erecting the billboards. Amongst those investigated for the “crime” of erecting the billboards is the current Chief Minister of Selangor Dato Seri Azmin Ali.
Besides that the police are also investigating Nurul Izzah Anwar and Nurul Nuha Anwar, Anwar’s daughter and other party leaders for participating in a peaceful rally outside the Sg Buloh prison in conjunction with 1-year anniversary of Anwar in prison. They have been summoned by the police to have their statement recorded and are waiting to see if any official charges will be made.
The worrying trend of disregard of freedom of expression prompted Amnesty International to issue a statement late May calling “on the Malaysian government to end its blatant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful public assembly. The organisation also urges the government to take immediate steps to repeal or amend repressive laws including the Sedition Act 1948, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 so as to bring them into line with international human rights law and standards”[i]
Cartoonist Wins International Award
Local cartoonist activist Zunar was awarded the 2016 International Editorial Cartoons Prize by the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva. Through his cartoons, Zunar is currently facing 9 counts on sedition and faces the possibility of 43 years in prison for courageously using his pen to question the excesses and corrupt practices of the ruling government. Among the charges was for his critic of the Federal Court decision against Anwar through his tweets and his constant usage of his cartoons to highlight many injustices including the case of Anwar.
After the award Zunar said, “Talent is not a gift, but a responsibility. It is a duty for me as a cartoonist to use the art as a weapon to fight unjust rulers. Fear and intimidation are the potent tools being used by the regime to scare the people. I believe, strokes of art can lead the people to cross the line of fear.”[ii]
On the 9th of May Anwar was transferred to the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital for monitoring for 5 days due to erratic and high blood pressure. He was later transferred back to prison after his blood pressure stabilizes but his health remains a concern and requires constant monitoring. This marks the 4th time that Anwar has been transferred to the hospital in recent months.
On the 23rd of May, Anwar’s legal team released a White Paper detailing the history of the Malaysian government’s persecution of Anwar[iii]. Please use the report to spread the information on Anwar’s case.
Case Appeal In Court
The Malaysian Federal Court rejected an appeal by Anwar to include new evidence appeared recently. Malaysia’s former national Criminal Investigation Department chief in a court appearance for another case testified that he was instructed in 1998 by the former Attorney General to fabricate evidence against Anwar. This new evidence would prove the validity Anwar’s assertion that there has been a deliberate political conspiracy against him plotted by the government. Anwar has since appealed against the decision.
I end this update with a warm message from Anwar, wishing everyone a blessed Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. Ramadan is a month we reconnect to our almighty lord Allah; by renewing kinship, remembering the less fortunate through fasting and charity and self reflection.
It will be the second Ramadan away from his family for Anwar since taken to prison. Take care and till next time, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.