25 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


With the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim last week, Malaysia appears to have again resorted to dubious law to eliminate political challenges.

The prison term and the ban together bar the 67 year old from politics for a total of 10 years, effectively ending his political career.

This unfortunate practice has been seen in many Asian nations: Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore are in the unsavoury line-up.

All too often, the courts are used to shape the course of politics. Opponents and vocal critics are arrested, charged, convicted and jailed. Sometimes the courts are doing the governments’ bidding. Sometimes, it seems, the courts are trying to second-guess the desires of the nation’s rulers or to put their own (usually conservative) stamp on developments.

Whether at the government’s instigation, or acting on its own initiative, Malaysia’s highest court trod a regressive line on Mr Anwar’s case. Rejecting an appeal against his conviction on a charge of “sodomy” (having sexual relations in 2008 with a young man who had worked for him), the court upheld the five-year jail sentence handed down by a lower court last March.

Prison terms of more than one year in Malaysia also carry a five-year ban on standing for political office, effective from the date of release. The prison term and the ban together bar the 67 year old from politics for a total of 10 years, effectively ending his political career.

Critics around the world have deplored the ruling, the archaic law, and Malaysia’s failure to deal in a mature and responsible way with Mr Anwar, whose three-party Pakatan Rakyat alliance almost toppled the government at the last national election.

Ordinary Malaysians are increasingly fed up with the vast wealth displayed by the nation’s elites, by the abrogation of rule of law, and the rulers’ almost casual disregard of people’s needs. There is fear the rulers’ rampant greed is influencing their political decisions and Malaysia is the poorer for it. The ruling UMNO party, the United Malays National Organisation which has enjoyed nearly six decades of running Malaysia, is on the nose.

Pakatan campaigned in the last election as a clean player and one that would provide a long-overdue change from Malaysia’s usual system of entrenched patronage and corruption. Led by Mr Anwar, Pakatan won most ballots in the poll and the coalition was only prevented from taking power by the distribution of votes in Malaysia’s gerrymandered seats.

Since his sentencing, Mr Anwar has been no real threat to the Malaysian government. Locked up in a spartan jail cell (with a thin foam mattress on the floor and a squat toilet, according to his lawyers), his political career has been cut short, his ambitions stymied. A challenge to the government has been quashed. Yet the government insists the judges determined Mr Anwar’s guilt with no political interference and the independence of the judiciary was in no way compromised.

The Human Rights Watch monitoring group described the court’s verdict as a “travesty” and cited research that noted the discriminatory law under which Mr Anwar had been convicted had only been wheeled out seven times since 1938.

It’s almost impossible to tell whether or not the judges were entirely judicially impartial, or whether anyone from the government gave them a nudge, or whether they acted independently to rid the government of a vocal critic. In any case, the nature of the so-called crime and the hounding of Mr Anwar over the years has stained Malaysia’s reputation. The sooner that particular “sodomy” law is abolished, the better for the nation.

On the face of it, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak can now rest easy but he and his supporters should remember that Mr Anwar’s most vocal critics from within the ruling UMNO party may well now turn their sights on the Prime Minister.

With the threat of the popular Mr Anwar looming large, they stood firm behind the party boss. With that threat largely eliminated, these in-party critics may feel the leash is off. Certainly Dr Mahathir Mohamad, once a long-standing UMNO prime minister, has cast aside party allegiances to publicly excoriate Mr Najib’s performance and ask him to resign.

At the same time, the recent arrest of an outspoken political cartoonist known as Zunar, for a typically critical tweet slamming Mr Anwar’s verdict, has done little to reassure those international observers who doubt the government’s direction.

Using archaic sedition laws to silence critics such as Zunar is hardly the mark of a modern, moderate nation in charge of its destiny.

23 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Muslim intellectuals have called for their fellow believers to indentify societal failures and develop an Islam for the 21st century. Loay Mudhoon believes that Europe should unreservedly support this effort.

In a clearly formulated manifesto last week, four well-known Muslim intellectuals appealed to all Muslim political and religious leaders to stand up and support a democratic Islam. In their letter, they also laid out some concrete steps, among them a conference in France early next year that would “define the contours of a progressive interpretation of Islam firmly grounded in the 21st century.”

The four men behind this letter are Tariq Ramadan, professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford; Anwar Ibrahim, the head of Malaysia’s national opposition and chairman of the World Forum for Muslim Democrats; Ghaleb Bencheikh, the president of the World Conference for Religions for Peace; and Felix Marquardt, founder of the Abd al-Ra?man al-Kawakibi Foundation. They’re hard on their fellow Muslims and ask tough questions. In their letter, they call for a clear-eyed diagnosis of Islam’s current plight and want to develop a fundamental critique of Islamic culture and religion.

The authors rightly ask, for example: Why have the regular calls for “an Islamic Renaissance” largely gone unanswered? Why did the “uncompromising critical analysis of the Quran and the prophetic traditions,” launched at the beginning of the 20th century, not lead to a lasting Islamic path to modernity? Why are innovative reformers who are looking for a connection between modernity and Islamic norms and values often forced to stand on the edge of society, fighting a losing battle?

Crucial question

Given the current wave of violence undertaken in the name of Islam, it’s vital that moderate Muslims regain the authority to interpret the contents of their faith as soon as possible.

To achieve this goal, it’s essential to ask the crucial question: Who should be allowed to define what is considered “Islamic”? After all, Islam, unlike the Catholic Church, has no hierarchical structure and no ultimate authority on the faith’s doctrine.

The absence of such a central authority may seem to many intellectuals, in the West and elsewhere, as quite democratic and, in a way, fascinating. But it’s highly problematic for Islam because it allows lay theologians and bigoted hate preachers of all stripes to say their terrorist and barbaric acts have been “legitimized” by their religion – and thereby twist basic Islamic norms into absurdity.

To make matters worse, in many Islamic countries culturally parochial phenomena – like the Wahhabism that prevails in Saudi Arabia – are misunderstood as religious dogma, even though they have little to do with the religion of Islam.

Reforms needed

Four years after the Arab Spring, the hopes that a wave of democratization would wash over the Arab world have largely been disappointed. In that time, dialogues within the Islamic world – debates on the ways and concepts needed to solve pressing problems – have rarely taken place, if at all. The “Islamic world” itself does not exist as a unified political entity and never has. It remains fragmented, with the majority of Islamic states busy with internal conflicts and numerous proxy wars – and not with discussions about reform.

Since no substantial reform impetus can be expected from the Islamic world, this call to all “Muslim democrats” could end up having an epochal significance. Indeed, all Muslim authorities, reform-minded theologians and decision-makers should accept this invitation and attend the joint conference in 2016!

This is perhaps a historical possibility for Muslim democrats from around the world to develop a new, innovative recipe for an Islamic path to modernity. We urgently need a viable Islamic model, accepted by all, that supports the complex realities of pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies – including those heavily shaped by immigration. And Europe should strongly foster this process. It’s in the continent’s own interest – not only as an alternative to jihadism, but also because Europe sees itself as a community of democratic values.

18 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

The AG must admonish and revoke Shafee’s appointment as ad hoc DPP
Press Statement
18 Februari 2015

Lawyers for Liberty is shocked and disgusted by Shafee Abdullah’s continuous attack against Anwar Ibrahim since his conviction on 10 February by giving a series of widely published interviews and cumulating in yesterday’s X-rated and vile forum organised by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

As we have stated in the past, Shafee’s appointment as ad hoc Deputy Public Prosecutor smacked of desperation and has set a bad precedent, sending the wrong message that the authorities would go to extraordinary lengths to secure the conviction of UMNO’s political adversaries.

Shafee is a well known UMNO lawyer and has appeared in court and advised in several matters that concern UMNO’s interests and has admitted so in his CV. He has acted and advised former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor, all known and bitter political adversaries of Anwar.

Like Caesar’s wife, Shafee acting as a prosecutor must be above any trace of suspicion. One certainly cannot believe without flight of fancy that he had afforded Anwar a fair trial. Shafee’s recent conduct merely reaffirmed his role as Umno’s hatchet man with a vendetta, out to character assassinate Anwar even as the latter is languishing in Sungai Buloh prison, unable to defend himself.

It cannot be over emphasised that the Public Prosecutor represents the State, the community at large and the interest of justice, and not UMNO. The purpose of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction but to place fairly and independently before the courts all available evidence to what is alleged to be a crime.

We therefore call upon the Attorney-General to admonish and revoke Shafee’s appointment as ad hoc DPP to prevent further public contempt and erosion of public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the AG’s Chambers.

Released by:

Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty

17 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


When government opted to appoint Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as lead prosecutor in handling Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal, it implied that Anwar’s case was too big and too serious that the Attorney-General and his team was not confident enough to conduct the appeal.

Maybe, in the eyes of the AG, the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu murder was less significant than Anwar’s ‘crime’ so much so that he did not consider fit and proper to engage a private lawyer to secure conviction for political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda (left) so that Razak could have been served with a death warrant.

Razak was acquitted by the High Court but the AG did not lodge an appeal against such a decision. On the other hand, when Anwar was released by the High Court, the AG proceeded with the appeal and used public funds to engage a lawyer who is well known to charge exorbitant legal fees for his services.

Both Razak and Anwar are linked to the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Razak was Najib’s close associate and Anwar is his political enemy. His associate is now in London and his political rival landed in Sungai Buloh’s prison.

Double standards

While it is not wrong to engage a private lawyer to helm the prosecution team, it is definitely not right to practice double standards in any prosecutorial exercise of powers.

It is also not right for the government to hide from the public the actual fees it has to pay to secure Shafee’s service.

It goes without saying that when public funds are used , the public has every right to know how much the government has paid Shafee.

Many Pakatan Rakyat members of Parliament including myself, have sought this information in Parliament, but the government has refused to divulge it citing that such information is classified thus protected under the Official Secrets Act .

Whilst matters dealing with national security ought to be duly protected under the Act, the government must be seriously joking to imply that Shafee’s legal fees would endanger the nation should such information be revealed to the public.

The government cannot run away from the public perception that Anwar’s trial was politically-motivated.

To begin with, you do not see in any other criminal cases that a complainant is allowed to make a telephone call to the inspector-general of police on the latter’s direct line. But it happened in the Anwar’s trial. Neither does any ordinary complainant in any criminal trial would have been given a chance to go to the prime minister’s private residence, as was done by sodomy complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Adding salt to injury

When Shafee helmed the prosecution team in Anwar’s appeal, it only enhanced such a perception, and to add salt to injury, Shafee continued his onslaught against Anwar even after the Anwar’s conviction.

Such an unprecedented attack only reaffirms the popular belief that political conspiracy has been deeply embedded in Anwar’s saga. The court of law may reject the defence of political conspiracy but not in the court of public opinion.

Despite his vast experience handling criminal trials, Shafee is unfortunately infected by unnecessary overzealousnes and committed the gravest mistake by condemning Anwar for his refusal to give evidence under oath.

False logic

Shafee’s false logic can be easily detected when he compared Anwar with Saiful.

His logic goes like this: Saiful was brave enough to testify in court and subject to strenuous cross-examination by the defence lawyers, so why did Anwar refuse to undergo the same process?

This argument is based on the erroneous presumption that both the complainant and the accused person in a criminal trial bear the same responsibility as far as in giving their testimonies in court is concerned. Herein lies Shafee’s Achilles heel.

Needless to say that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and he is not legally-obligated to say anything in a criminal trial.

Even when the defence is called, the law allows the accused, like Anwar, to opt for one of the three options available to him. He may choose to remain silent or give evidence without oath or give a sworn evidence and subjected to cross examination.

Nothing to do with bravery

The ball is completely in the accused’s court to elect one of these available options. In other words, the accused in any criminal trial is not a witness that can be compelled.

The same rule does not apply to Saiful, being the complainant in the Anwar’s trial. There is no question that Saiful was brave enough to testify and ready to be subjected to rigorous cross examination.

Being the complainant he has no option but to testify in court. He was a witness who could be compelled. Hence his evidence has nothing to do with his bravery as Shafee tried argue.

Being a senior practitioner, Shafee should have not made any unsolicited remarks against Anwar when Anwar elected to give evidence in the dock. His comment that Anwar was a coward and would have fainted if cross-examined was really unnecessary and uncalled for.

After all Anwar was not the first accused in this world who gave evidence in the dock. Anwar did nothing unusual by resorting to such an option . What is really unusual is Shafee going crazy by condemning Anwar, outside the courtroom, for resorting to a legal option available to him.

Truth be told, Anwar had given sworn statements in his last two trials and as before he maintained the defence of political conspiracy. Thus it is incorrect to associate Anwar with cowardice just because Anwar departed from his usual choices.

In fact, Shafee should have accused Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his beloved wife Rosmah Mansor of cowardice par excellence for blatantly refusing to give evidence when they were summoned by Anwar’s legal team as witnesses for the defence. Both Najib and Rosmah applied to set aside the subpoenas issued against them.

No need for cheap stunts

As long as Anwar chose a recognised defence, he should not have been subjected to any adverse comments by anybody, let alone the prosecutor like Shafee.

Apart from the defence of political conspiracy, Anwar’s prime defence in this trial was a lack of penetration. Since the penetration stands as an essential ingredient of the charge under Section 377B of the Penal Code which Anwar was charged under, the lack of it should have exonerated him.

Anwar’s lawyers believed that when the prosecution failed to prove such an essential ingredient, there was no necessity for Anwar to give a sworn statement in order to plug in the loopholes of the prosecution’s case.

In a criminal trial, the duty of the accused is not to disprove or to unlock the prosecution’s proof. On the contrary, the law only obligates the accused to cast reasonable doubt of the prosecution’s case.

Casting doubt of the prosecution’s case may be done by various modes and it is never confined to a sworn evidence by the accused in a witness box. To blame Anwar for refusing to testify on oath reflects shallow understanding of the operating mechanism of criminal law.

Viewed from this perspective , I would submit that Anwar did the right thing by calling his expert witnesses to cast the doubt on the evidence offered by the prosecution on the issue of penetration. Anwar himself has neither expertise nor obligation to give evidence on oath to disprove penetration.

To his credit , the High Court judge was convinced with the evidence of those experts and in turn held there were reasonable doubts and thus unsafe to convict Anwar.

Shafee is ready to swear in the holy land of Mecca to prove Anwar’s guilty. To be honest, in resorting to this stunt, I must say that I see no difference between Shafee and Saiful. So naive and so desperate!

Maybe I need to remind Shafee that he need not resort to all these cheap stunts if he is truly convinced that Anwar is guilty.

Maybe Shafee is unaware that Abu Jahal, the pagan Arab and the strongest opponent of the Prophet Muhammad also used to pray in the holy land asking the Lord to destroy the Prophet Muhammad for he believed the Prophet Muhammad guilty of causing disunity among the Arabs.

But God operates in mysterious ways. Indeed, Abu Jahal was ultimately destroyed.

MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is a lawyer and PAS MP for Sepang.

17 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman was playing to the gallery when he claimed that Anwar had sent a businessman to entice him and other Sabah MPs to defect to the opposition, the court heard today.

Anwar said Anifah made the allegation because the Umno general assembly was on at the time.

“Obviously, it was made for a specific audience and for the Umno media,” the jailed opposition leader said when re-examined by his lawyer Razlan Hadri Zulkifili today.


He said Anifah’s allegation was also an afterthought because it was not pleaded in his defence earlier in 2009.Anwar has filed a RM100 million suit against the minister for defamatory words uttered during a news conference in Washington with former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Anifah had told reporters then that Anwar offered him the post of deputy prime minister if he enticed federal lawmakers from Sabah to topple the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government by joining the opposition.

In his statement of claim, Anwar alleged that Anifah’s claims were baseless, unfounded and grossly negligent and had been widely reported in local and foreign media.

Anwar, who was convicted for sodomy by the Federal Court a week ago, was brought by prison officials to give evidence following Anifah’s successful application to amend his defence last December.

On November 27, Anifah took the stand and said businessman Datuk Ishak Ismail, a close associate of Anwar, had offered him RM100 million to bring 10 MPs from Sabah to join PR and topple the BN federal government in 2008.

But he did not include this piece of evidence when he filed his defence in 2009, which had only stated that he was offered the post of deputy prime minister.

Anwar said he had not been close to Ishak since he was sacked from the government in 1998 and had only met him once in Munich, Germany in 2004.

“To survive, he and others has to cut all ties with me. This is how the system operates in this country,” he said, adding that any suggestion that the businessman was his crony was absurd.

He said Anifah, the Kimanis MP, must be familiar with the crony system but that it did not necessarily apply to all.

Anwar, who was finance minister between 1991 and 1998, said he knew hundreds of businessmen while in that position as they had submitted business proposals and held meetings with him.

Anwar, who held the position of deputy prime minister from 1993 until his removal in 1998, said he was fully investigated by the authorities whether he had secret bank accounts and timber concessions.

“They could not prove that I took even a share,” he said.

Earlier, there was a tense moment between Anwar and lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah in the court room.

Shafee, who represents Anifah, at the outset of his cross-examination informed Anwar that he could seek clarification if he did not understand his questions.

To this Anwar replied: “Very clear but unnecessary.”

The Permatang Pauh MP did not look at Shafee who began posing questions.

He told the court that Ishak was close to him until 1998 but had left for good reasons.

Shafee: How do you know him?

Anwar: He is from Penang, just like you (Shafee). I was a minister when he (Ishak) approached me, just like what you did.

Shafee then told Anwar that this was not the place to play the fool.

“My question is whether you know Ishak, not me,” he said.

Shafee was the ad hoc deputy public prosecutor who secured the conviction for the prosecution in the sodomy case, both in the Court of Appeal and the apex court.

However, Shafee has been criticised by the legal fraternity and former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman for unwarranted attacks against Anwar, even after the delivery of the apex court’s judgment.

Shafee had been asking why Anwar did not give evidence from the witness stand and did not utilise the defence of alibi to show he was not at the crime scene.

The Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria dismissed Anwar’s final appeal against his conviction for sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The panel also upheld the five-year jail term imposed by the Court of Appeal on March 7 last year.

Anwar also told the court that Ishak, a former KFC deputy executive chairman, was a committee member, treasurer and secretary of the Permatang Pauh Umno division between 1982 and 1998.

Anwar said he had been the division chairman during that period.

He said it was malicious and nasty for Anifah to suggest that Ishak had offered RM100 million to entice him and several MPs to realise his September 16, 2008 dream for Pakatan Rakyat to capture Putrajaya.

Anifah in his testimony said Ishak had made the offer sometime in 2008 at the Hilton hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar said he had not communicated with Ishak about Anifah’s allegation because the businessman had issued a statement but the minister had not responded.

“It was an absurd proposition. He (Ishak) has denied it. Period,” he added.

Judicial Commissioner Siti Khadijah S. Hassan Badjenid will deliver her ruling on June 5.

16 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Less than a week after Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed for sodomy, his lawyers said Monday that he faces a health risk because he’s living in a bare cell with just a 2-inch-thick foam mattress on the floor, a bucket for bathing and a squat toilet.

Anwar, 67, began a five-year prison sentence last Tuesday after Malaysia’s top court turned down his final appeal, ruling there was overwhelming evidence that he had sodomized a former male aide. The case was widely seen as politically motivated to eliminate any threats to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has been eroding after more than five decades of unquestioned dominance.

The lawyers said the prison conditions were aggravating Anwar’s longtime back and spine problems, which could “pose a grave threat to his health.”

Because of his medical condition, his lawyers requested a bed with a medically suitable mattress, a chair and table, a shower and a proper toilet for Anwar. Anwar cannot bend over or stand up from sitting on the floor without pain, they said.

“His conditions must be immediately improved before there are serious consequences to his health,” the lawyers — N. Surendran, Latheefah Koya and Sivarasa Rasiah — said in a statement. “The government is fully responsible for prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim’s safety and health while he remains in custody.”

Home ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Anwar has been the most vocal and visible symbol of the opposition’s resurgence and is seen as the most potent political threat to the government.

He was accused of sodomizing a former lowly aide, then 23, in 2008. Homosexuality is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia punishable by up to 20 years in prison and by whipping, although prosecutions are rare.

It was the second time Anwar was jailed for sodomy in just over a decade.

He previously was imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. He was freed in 2004 after the top court quashed that sodomy conviction.

Anwar led his alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. The ruling National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote to the opposition.

15 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

I have learned the conviction and sentencing of Anwar Ibrahim with great sadness and concern.

As a long standing friend of Anwar Ibrahim, I find the charges brought against him very difficult to believe.

Anwar Ibrahim is an intellectually oriented leading political figure in the Muslim World who has been a strong advocate of compatibility of Islamic values with democracy, rule of law and human rights.

This is why Anwar has been supported by human rights groups and several foreign governments both in the East and in the West.

As a friend of Malaysia and Malaysian people, I would like to encourage the Malaysian government to reconsider the impact of this verdict on its international standing and its commitment to human rights.


13 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

13 FEBRUARI 2015

Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (10 Januari 1931-13 Februari 2015)

Untuk Tuan Guru Nik Aziz, saya amat sedih dengan berita itu. Saya terharu dengan keperihatinan beliau selama ini kepada saya secara peribadi dan juga kepada keluarga. Kehilangan beliau ibarat terpadamnya satu ‘KERDIPAN/KERLIPAN’ bintang kerana dia seorang tokoh alim negara.

Kebangkitan rakyat diperlukan demi masa depan Malaysia yang terjamin daripada kezaliman, inshaAllah. Jangan titiskan air mata, terus berjuang.

Penjara Sg Buloh

12 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

The Conversation

My taxi driver laughed as the newsreader concluded the announcement that Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal against his conviction for sodomy had been refused, and that the leader of Malaysia’s fragmentary opposition coalition is to return to jail for five years. “Malaysia Boleh!” (“Malaysia Can!”) he chortled – invoking an early 1990s slogan familiar to all Malaysians.

Back then, “Malaysia Boleh!” summoned Malaysians to play their part in the building of the country. These days, after 57 years of continuous power in the hands of, in effect, one party, the phrase is most often accompanied with a shake of the head, a rolling of the eyes, a gloomy shrug or laughter.

These two words capture many people’s sense that the Malaysian ruling elite can get away with anything – and also that here in Malaysia, just about anything can happen.

Clinging on

Malaysia’s governing coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) is dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has ruled since independence, but it now faces unprecedented challenges to its mandate.

In the most recent general election, it lost the popular vote by some distance. But thanks to some artful constituency boundary tweaks by the electoral commission, the ruling coalition still ended up with a significant parliamentary majority.

The decision to uphold the verdict against Anwar is part of a wider pattern: the administration’s response to its eroding support is at once increasingly repressive and increasingly incoherent.

Despite the immediate denials from the Prime Minister’s Office that the prosecution was politically motivated or the judges anything but impartial, there is widespread feeling that this verdict can only confirm the reality of a badly compromised legal system.

For many observers, the Malaysian government is a wounded animal, unpredictable and defensive, uncertain and aggressive – a government confronted by a fearful combination of troubles, not least the recent precipitous drops in oil revenues, so critical to the national budget.

Anyone but UMNO

The failure of Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal could have any number of effects on the Malaysian political landscape, but Malaysia’s future hinges more on the behaviour of the government than on the strength or motivation of the political opposition or civil society.

This is the central irony of Malaysian politics. The opposition is so weak, so fragmented, so internally divided, so ideologically incoherent, that its essential message and manifesto amounts quite explicitly to the slogan “Anyone But UMNO” (ABU t-shirts are widely available).

Of course, the government has done much that has served to intensify and inflame such sentiments. It has openly manipulated the mainstream media to promote its own agenda, used legislation such as the Sedition Act to threaten and silence opposition figures, and gerrymandered electoral boundaries to its advantage.

It also deliberately nurtures conservative, even extreme, currents of Islamic thought to convince the Malay Muslim majority that their faith and culture are under threat, and that only it can protect them. It articulates explicitly racist propaganda marginalising and attacking non-Malay minorities.

And above all, it suffers from an overwhelming perception of endemic corruption. Malaysia boleh, indeed.

On track

Aside from Anwar Ibrahim, there seems to be no figure with sufficient stature or credibility to harness the anti-government sentiment to any real political gain – and it’s far from clear that even he would have been able to hold the fragile opposition coalition together.

For many people, Anwar is a deeply compromised figure, part of the problem rather than in any sense the answer. He rose spectacularly through the UMNO ranks to the position of Minister of Finance and heir-apparent in Prime Minister’s Mahathir’s administration, and his fall from grace in the late 1990s, was just as sensational, amid torrid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The largest party in Anwar’s opposition alliance, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), is campaigning to augment Malaysia’s existing shariah laws with a much more severe form, known as hudud, a system much more akin to that which prevails in Saudi Arabia. None of the other opposition parties could countenance such a move – but PAS, which has around 1m members, is essential to any viable opposition, and it must be accommodated to assemble any real force against the government. Can a viable new politics be founded upon such shaky foundations?

Moreover, the leaders of the opposition political parties are publicly divided, their disagreements and feuds magnified in the popular press. It would be yet another irony if Anwar’s latest conviction and incarceration ended up uniting them, rather than depriving them of the leadership they so require.

There are likely to be widespread popular demonstrations against the Anwar Ibrahim verdict, and some rallying of opposition support. There will be appeals to Amnesty International, to Human Rights Watch, to the Commonwealth, to the United Nations. There will be much frowning and disapproval from statespeople and politicians around the world: the UK’s Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, has already spoken out.

But in all likelihood, unless the Malaysian government and security forces engage in unusually brutal repressive measures and provoke some kind of popular uprising in response (extremely unlikely, given Malaysia’s history), the verdict will not do much to change the country’s political trajectory. Only with the emergence of the next generation of political agents, both within and without the existing parties, will there be significant change.

For an indication of the potential futures for Malaysia, we need perhaps to look at the contrasting fortunes of the regimes of the former Soviet Union, and of the People’s Republic of China.

In the Soviet Union, the ruling party collapsed under the weight of its appalling internal contradictions and was swept away (for better or worse). In China, incremental change transformed what appeared a sclerotic and bankrupt regime and a process best described as a Long Revolution continues to this day (again, for better or worse). If the Malaysian opposition stands little chance of changing things any time soon, it will be interesting to see whether Barisan Nasional can.

12 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

The Washington Post

By Editorial Board February 11 at 8:47 PM

SEVERAL YEARS ago it appeared that Malaysia, which has been ruled by the same party since it achieved independence in 1957, might be on the verge of a soft transition to democracy. Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to dismantle preferences favoring ethnic Malays, reduce police powers, repeal a repressive anti-sedition law and promote free and fair elections. He mostly stayed on course until 2013, when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim led a multiethnic coalition to a popular-vote victory in national elections. The ruling United Malays National Organization clung to power only because of the gerrymandering of parliamentary seats.

Mr. Najib has since launched a campaign aimed at crippling the opposition — a crackdown that reached its peak Tuesday with the sentencing of Mr. Anwar to five years in prison. It was a major regression for a country that values its strategic partnership with the United States, and it was the continuation of a bad trend in Southeast Asia, following the military coup that toppled Thailand’s democratic government last year.

The criminal case used to imprison Mr. Anwar, who has been one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in the Muslim world, was as morally reprehensible as it was farcical. The opposition leader was charged with sodomy, which is still illegal in Malaysia but is rarely prosecuted. The 67-year-old married grandfather denied the charge, and the case against him was thin enough to be dismissed by a court in 2012. That Mr. Najib’s government managed to have that decision reversed by an appeals court and upheld by the Supreme Court demonstrated only that Malaysia still lacks an independent judiciary.

Mr. Najib has not limited his repression to Mr. Anwar. In recent months, dozens of activists have been charged under the same anti-sedition law that the prime minister promised to repeal. On Tuesday, police detained a famous cartoonist and announced that they were investigating two opposition members of Parliament because of tweets protesting Mr. Anwar’s conviction.

At the United Nations in September, President Obama decried such “relentless crackdowns” and promised “an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.” Sadly, the administration’s response to the Anwar conviction suggests the opposite. While saying that the United States was “deeply disappointed ” by the verdict and that it raised “serious concerns about rule of law,” a White House statement undercut those sentiments by affirming that “we remain committed to expanding our cooperation on shared economic and security challenges” with Malaysia.

Mr. Najib, who was invited to play golf with Mr. Obama in December, is unlikely to take the president’s “campaign to defend democracy” seriously unless it consists of more than such carefully balanced statements. One way to send a message would be to withhold the invitation to visit Washington that the prime minister is hoping for this year. A leader who has just jailed his main opponent should not be received at the White House.

11 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?


Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, issued the following statement on 10 February on the sentencing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to five years in prison for the accusation of homosexuality:

I was deeply shocked to hear of today’s verdict against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. I followed the criminal proceeding against Anwar Ibrahim, whom I know personally. The trial and verdict raise serious questions on the protection of human rights, the independence of the judicial system, due process and democratic development in Malaysia.

The selective prosecution of members of the opposition has a detrimental effect on social development in Malaysia and on the country’s international reputation.

Moreover, the verdict on the grounds of alleged homosexual acts violates international Human Rights standards: No one may be persecuted because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Background information:
On 10 February 2015, Malaysia’s top court upheld the verdict against former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for homosexuality. Anwar Ibrahim founded the opposition movement Reformasi in 1998. He later founded the opposition party People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat), which he leads to this day. Since joining the opposition, legally questionable criminal proceedings have been brought against him. In 1999, he was accused of corruption and sodomy, for which he was sentenced to prison terms of six and nine years respectively. These verdicts were partially overturned in 2004.

Website of the Federal Foreign Office: www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN

11 February 2015


Pendapat Anda?

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand shares the disappointment expressed by other members of the international community about the five-year prison sentence handed down to Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“While Mr Anwar has followed every avenue open to him to have his conviction overturned and to avoid imprisonment, the severity of his sentence, coupled with recent prosecutions under the country’s Sedition Act, are of concern to New Zealand,” Mr McCully says.

“We have followed developments in Mr Anwar’s case closely, and a representative from the New Zealand High Commission in Kuala Lumpur was among independent international observers at his appeal hearing in the Federal Court against a charge of sodomy.”

“New Zealand and Malaysia have a strong relationship and work closely together in the international arena – where Malaysia is a prominent voice for moderation and tolerance.”

“In the spirit of promoting human rights and political freedoms we have registered our concerns with the Malaysian Government and will continue to do so,” Mr McCully says.


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