There they go again

The opposition leader treads a familiar path into the dock
Feb 4th 2010 | BANGKOK | From The Economist print edition

SLINGING mud at opponents is a staple of most democracies, even if voters might prefer a more sensible debate. In Malaysia, a prudish, majority-Muslim country, it seems that nothing succeeds quite like below-the-belt personal attacks. For Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, who went on trial this week accused of sodomising a young male aide, the tactic is wearily familiar. In 1998 he was charged with the same crime, found guilty and jailed. Exonerated and freed, he has staged a comeback that another conviction might jeopardise.

Much has changed in Malaysia since Mr Anwar last took the stand. His nemesis, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who presided over his downfall, has retired, if not exactly gracefully or quietly. The once-mighty United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads a 13-party multiracial governing coalition, looks increasingly vulnerable at a future election. A judiciary that was seen as beholden to its political masters has begun to assert its independence, and has sided with free-speech plaintiffs in prickly faith-related cases.

That independence will be put to the test in “Sodomy 2.0”, as Malaysia’s press has taken to calling Mr Anwar’s trial. His lawyers have pressed for the disclosure of prosecution evidence, including medical reports of the accuser, Saiful Bukhari. He told the court on February 3rd that Mr Anwar coerced him into having sex, which would be illegal in Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in jail. Mr Saiful worked briefly for Mr Anwar in 2008, when he was 23. During the same period, he was seen with aides of Najib Razak, then deputy prime minister and prime minister since last April. Mr Anwar accuses Mr Najib and his wife of a conspiracy to frame him and says they should testify. Mr Najib insists he has nothing to do with the case.

UMNO has been scheming to weaken the opposition, which won five out of 13 states in March 2008 elections that stunned the ruling coalition. Last year it seized back one of those states, Perak, by luring defectors. Then it tried, in vain, to peel off an Islamic party in Mr Anwar’s alliance. An anti-corruption agency has been mobilised to dig opposition dirt, with disastrous results in the case of Teoh Beng Hock, a political aide who died last July after falling out of a window while in the agency’s custody.

Mr Anwar’s trial is a much more potent weapon for UMNO, both as a blot on the opposition leader’s image and a distraction from his politicking. UMNO-owned media will harp on the sordid details, just as they did in the first trial when a semen-stained mattress was hauled into court. The blogosphere, however, where young Malaysians get their news, may not be easily impressed. Nor, it seems, will foreign investors, whom Mr Najib is desperate to attract with promises of a more open and less UMNO-dominated economy. His government’s image is already dented by corruption scandals, including a multibillion dollar project at Port Klang that has been dogged by accusations of mismanagement and cronyism. Some Malaysians may be wondering why such matters seem to generate less heat than Mr Anwar’s alleged transgressions.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:18 am

    How could Anwar appoint a sacked 1st year university dropout who joined PKR after the March 2008 elections as his personal assistant, over the heads of thousands of others who joined in 1998?

    Didn’t he realise the type of cowpie clogged inside the brain of a 1st year university student dismissed for failing his first semester exam? First semester university exams are easier than the STPM! In simple language, he appointed a village idiot as his personal assistant!

  2. #2 by undertaker888 on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:18 am

    it is nothing but so full of sai. Or saiful. Any which way, it is full of sai.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:45 am

    ///His government’s image is already dented by corruption scandals, including a multibillion dollar project at Port Klang that has been dogged by accusations of mismanagement and cronyism. Some Malaysians may be wondering why such matters seem to generate less heat than Mr Anwar’s alleged transgressions///

    What is there to wonder? Port Klang Scandal points the finger of blame at the Ruling Coalition, whilst sodomy, at the head of Opposition coalition, so naturally the latter must be accorded “more heat”.

    Sensational and saucy cases in court serve same political function as the ancient Roman Games at the Colosseum infamous for their gory gladiator battles, man against man, man against beasts.

    Present ruling politicians understand as Emperor Nero then understood that entertainment value is synonymous with political value.

    When people are bored nothing fires and distracts the imagination especially public imagination more.

    How many will understand or get fired up by techicalities legal or financial (conflicts of interest) implicated in the PKFZ scandal as compared to (say) sordid details of who is penetrating whose anus and how it came about??

    It is also a great strategy when one is accused and perceived corrupt, and cannot change in time, so its better the cast one’s political opponent as morally depraved, which to some peoples’ minds, moral depravity is, on the balance of scales, a worser offence than being mere corrupt. Corruption after all is more universal than say sodomy.

  4. #4 by dagen on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:45 am

    Look at the sort of disbelief expressed by foreign press. I think hisham has a thing or two to learn from his predecessor. Summon the heads of foreign embassies to his office for a good lecture. Instruct them through the umno god to tell journalists of their respective countries to behave and to adopt umno-compliant stand.

  5. #5 by dagen on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:46 am

    And yes remind them that “umno pantang dicabar”.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 11:57 am

    “umno pantang dicabar”

    “saiful pantang dicucuk”

    “altantuya pantang diC4”

    “kugan pantang dibaham”

  7. #7 by yhsiew on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 12:27 pm

    Sodomy I, Sodomy II, Sodomy III, Sodomy IV, Sodomy V……when will the stories of Sodomy-Land end? Come 13th GE, let us vote for PR and put an end to Sodomies one and for all!

  8. #8 by citizenwatch on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 1:24 pm


    PR by now should strategize to undermine MSM in facing the 13th GE. Start with the boycotts, print out from blogs and online alternative media, especially the Sodomy II trial, and distribute to the far reaches of the kampungs to reach the Malays who are fed enless lies by the MSM. If the kampung folks can’t have access to internet or no knowledge of it, the alternative news must go to them in the form of print-outs and photostats in Malay-translated versions. Pressure the MSM now.

  9. #9 by frankyapp on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 2:02 pm

    This was the second time that NR said he has nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure you guys know when was the first time,he said it.Yeap outsider may think why we are wondering such matters seem to generate less heat than Mr Anwar’s alleged trangressions/// .Yeap Jeffrey ,I agree with you when you say what is there to wonder.If not the Umnoputras who control the MSM,there’s hardly any sensational reporting at all. The Umno/Bn control presses did it with the greatest intention to blemishing Anwar’s reputation, to hurting his wife and family,friends and supporters hopping they all would be ashamed of Anwar and move away from him.This intention is pretty evil and sometime could be fatal.At the same time Umno/Bn think if they could damage Anwar’s reputation,his political career or profession in leading PR would fall and then perish. From a political point of view,Umno/Bn leaders are really afraid of Anwar.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 2:08 pm

    1M’sia is truly n literally the butt of a joke!
    For months now, 1M’sia provides sick n laughable news 2 her neighbors n d world
    Ppl in d little red dot just don’t hv enuf of ludicrous news fr up north 4 a good laugh
    1M’sia too has become d standard for developing countries 2 compare 2
    Statement like ‘Don’t b ridiculous or narrow minded like d ppl in M’sia’ is widespread
    Congratulations, 1M’sia becoming the likes of Zimbabwe

  11. #11 by Loh on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 5:14 pm

    So Najib depends on Saiful no shit for two days, and the cotton butt to do the trick, to deny Anwar the right to be elected PM. Is Najib better known as no shit government?

    Without carrying mycard one can be taken as foreigner. If one fails to guard his discarded semen, he can be charged and be convicted for sodomy. The Syriah court needs four witnesses to convict, but the High court needs only cotton butt. Why isn’t this case heard in Syriah court?

  12. #12 by mauriyaII on Friday, 5 February 2010 - 10:45 pm

    If the evil and peverted mamak did not fabricate lies and orchestrate Sodomy 1 through the corrupted PDRM and the judiciary, he would have been history just after the trials.

    Since the mamak had the services of the likes of Musang Hasan, the PakTail, the drunkard irrelevant judge and the corrupted UMNO controlled MSM to dance to his tune, he was able to get rid of his deputy with ease.

    Now the same scenario is being acted out in Sodomy 2. That irrelevant kangroo court judge is no more.

    The judiciary as a whole should take note of the derogatory and vituperative comments the majority of the rakyat made when he died. Very few had anything nice or complimentary to say about him.

    When the mamak kicks the bucket, it would be scorchingly worse for he had not only sodomised all the major institutions of governance for his selfish and megalomaniac ego but he had also sodomised the rakyat through his 22 years of dictatorial rule.

    The present UMNO/BN leaders are clueless and still groping in the dark about their colossal defeat in the 12GE.

    For all the talk about rebranding, revamping and rejuvenating the badly mauled BN, they have taken a page from the mamak’s style of administration to vindicate their miserable attempts at wooing the rakyat.

    “People first, performance now” is just another public relations slogan to hoodwink the rakyat. The 1Malaysia concept has become a mockery with all the race and religious bigotry that has taken root with the active connivance and encouragement of the UMNO warlords.

    To make it worse and stifle the economy further, they have embarked on another UMNO sandiwara scripted by the mamak.

    Will Sodomy 2 be the last in the series that the rakyat has to suffer? Or would future leaders be tempted to follow up with another sodomy when they find their grip on the government is fragile?

    Only time will tell but would the country be the same after being abused and exploited shamelessly by a bunch of power crazy goons?

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