Why the prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim matters to the West

The Washington Post

FEB 7 – In the past two years, Malaysia, which has been a one-party state since it gained independence in 1957, has made remarkable strides toward becoming a democracy. That it has done so is mostly due to the efforts and political talent of one man – Anwar Ibrahim.

So the fact that Anwar went on criminal trial last week should deeply concern the democratic world. The outcome could determine whether one of Asia’s most economically successful countries preserves its stability and embraces long-overdue reforms.

A former deputy prime minister in the ruling party, Anwar was deposed and jailed in 1998 by former Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad.

A manifestly unfair trial followed in which Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy, which shamefully remains a crime in Malaysia.

Six years later, the conviction was overturned by a court, and Anwar resumed his political career – this time as an open champion of democracy in Malaysia and other Muslim countries.

Anwar succeeded in forging a coalition of opposition parties, including his own multiracial People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat or PKR), an Islamic party (PAS), and a secular party (DAP).

He has campaigned against the government’s toxic policy of racial discrimination, which funnels economic favours to well-connected members of the ethnic Malay majority.

In the past two years, his coalition has pulled off a string of stunning victories in state and parliamentary by-elections; it now controls four of 13 state governments. If led by Anwar, it would have a fair chance of winning the next national election in 2013.

That’s one reason it’s suspicious that, three months after the state election victories in 2008, Anwar was once again accused of sodomy.

Another is that his young male accuser was seen with aides of Najib Razak, who is now prime minister; Anwar says he has evidence that the accuser met with the prime minister and his wife shortly before making his charge.

A third is that the case has been transferred from criminal court to a higher court whose judges are closely linked to the ruling party.

If Anwar is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and would be banned from politics for five years. He is 62.

The ruling party no doubt hopes a conviction will cause the opposition coalition to crumble. But it could just as easily provoke a backlash against Najib or street demonstrations that could destabilise the country.

That’s why the Obama administration and other Western governments interested in stability in Asia should make clear that the imprisonment of Anwar would be a blatant human rights violation – and not in Malaysia’s interest.

  1. #1 by Godfather on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 1:40 pm

    Najis is not only using the courts to do his bidding, but the entire prosecutory organs beholden to UMNO – the AG’s Chambers, the Police. It is using its mainstream mouthpieces – principally, Utusan – to publicise the trial and to make insinuations that are clearly in contempt of court. Of course there is nothing much we can do, except hope and pray that the Obama administration and all the Western democracies will come out strongly in condemning this sham trial.

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 2:42 pm

    ///“Political tricks and intentional damage to my character which is continually being done by Umno owned newspapers is being allowed.

    “The statements published are blatantly inaccurate, yet the judge had not taken any action,” explained Anwar./// – The Malaysian Insider.

    How can one expect a fair trial on Anwar’s sodomy 2 when clearly the judge is siding with UMNO.

    The sodomy 2 trial merely reflects the low credibility of Najib’s government.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 3:26 pm

    As long as umno is subservient to the USA, playing the role of yes-men, such as the Saudis and the Arab emirates are doing, as well as anti-Iran and anti-AlQaeda, the Americans wouldn’t be bothered even if Anwar is sulaed for sodomy. For decades the Americans have been propping up corrupt dictators and killers such as Marcos and Suharto.

  4. #4 by DCLXVI on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 7:27 pm

    The US government are not really angels, trying to do everything they possibly can to remain as a superpower nation, even if they have to break international laws with their military might by invading another country.
    But if some American politicians try to practice the Umno kind of low class ethnic politics in the US, the American people’s public opinion would chew and spit them out…

  5. #5 by chengho on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 8:43 pm

    Welcome to USA , Uncle Sam want you…

  6. #6 by mendela on Monday, 8 February 2010 - 10:08 pm

    Jib, mind you, if anything should happen to Anwar, the whole Malaysia will be in fire!

    Malaysia will be in civil war!
    Of course, all foreign investments will be pulled out!

    All Malaysians will be the losers, including you Jib and Rosie!

  7. #7 by Black Arrow on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 5:47 am

    It is extremely difficult to hope for truth and justice to prevail.

  8. #8 by DCLXVI on Tuesday, 9 February 2010 - 1:54 pm

    chengho :Welcome to USA , Uncle Sam want you…

    … Uncle Sam wants you people in Umno to stop practising low class ethnic-based politics…

  9. #9 by fed-up on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 - 6:24 am

    This case is a joke from the beginning. They can put him behind bars for now but the time is very near for Justice. They will have to face the Rakyat when the time comes.

  10. #10 by ChinNA on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 - 8:58 am

    chengho :
    Welcome to USA , Uncle Sam want you…

    The USA is indeed not a bad place. See the piece that Bakri Musa wrote on Part 1 – Towards a Developed Malaysia.

    Of course there are better places than the USA. Is Malaysia one of them?

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