Malaysia’s shame

Financial Times

Malaysia presents itself as a modern, successful and democratic nation. Many western leaders have hailed the country as an example of moderate, tolerant Islam – at ease with itself and with the non-Muslim world. Malaysia does indeed have much to be proud of. But the trial of Anwar Ibrahim, which is due to restart this week, is a massive blot on the country’s reputation for tolerance and political pluralism.

Mr Anwar is a vital figure in the Malaysian opposition. The coalition of opposition forces he leads represents the most potent challenge to the ruling National Front coalition in many years. But Mr Anwar, a married man with six children, is on trial for sodomy. He has already served six years in solitary confinement on charges of sodomy and abuse of power – although the sodomy charges were later over-turned by the courts, leading to Mr Anwar’s release in 2004. If he is convicted this time, he could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The first thing to say is that – even allowing for cultural and religious sensitivities – Malaysia should be embarrassed that it is threatening to send a man to prison for consensual sex with another adult. But there are also considerable doubts about the case against Mr Anwar. The evidence against him is thin and the political context is very clear.

The government of Najib Razak sees Mr Anwar as a threat and has been trying to wreck his political career, using a variety of tactics. Aside from the criminal charges that have been brought against the opposition leader, Mr Anwar has been crudely smeared as a tool of “Jewish” interests. Asked once whether Mr Anwar would make a good prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, the former prime minister of Malaysia, replied: “He would make a good prime minister of Israel.” A modern state should be ashamed of exploiting racism and homophobia to head off a legitimate political challenge.

But it is not just the Malaysian government that deserves to be chastised. Malaysia is an important market and an influential voice in the Islamic world. As a result, western governments that claim to place human rights at the centre of their foreign policy have been very circumspect in their comments on the Anwar trial. Respect for the courts, for national sovereignty and for cultural difference are all worthy ideas. But sometimes, it is important to speak clearly. The trial of Anwar Ibrahim is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Malaysia.

  1. #1 by pulau_sibu on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 8:34 am

    compared to Singapore, look at the case of International Herald Tribune, we are still better.

    What kind of country and dynasty is Singapore? Is there a democracy and freedom of speech? UMNO and DAP should join hands to save the Singaporeans.

  2. #2 by bond007 on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 8:37 am

    Might as well add 1Shame to our title as well. We’re inching closer to Myanmar now…

  3. #3 by kpt99 on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 9:51 am

    If this country continue to be ruled by these little think-tanks,it will soon be Zimbawee

  4. #4 by baochingtian on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:05 am

    sorry, i can’t help myself to put in a few lines here on seeing two bright red ladies in STAR today “Learning trips for Bakti members”. Ros is inviting it’s members to accompany the pm to washington and ny for the so-called exposure in the ever changing world. Wow, is this a modern missionary or a visionary? Sounds familiar like what the ex-MB leading a family team to disneyland for the necessary working project and exposure? Is this under NEM too?

  5. #5 by dagen on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 10:33 am

    “The trial of Anwar Ibrahim is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Malaysia.”

    How very true.

  6. #6 by Comrade on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 11:08 am

    If BN/Umno is all out for self-reformation
    It will end up as the winner
    If it is all out to bring down Anwar and the opposition
    It will end up as the loser

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 11:12 am

    If the aim of prosecuting Anwar for sodomy is to thwart Opposition’s challenge and preserve incumbent’s position, the high political risk is that it might just end up achieving the opposite unintended effect.

    When TDM’s administration prosecuted Sodomy I, the unintended effect was a significant swing of Malay votes against BN for the first time in favour of PAS. What makes anyone think that Sodomy II will not have same, if not greater negative backlash than Sodomy I?

    I have said before and will say again that the trial that really matters is the trial before the Court of Public Opinion.

    Funny thing is that if people do not want to believe something they will not just not believe it whatever the compelling evidence short of seeing it with their own eyes! This fundamental of social psychology should be grasped.

    One cannot, after of 50 years of trying to nurture and build up collective confidence and pride of one’s own vote bank/constituency by seeking out appropriate role models to reflect it on one hand and seek to dash it on the other by humiliating one of its own – especially one who has already garnered a large measure of international respect and goodwill.

    Instead of honouring as a positive model one of our own who has the rare distinction of being nominated in The Time’s 2008 list as one of “the world’s most influential people and leaders in 2007”, he is sought to be humiliated – twice – by same charges of being a sodomite. What would this do to the multitudes who look to him as model for confidence and achievement? Will they not vicariously feel the effect of shame if prosecution were successful? Will anyone ever believe something that makes him feel ashamed, especially when reputable influential international magazines like (say) the Financial Times blares about “Malaysia’s Shame” worldwide? By what means will those who feel vicarious shame vent their frustration and anger if not via the votes against in the ballot box?

    The following (public perception-wise) do not really help – the fact that the complainant Saiful had a tête-à-tête with the numero ono prior to the lodgment of the complaint; or the fact that the charge of sodomy II alleges consensual unnatural sex based wholly on testimony – and credibility – of the only witness out to portray (inconsistently) that he was coerced/raped; or the fact that three medical reports have not established any ‘penetration’, the main ingredient of the charge!

    There is therefore substantial political risk in such an enterprise of proceeding on Sodomy II. In 1999 (after Sodomy I) TDM could stave off a major electoral set back due to substantial Non Malay votes, then fearful of PAS. These help set off against loss of Malay votes but could this feat be repeated for next GE when PAS now puts faces like Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin and Khalid Samad to show case moderation and competence to ameliorate concerns of extremism?

    (Comments here second guess probability of success in respect of convincing public perception before the Court of Public Opinion as it relates to politics. Nothing here expressed is intended to relate to the trial before the Court of Law or its outcome).

  8. #8 by Jamal Malik on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 11:37 am

    These are worst crimes that need to be fixed immediately but has been buried under a cloak of bureaucracies :-

    When one marry a young girl of 11 or 10 and saying it is OK in the name of religion.
    When using women as sex objects to satisfy their own lust
    When men is allowed to talak and the women have no say,
    When they already have 4 wives, they will divorce and add new ones
    When religion is used to swear in HIS name for Power
    When siphoning 100’s of billions off the rakyat by saying it was used for development
    What abusing rakyat’s money in PKFZ
    When Menteri Besar’s and Ministers are building palaces for themselves whilst the poor couldn’t even afford to feed their family;
    When a man walks with $1 million into Australia in his cabin bag and claimed he couldn’t speak or understand English,
    When playing with the princess,impregnating her and divorcing her later,
    When they raped a 16 years old and remain a Tan Sri while the defendant is jailed,
    They claimed to be ketuanan Melayu when in fact, they are not,
    When the rent seeking businessmen calls themselves bumiputra
    When murdering Altuntaya and putting the blame on 2 small time policemen
    When they couldn’t explain who authorised the released of C4,
    When stealing 2 jet engines and putting the blame on 2 Indian small timers
    When they accused Anwar of sodlomy even when 3 doctors certified no.
    When they defamed the honest and hardworking people by claiming Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese women as prostitutes.

    People – Do you still want to vote them in?
    Are you that blind and hopeless that you can’t see the harm and evil these group of people are doing to Malaysia ?
    UMNO and its bastard child, Perkasa are fermenting fear and falsehood in the name of Malay rights.

    You have this opportunity to demonstrate your choice in Hulu Selangor. And if they win, then you have only yourself to blame.

  9. #9 by Godfather on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 12:19 pm

    Geez, Jeffrey, do you have to write such a disclaimer as though the clowns would really go after you for contempt ?

    Call a spade a spade.

  10. #10 by Godfather on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 12:20 pm

    I have said it many times before, and I’ll say it again:

    If UMNO knows the meaning of the word “shame” then Bolehland would not be in the mess that it is in right now.

  11. #11 by steven chan on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:00 pm

    Maybe PR should make a change of strategy since Anwar is in the spotlight and is marksman he should be in low profile and let another person of similar calibre to take the helm to diffuse the heat and divert the attention of BN

  12. #12 by rockdaboat on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:01 pm

    And similarly, the four heaps of SAMPAH thrown out from PKR also do not know the meaning of the word “SHAME”!

    FOR REASONS BEST KNOWN TO THEMSELVES, these SAMPAH refused to quit as MP but claimed that the rakyat had voted them and not the Party (self-denial syndrom?). But assuredly, everyone can see that these are “One-Term MPs” and they will definitely lose their deposits in the 13th election (the rakyat dare them to stand for election!).

    As expected, some of these SAMPAH had started to so-called “spill secrets” to gain cheap publicity! (With their kind of calibre, what else can they do?). This is exactly the same behavior displayed by an earlier PKR traitor who joined another Party and attempted to smear the name DSAI but to no avail because the rakyats were not fooled!

    Pakatan should continue to clean its house and we the rakyat will continue to ENTERTAIN outselves watching these SAMPAH n KATAKS, putting up their shows!

    Until the NEXT ELECTION!

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 1:47 pm

    Not for contempt – but spade or no spade, what they call, sub-judice..

  14. #14 by frankyapp on Friday, 26 March 2010 - 2:20 pm

    Talking about Malaysia’s shame ,aren’t you guys feeling any shame when you watch the MSM especially all the local TV channels ? Take for example Bernama TV political reports and interviews,it’s all Umno/Bn sided .I wonder these reporters and editors are professionals or Umno/Bn’s ball carriers . As professionals,they should know that a coin is two sided and each side has its own picture.Don’t they feel any shame at all ,giving us the viewers a one sided carb story?. I think it’s time these people should behave like professional and make a fair and square interviews on both sides and report it without cutting or distorting the other side. The viewers are feeling pretty much ashame already ,I hope these shameless news reporters and editors would not make us keep switching channel .Frankly watching these Umno/BN control TV stations is pretty much boring and I never spend anything more than 10 minutes each day.

  15. #15 by johnnypok on Sunday, 28 March 2010 - 4:37 am

    They have no shame becuase they worship all kinds of God, including MONEY God, NEP God, Bak Kut Teh God, C4 God, Corruption God, Day-light robbery God, God of Multiple Wives and Mistresses….. Ahhhhlllllaaaahhhhhh

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