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Guonian, Bainian and the fireworks!

February 13, 2010

Nik Aziz to Zahrain: Quit as MP

KOTA BAHARU, Feb 14, Malaysian Insider — Bayan Baru Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim, who left the Pakatan coalition and declared himself an Independent MP two days ago, should quit being the MP for the constituency and pave the way for a by-election, said PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

Nik Aziz, who is also Kelantan Menteri Besar, said Zahrain had betrayed the trust of voters in the constituency.

He told this to reporters when attending the Chinese New Year open of house of business tycoon Datuk Tan Liang Chong, in Panji near here, today.

Zahrain had cited dissatisfaction with the leadership of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in exiting the Pakatan coalition.

On the Chinese New Year (CNY), Nik Aziz said Malaysians, irrespective of entnicity, should attend CNY open houses as it was not against Islam. — Bernama

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Malaysian politics return to the dock

Once again, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is in court on suspiciously timed charges of sodomy

It does not take a cynic to question the timing of Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, the second that Malaysia’s opposition leader has had to endure.

Human rights groups raised serious concerns about the trial even before it started. Amnesty International echoed Anwar’s accusation that the sodomy charges were politically motivated, as well as questioning the possibility of a fair trial. According to Amnesty, the prosecution’s refusal to deliver evidence to the defence at the pre-trial stage infringed international standards and Malaysian law.

It said the failure of Malaysia’s federal court to uphold the prosecution’s obligation to provide access to evidence that may help exonerate him set a dangerous precedent for criminal cases and was a “recipe for unfair trials”.

The lurid coverage by government-controlled media has reinforced suspicions among Anwar’s supporters that the cards are stacked against their man. The Malay language Utusan Malaysia newspaper last week showed the 24-year-old male aide who says Anwar had sex with him, gesturing towards a bed. The same paper used language that was struck out of court proceedings after objections by Anwar’s lawyers to a headline that read “Not willing to be sodomised again”, implying that Anwar had sex with the man more than once.

The trial was suspended temporarily today as Anwar sought to remove the presiding judge because he took no action following last week’s media coverage. The move, however, is unlikely to succeed and the “show” will go on.

For Anwar this is like deja vu all over again, to use the words of baseball legend Yogi Berra. Anwar was found guilty of sodomy with his wife’s driver in 2000 in what was widely considered a show trial. Amid widespread international pressure by figures such as Gordon Brown and Al Gore, the supreme court in 2004 overturned the conviction, and Anwar was released.

After several years in the west as a campaigner against corruption – he strongly criticised Britain’s decision to halt a major corruption investigation into BAE, its biggest arms company – Anwar returned to Malaysia, where he has harried the government ever since. He welded the disparate opposition parties into a united front that made huge inroads in parliamentary elections in March 2008, dramatically redrawing the political landscape. The governing coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) – Malaysia’s largest political party and the dominant force in the country’s politics since independence from Britain in 1957 – saw its two-thirds majority evaporate. By contrast, the opposition parties saw their seats in the 222-member parliament jump to 82 from 19.

The big opposition gains rattled the government. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was eased out as prime minister to make way for Najib Razak, who promised an ambitious reform programme.

Anwar’s political comeback has hit some bumps along the way. His prediction that his coalition would take power in September 2008 by persuading MPs from the government coalition smacked of hubris and the takeover failed to materialise. But it seemed only a question of time before the opposition would break Umno’s 50-year political monopoly.

Then came new charges, when Saiful Bukhari Azlan accused Anwar of sodomising him, a charge that carries a prison sentence of 20 years in Malaysia, even between consenting adults. Anwar, who is married with six children, has already pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The timing of the trial is politically convenient for the government, forcing Anwar to concentrate on his trial in the high court and blunting his political momentum. The trial is taking place against a backdrop of political uncertainty in Malaysia, with Umno’s system of racial preferences increasingly under strain.

Anwar offers a different vision for Malaysia, wanting to wean the country away from a policy of positive discrimination that for the past 30 years has ensured Malays dominate the country’s politics, but which has been criticised for encouraging corruption and cronyism. As Malays form a majority, Anwar’s strategy is risky, but it appeals to the country’s substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian voters who have largely deserted the multi-ethnic governing coalition.

The government has tried to tar Anwar as “traitor” to his race in the sort of rhetoric that is anathema to the former deputy prime minister. A strong proponent of a dialogue rather than a clash of civilisations, Anwar recently defended the use of the word “Allah” by Malaysia’s Christian community, an issue that has inflamed tensions between the country’s Muslims and Christians. The op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal reflects Anwar’s worldview of tolerance and inclusivity at a time when religious sentiments in Malaysia are becoming increasingly brittle.

Much hangs on this trial. Should Anwar be discredited, the government may feel more confident of holding on to power in elections that must be held by 2013. But there are risks for Umno as well. Malaysia’s international image could be damaged as foreign investors question the country rule of law – Malaysia saw the third-biggest outflow of portfolio investment of any emerging market in 2009. As for rising tension between Malaysia’s different communities, it would be a cruel irony for Malaysia if the politician who seems the most capable of calming these tensions is sidelined.

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Malaysian opposition leader accuses PM of conspiring to bring sodomy trial

Former deputy PM says allegation of sex with 25-year-old male aide is high-level plot to end his political career

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives at court in Kuala Lumpur with his wife
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives at court in Kuala Lumpur with his wife Wan Azizah Ismail and surrounded by supporters. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Malaysia‘s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, today accused the prime minister and his wife of involvement in bringing a sodomy case against him and said he would seek to put them on the witness stand to prove it.

Anwar’s long-awaited trial on charges of sodomising a former male aide was postponed by about five hours pending a ruling on whether the defence has the right see the prosecution evidence in advance.

The former deputy prime minister has long maintained the allegation is a conspiracy to end his political career.

Anwar was almost knocked down by television crews jostling to get near him as he arrived at the Kuala Lumpur high court for the start of trial. He emerged about 30 minutes later to announce it had been adjourned until late afternoon.

Anwar claims he has evidence that a 25-year-old male former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, visited Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah, a few days before making the allegation of sodomy against him in August 2008.

“They were personally involved in this conspiracy and frame-up. We have evidence that Saiful Bukhari was in the house with Rosmah and met Najib a few days before he lodged the police report,” Anwar said. He said he plans to subpoena the prime minister and his wife as witnesses.

Najib has acknowledged Saiful came to see him but says it was in connection with a university scholarship. Najib was deputy prime minister at the time.

Anwar spent six years in prison after being convicted of corruption and an earlier sodomy charge, following his removal from the cabinet in 1998 amid a power struggle with the then leader Mahathir Mohamad. He maintained his innocence all along and was freed in 2004 when Malaysia’s top court overturned the sodomy conviction.

Sodomy is a crime in this Muslim-­majority country, carrying a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Anwar, 62, says the latest charge is designed to undermine his three-party opposition alliance, which made strong gains during the March 2008 general elections. Government officials deny plotting against Anwar.

A guilty conviction would bar Anwar from politics for five years from the date of his release, and deal a blow to the opposition alliance, which has appeared to be on the verge of breaking the ruling party’s stranglehold on power for the first time since independence in 1957.

But the alliance, whose members have widely differing political ideologies, is already showing cracks as long-standing differences emerge. Anwar’s conviction could widen those differences and also distract people from the country’s religious tensions and economic problems.

The trial was supposed to start last summer but was delayed by a series of applications by defence lawyers. Anwar was in the political wilderness after his first sodomy conviction. He revived his career at the March 2008 elections, when his alliance won more than one-third of the seats in parliament amid public disenchantment with the National Front governing coalition.

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