This question has been hitting my head since the past few weeks, especially when two of many interviews with DS Anwar Ibrahim got the attention by Malaysians because of sensitive issues.
The first one, out of many issues in the following interview by BBC, the highlight was on LGBT.
Many have claimed that DS Anwar was misquoted, but the question that raised eyebrows was from minute 2:00 onwards, in which BBC asked clearly on the LGBT movements. Since what was shown in TV3 and some other blogs focussed only on the issue, my dear readers can watch the interview in a little bit longer before and after the editted version that was claimed as a spin.
In the same month, DS was then asked again on a controversial issue. The reports that caught the attention of Malaysians and Palastineans is as follows:
KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he isn’t worried about state prosecutors’ move to appeal a court decision acquitting him of sodomy earlier this month, and said he remains confident it won’t derail his campaign to lead a new government to power in elections expected later this year.
“The judgment [in the sodomy case] was very strong” and “difficult to appeal,” Mr. Anwar said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal at his political party’s headquarters here Thursday. He said the appeal process, which began Jan. 20, would likely take at least six months, meaning it could loom over and outlast the election campaign.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has to call an election by March 2013, but under Malaysia’s parliamentary system of government, many analysts predict it will be called much sooner, triggering one of the most fiercely fought electoral contests this resource-rich nation has ever seen. Mr. Anwar said he believes the election is unlikely to take place later than June.
Since the Jan. 9 verdict by a High Court judge—who acquitted Mr. Anwar of violating Malaysia’s strict sodomy laws citing a lack of witnesses and flawed DNA evidence—the 64-year-old opposition leader has begun mobilizing support in this multiracial country, promising reforms to dismantle a decades-old affirmative-action program designed to give a leg up to the majority ethnic-Malay population while also targeting what he describes as widespread cronyism in Mr. Najib’s government. If elected, Mr. Anwar said he will accelerate privatizations and do more to enable free markets to operate more efficiently, such as improving transparency in the bidding for government contracts.
Mr. Najib, 58 years old, is also keen to brand himself a reformer in part to win back ethnic-Chinese and Indian voters who in recent years largely have thrown their support behind Mr. Anwar’s opposition alliance. Mr. Najib has also embarked on a series of sales of government assets to spur growth. Earlier this month, a government state investment fund sold its stake in car marker Proton Holdings Bhd. to conglomerate DRB-Hicom Bhd., and last year government-linked funds swapped shares in state-run Malaysian Airline System Bhd. with budget airline AirAsia Bhd.
“The overall principle is that we want the government-linked companies to sell off their noncore and noncompetitive assets,” Mr. Najib said in an interview two weeks ago. “We are always looking out for how to add value to the country.”
Mr. Anwar, though, criticized the way Mr. Najib’s government pursued these privatizations, saying that without open, public tenders, key companies remain controlled by a well-connected few.
Privatization “looks good, but look again at the procedures,” said Mr. Anwar. “The issue is not about privatization, it is blatant corruption.”
Following the Proton deal, state investment fund Khazanah Nasional said in a statement that it chose the best suitor for the job and the country.
A Malaysian government spokesperson said Thursday the government is “fully committed to openness and transparency in all privatizations and divestments of state-owned assets and to tackling corruption wherever and whenever it is found.” The spokesperson noted that Malaysia has introduced a new online database of government contracts so that anybody can alert authorities to any potentially improper actions.
“We are determined to ensure that all government contracts are awarded through a process that is fair and open to scrutiny,” the spokesperson said.
After being embroiled in the sodomy trial—which he claims was politically motivated—Mr. Anwar is now shifting gears from defending his reputation to fighting to win an election.
Once a high-ranking member of the United Malays National Organization that has run Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, he was sacked from the party and lost his post as deputy prime minister after challenging former leader Mahathir Mohamad in the 1990s. He was subsequently charged for sodomizing his driver and his speechwriter, and spent six years in prison before his conviction was overturned.
After leading the opposition to one of its strongest-ever showings in 2008’s national elections, Mr. Anwar was accused by former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan of sodomizing him, setting in train another marathon, headline-stealing trial which Mr. Anwar again said was designed to end his political career. Mr. Najib and his government have repeatedly denied having anything to do with the case.
Now, after Judge Zabidin Diah acquitted Mr. Anwar, ruling that the forensic evidence presented against the opposition leader was flawed, Mr. Anwar argues that he isn’t just “anti-UMNO” but has his own set of policies geared toward restoring Malaysia’s competitiveness in a global economy where countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are emerging as alternative magnets for investment.
“We must always compare Malaysia to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan,” said Mr. Anwar. “That’s what we were.”
If elected, Mr. Anwar said he would speed up the removal of racial quotas for university places and focus on helping lower-income groups regardless of race instead of solely aiding ethnic Malays.
In the interview, Mr. Anwar also clarified his position on homosexual rights and Malaysia’s sodomy laws, and also the Muslim-majority nation’s relationship with Israel.
“I support all efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel,” said Mr. Anwar, although he stopped short of saying he would open diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, a step which he said remains contingent on Israel respecting the aspirations of Palestinians. Malaysia has consistently refrained from establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, although limited commercial ties exist between private companies in the two countries.
In response to recent local reports that he supported gay marriage, Mr. Anwar said they were wrong and that he “believes in and supports the sanctity of marriage between men and women.” The opposition leader is suing government-linked newspaper Utusan Malaysia for defamation, alleging that it implied he supports and wants to legalize homosexuality.
Still, Mr. Anwar said that Malaysia’s sodomy laws are “archaic” and could be amended.
“It is not my business to attack people or arrest people based on their sexual orientation,” he said.
I’m pretty sure again, the earlier part of the article is no new to Malaysians. DS Anwar has been longing to bring reformation to Malaysia since he was sacked back in the late 90’s.
Recent comments by Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim have demonstrated yet again how issues related to Israel continue to divide this majority-Muslim country – and could influence the country’s next national election.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Anwar responded to the question of whether he would open diplomatic ties with Israel by stating his “support” for “efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel,” while at the same time backing the “legitimate rights of the Palestinians.” He stopped short of saying he would establish diplomatic relations between the two states – what he describes as a “tricky” issue – and stated that any change to the status quo would remain contingent on Israel recognizing the aspirations of the Palestinians.
Malaysia is one of three Southeast Asian nations including Indonesia and Brunei that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, though limited economic ties exist between private companies in both countries.
“Some refuse to recognize the state of Israel,” he said, “but I think our policy should be clear – protect the security [of Israel] but you must be as firm in protecting the legitimate interests of the Palestinians.”
The comments triggered a storm of debate and criticism, with members of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and other groups accusing the leader of abandoning the Palestinian cause – an emotive cause long-supported in the majority-Muslim Southeast Asian nation.
Lawmakers called on Mr. Anwar’s opposition coalition to release an official statement on the issue, while president of the right-wing Malay group Perkasa Ibrahim Ali said he would raise the issue in Parliament.
Mr. Anwar responded by saying he supported a “two-state solution” with Palestine, a policy he said was no different from the official stance adopted by the United Nations and Malaysia itself.
“I am issuing a stern warning to anyone trying to twist my statement just so that they can say that I have betrayed the aspirations of the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement to the press. His party’s stand “is to defend the rights of whoever it is that has been victimised,” the statement said.
Though an ethnically-diverse nation that practices freedom of religion, Malaysia has declared Islam as its state religion and tensions over Israel-Palestine issues often boil over. A large percentage of the country’s population supports the Palestinian cause, and jumped to criticize Israel after it launched raids on Gaza in December 2008 and stormed a flotilla in May 2010 that was carrying activists and humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Tensions over the issue are even more on edge now, as Malaysia gears up for its next general election, which must be called by early next year, giving politicians more incentive to argue their views in the press than usual.
“The issue is tied in with Malaysia being an Islamic country,” and the idea that “therefore it should support Palestine,” said James Chin, a professor at the Malaysian branch of Australia’s Monash University. He added the caveat that support for the Palestinians became a much larger issue in Malaysian politics after the era of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has been accused by world leaders of holding anti-Semitic views, which he disputes.
In a statement to the local press, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, a member of the ruling UMNO, disputed Mr. Anwar’s claim that Malaysia’s current policy on Israel is the same as his own. Although Malaysia officially supports a “two-state solution” in settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it has also sharply criticized actions taken by Israeli forces in the past, which the foreign minister indicated means Malaysia isn’t supporting “all steps” to protect Israeli security.
“[Anwar’s comments] show a blanket support for anything Israel does,” said Khairy Jamaluddin, the chief of UMNO’s youth wing, who disputed any suggestion Malaysia’s ruling party was trying to politicize the issue ahead of an election. “The issue of Palestine is a top foreign policy priority for my party, it would be an issue during the election year or otherwise… timing doesn’t matter.”
In 2010, Mr. Anwar – who in the past has been described as the face of liberal democracy in Malaysia – found himself on the other side of the argument after he lambasted UMNO for its relationship with a public relations firm called APCO. In Parliament, he said the firm was “controlled by Zionists” and working on behalf of the American government to influence Malaysian government policy – a charge denied by both the government and the public relations firm.
At the time, American-Jewish groups such as B’nai B’rith accused the opposition leader of “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel” slanders, and called on American officials to suspend their ties with Mr. Anwar.
Still, many analysts believe the latest kerfuffle is largely electioneering on the part of the ruling coalition, preoccupied with the looming possibility that the next election will be the hardest-fought yet.
“They’re just using it as a weapon to bring (Mr. Anwar) down,” said Mr. Chin at Monash University.
– Celine Fernandez contributed to this article
As a muslim and Malaysian, I know these two issues (LGBT and Jew’s state) are very much sensitive.
However, it irks me very much as these questions were given very direct and openly by western media. Both BBC and WSJ are not small by corporation and influence. Surely they have done their homework before asking such question as they also want credible answer.
Based on my rationale on paragraph above, I am in opinion that they are more convinced and have considered DS Anwar has the potential of being the next Prime Minister. They want to to know how will a potential Prime Minister deal with such sensitive issues.
Perhaps, they also want to see as how true DS Anwar Ibrahim has the support from Malaysians on certain issues. They want to see how Malaysians react on matters that close to Western interests.
I’m expecting DS Anwar will be asked more “challenging” questions in near future. How challenging it will be? Challenging in such the questions will be on his future approach and policies. It will be the catalyst to ups and downs of DS Anwar’s route to Putrajaya as Prime Minister.
At least, the Western Media is testing DS Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat on future approach and policies. Whilst main stream media that have been accused as Barisan Nasional tools not being fairly read (or read with prejudice), pro Barisan Nasional alternative media are still playing issues on sexual acts and antics of DS Anwar and friends.
I know, many do not want a leader with such moral issues, but trying to play the sex act issues too much has overkilled the issue and has given the perception that he is being conspired and tried to stop him with issues “that may not exist”.
What will be the next questions to test DS Anwar Ibrahim?
Question on the street: While alternative media of Pakatan Rakyat focussing on misdeeds that related to Malaysians, pro Barisan Nasional alternative media, especially the bloggers are still playing DS Anwar “anu”‘. Is his penis a matter of Pakatan Rakyat’s national policy?