Posted: 20 Oct 2014 08:38 PM PDT
Najib Abdul Razak and Umno Baru were denied an early Deepavali present when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim dismissed all talk of going into exile, in London.
Just imagine the headlines in Utusan Malaysia and TV3 if Anwar had chosen exile: 'Coward Anwar seeks exile to escape jail', 'Exile proves Anwar's guilt', 'Anwar abandons followers, lives in luxury in London', 'We told you so; Anwar is scared to face the truth'.
When he was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph, Anwar expressed no plans to form a government in exile, in London, despite unsuccessful attempts by his friends to convince him to stay. He admitted the strain placed on his family. He was sanguine about reform.
He said, "It is very difficult, particularly for my family. But when I started this case for reform in Malaysia I knew it was not going to be easy."
If Anwar had chosen exile, Najib would have effectively isolated Anwar from his followers. The rakyat would not be spared either. They would be told that throwing their money and weight behind Anwar was wasteful, and their support for the opposition a futile cause.
Najib knows that having Anwar in exile is as good as putting him behind bars; but there are subtle differences.
People who have conducted a long-distance romance know that the relationship could suffer without complete commitment and absolute trust. The pressures and sacrifices are enormous. Anwar, in exile, and his supporters would face the same test. Who would falter first?
In recent months, many disillusioned Malaysians have had their confidence shaken by the troubles in Pakatan. In the recent Kajang move, PAS appeared to be hastening the break-up of the coalition.
Disheartened Malaysians should heed Anwar's words. When he led the charge for reform, he knew it was going to be a long haul. Change is not for the faint-hearted. Decades of Umno Baru's decadent and divisive rule, cannot be unravelled overnight. Are we all prepared to wait?
Anwar has laid the foundations for change, and although he risks losing his freedom, we have nothing to lose, apart from some sleepless nights, or our cool, when we are spat on, in a peaceful protest, by pro-government thugs.
If he were to be jailed, Anwar's companions will be a few books, if his captors allow him that luxury, and the cockroaches in his cell. In relative freedom, we have the companionship and support of one another, to continue the reform agenda.
Jailing Anwar is not a simple matter for it presents Umno Baru with several dilemmas.
First. Jail might make Anwar a martyr. Umno Baru will want to avoid this at all costs.
Second. Jail reduces many of the opportunities to distract the rakyat. At present, our attention is immediately diverted, should any bad news emerge. Notice how the major corruption or religious scandals are immediately preceded by yet another Anwar sexposé? Sex sells, especially among the Malays.
Whetting our appetite for change
Third. Jail will not isolate Anwar. He may be physically removed, from our presence, but he has whetted our appetite for change. His absence will focus Malaysian minds and provide renewed momentum for change. It will prove to the authorities that we are capable of leading the charge, by ourselves.
Jailing Anwar may backfire on Najib. Urgings for reform will be re-energised with vengeance.
Anwar said that his exile would have a detrimental effect on Malaysians, especially its youth. He knows that responsible leaders are important role models. He said, "…if people like me can't stand up against these atrocities what can we expect from young people?"
He is right. The problem is not always with our leaders. Our youth can be equally perplexing.
Two days before Anwar's interview with The Daily Telegraph, PAS president Hadi Awang (right) had given a talk to Malaysian students in London.
Responding to a question fielded by a student, Hadi told his audience that women were perfectly suited to be leaders in their respective fields, but that they had no legitimacy to be leaders of the state, or the nation. He stressed that the woman's importance lay in nurturing the family unit.
There is sex equality in Islam, so one must assume that Hadi is a closet misogynist. Why has he avoided the remarkable women leaders from the decadent west and Israel? Any Malaysian woman who aspires to be a menteri besar, or prime minister should avoid Hadi.
He has conveniently ignored the women leaders in Pakistan and Bangladesh, both Muslim nations. He has forgotten the succession of six Queens who ruled the Kingdom of Patani in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The PAS president is entitled to his views, but more shocking was the reaction of some female students that night. They agreed that Malay women should not aspire to be PM.
It appears that Anwar has much unfinished business amongst the Malay community. We still need him to free young Malay minds from the bondage of conservative Islam, Malay feudalism and subservient culture. Without Anwar, few Malay women will contribute to nation-building.
Posted: 20 Oct 2014 08:34 PM PDT
While Indonesia marked another democratic advance on Monday, democracy in neighbouring Malaysia goes backwards.
Indonesia inaugurates the man that most voters chose to be leader, while Malaysia concludes a sham trial to destroy the man that most voters chose to be leader.
Indonesia is conducting the first transfer of power from one directly elected president to another.
And Malaysia? It remains under the control of the same party that has ruled continuously since independence in 1957.
“While Indonesia is making huge progress, we are rewinding and the democratic space is going back to the Mahathir era of the 1990s,” says Malaysia’s opposition treasury spokesman, Rafizi Ramli, during a visit to Australia on Monday. “We have not recovered from last year’s election.”
There is more than democracy at stake. A professor of political science at Monash University’s Malaysian campus, James Chin, says: “In Malaysia, politics is being hijacked by political Islam. It really worries me. They are putting Malay supremacy together with Islamic supremacy.”
The foundation stone of the perennially ruling party was always racial discrimination – special favour to native Malays over all other citizens, including the country’s sizeable Chinese and Indian minorities.
But now it’s pursuing policies of religious discrimination as well, says Mr Chin: “Previously, they tried to regulate the body and behaviour of Muslims; now, they are trying to regulate the body and behaviour of non-Muslims too.”
He contrasts this with Indonesia, where a secular state does not impose Islamic standards on other faiths. It’s one thing to fine Muslims for drinking alcohol, says Mr Chin, but now there are attempts to penalise non-Mulsims taking part in Oktoberfest in Malaysia.
The authoritarian nature of the Najib government will be on display to the world next week when it renews its courtroom persecution of the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar was the subject of one of the world’s most ridiculous political persecutions, an effort by the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohammed, to ruin him by accusing him of sodomy. And now, a ruling on the sequel: Sodomy 2.
He was the deputy prime minister to Mahathir when they had a falling out in 1998. The foolish and farcical pursuit of Anwar failed to ruin him, but it did turn him into a formidable leader of the opposition.
Anwar spent six years in jail before a court overturned his conviction. He emerged to lead an energised campaign at the 2013 election. So the Malaysian people delivered their own verdict on Anwar and his Pakatan Rakyat, or People’s Pact party.
The opposition under Anwar won 51 per cent of the vote at the 2013 election, but only 40 per cent of parliamentary seats.
It was a record result for an opposition and it shook the government. Even in a manipulated system, the ruling party, for the first time, had failed to win a majority of votes.
The result scared the government of Najib Razak into reviving its favoured tactic for repressing Anwar: the charge of sodomy. Sodomy 2 had been running for a while, but after the High Court knocked out the latest sodomy charge against the married father of five, the government took its trumped-up case to Malaysia’s Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court. It gave Anwar a five-year jail sentence. He is free on bail pending appeal. On the weekend he flew home from London to Kuala Lumpur for final appeals. His supporters fear the outcome: “Quite a few of my friends have tried to persuade me to stay away,” Anwar told British media just before boarding the plane home.
The prosecution is asking for an even longer jail term.
In an extraordinary illustration of the government’s contortions in its manic determination to get Anwar, the prosecution will not be led by the a lawyer from the prosecution system but a private lawyer hired by the state. Experts say there is no precedent in Malaysian jurisprudence.
In fact, the prosecution is to be conducted by the personal lawyer for Mr Najib.
The political crackdown is much wider than Anwar. Human Rights Watch has detailed at least 14 cases this year where the government has brought spurious charges against political opponents and activists under the 1948 Sedition Act. One opposition politician faces the prospect of five years in jail for saying “damn UMNO”. UMNO is Najib’s political party.
The Najib government has two options, according to the opposition’s Rafizi Ramli: “It can reform and allow more democratic space. Or they can go for the crackdown, and risk an even worse backlash from the public.”
He has personal experience of the crackdown. Before entering politics he ran a corruption-busting NGO that exposed a Najib government minister misusing a $A90 million taxpayer loan. Instead of setting up a cattle farm, she was using the money to buy luxury apartments.
The expose forced the minister to resign. But now Mr Ramli is the one facing jail. He’s facing the risk of three years in jail for breaching banking secrecy laws in disclosing the corruption. Mr Ramli, the man who busted the scam, is the only person charged over it.
Mr Ramli, also the secretary-general of the opposition party, is in Canberra on Tuesday, leading a delegation. He’s hoping to convince Australian politicians to help coax Mr Najib from authoritarianism to democratic openness.
Professor Chin says Mr Ramli has no hope of support from the Australian government: “The Abbott government loves Najib.”
Australia favours the Najib government based on a long-standing view that Malaysia is a modern, Western, secular, like-minded power in a region fretting about a backward Indonesia, he says.
But Indonesia is modernising and it is Malaysia that is going backwards. “The romantic view of Malaysia,” says Chin, “is based on a country that hasn’t existed for the last ten years.”‘
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