By Ron Corben
25 July 2008
Malaysia’s governing United Malaya National Organization, UMNO, is pressing on with legal action against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who faces allegations of sexual abuse. Anwar has vowed to move ahead with plans to lead the Malaysian government by September despite the charges. Ron Corben has more in this report from Bangkok.
Malaysia’s Home Minister, Hamid Syed Albar, told a gathering of 90 diplomats at a briefing this week in Kuala Lumpur that he would be providing foreign missions with what he termed “the real story” about allegations of sodomy against opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar has rejected the allegations raised in June by a 23-year old aide, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, saying it is a conspiracy to prevent him from challenging the current coalition government led by the United Malays National Organization, UMNO, in power since 1957.
The allegations came exactly two months after Anwar returned to Parliament following a ten year absence.
In 1998, Anwar had been deputy prime minister under Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, and considered the anointed successor when he challenged Mr. Mahathir to step aside.
Instead, Anwar was fired as deputy prime minister and faced charges of corruption and sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but eventually served just six years in jail for corruption charges.
In 2004, Malaysia’s Federal Court overturned a sodomy conviction pointing to weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
But in June, new charges of sodomy resurfaced.
In early July, Anwar maintained he would press on with the bid to seize power from what he had termed, “a corrupt government”. He added he would fight the allegations “day and night” saying the young man accusing him was “being manipulated by powerful forces”.
On July 16, Anwar was arrested at his home, an hour before a deadline for him to appear at the police headquarters. He was held in jail overnight.
Professor Carl Thayer, a regional security analyst at the Australian National University, says the allegations appear to be part of a struggle by the ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to fend off the threat from Anwar and his supporters. “The core elite that gathered in the UMNO – the United Malays National Organization – have been absolutely ruthless under various prime ministers, particularly (Dr) Mahathir (Mohammad) in making sure that their supremacy is maintained. And although (Prime Minister) Badawi was seen as less harsh, what this is demonstrating is that some of his colleagues are playing a vicious game,” he said.