Saturday, March 17, 2007

ANWAR IBRAHIM’s Moment May Have Passed. A Nelson Mandela of Malaysia-NOW or NEVER Chance To Re-Enter Malaysian Politics; But the Malays WON’T Listen

Whilst in London, he granted interviews and briefings to BBC, Financial Times and the Guardian Papers. The message is the same; at 59, it is now or never chance for him to re-enter the political arena in Malaysia and he has been saying this since his release in 2004. He has step up efforts at the home and foreign fronts about his determination despite the restriction on him from his conviction. He has really no choice to miss the coming general election which might come even in June this year. But his vision for a change to make Malaysia competitive, reduce corruption, correct the growing racial tension. This is a tall order to achieve as change to be effective involves the mass dreams of everyone.

Right at the moment, the majority of those on the receiving ends never had it so good with all the attending benefits, comforts and privileges would not give up their “rights” and “opportunities” to heed his call for these changes. Why would the Malays and the non-Malays beneficiaries want all these reforms to put a brake to their easy materialistic successes? The ends justify the means so they say. The wheels of motions have been put in place and it will take generations for this to be stopped. Just like a natural disasters - a hurricane or an earthquake, nothing can stopped it and we have to go through the painful process to learn the lessons. and share the mass dreams for a change to take place. We need “shared” or “mass” dreams. In these, we dream individually and collectively of ways in which change could occur. The very energy, direction and focus of these dreams will help change the situation.

But alas, we do not share the same dreams. Only the minority is clamoring for changes. And so all our problems recurred and will remain unsolved until and UNLESS the majority is fully awaken and enlightened to see through this current state of affairs.

= = = == = = == =

Tamara Lynch, research analyst - a London think-tank, said Mr Anwar’s moment may have passed. ”His supporters saw him as a Nelson Mandela of Malaysia who would come to power and change everything. But now not that much needs to change.”

Malaysia's Anwar vows return; Friday March 16, 1:02 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is committed to returning to politics despite being banned from public office, an aide said Friday. Anwar has been raising his international profile through an interview with the BBC in London on Thursday, and he has another planned with the Al Jazeera television network in Washington later this month. "We just want to send a strong signal that he is serious about returning to the political scene in Malaysia, especially as he will be running for the party's presidency and with the (possibility of) elections coming up," Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, special assistant to Anwar, told AFP. In the BBC interview, Anwar said he has no choice but to re-enter politics.

"I think we are ready for a change," he said. "Malaysia has lost its competitiveness. Corruption is endemic, far worse than before," Anwar said, adding there was also growing racial tension. He was the heir-apparent to former leader Mahathir Mohamad until 1998, when he was sacked after facing sodomy and corruption charges that landed him in jail for six years. Anwar's sodomy conviction was overturned but the corruption verdict still stands, barring him from standing for public office until April 2008. Malaysia must go to the polls by 2009 but the opposition is preparing for an early election, which some members say could come as soon as October or June -- effectively preventing Anwar from taking part.

Still, officials in his political party said Sunday he will run for president of Keadilan, the opposition People's Justice Party formally run by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. "We don't want to be caught unprepared. We are not discounting that elections could be held from June onwards," Nazmi said, explaining that although Anwar is barred from public office, there is nothing to stop him campaigning. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi replaced Mahathir in 2003 but Anwar said the new leader "has inherited a system and he does not seem to want to change the system." The Barisan Nasional coalition has ruled Malaysia for almost half a century.

Anwar called Abdullah "a very decent, placid man" but said "the corrupt system is very much in place". He added the media was not free and the judicial process was compromised. Anwar has made similar accusations in the past year since switching his focus back to the political scene after leading a nomadic existence with stints lecturing in Britain, the US and Australia after his release from prison in September 2004. Anwar filed a libel suit early last year against Mahathir after the former prime minister said he could not allow Anwar to become prime minister because Anwar was a homosexual. The High Court is to hear Mahathir's application to strike out the suit on April 26. In the BBC interview, Anwar said Mahathir -- "the king, the master, and the maestro" -- had felt threatened by him. Now, Mahathir is "old, very bitter about things," Anwar said.


Banned Malaysian Politician Anwar Ibrahim Plans Return

By Guardian Unlimited © Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006;Published: 3/15/2007

Malaysia's former deputy prime minister today reaffirmed his determination to resume political activities in defiance of a legal ban. Anwar Ibrahim told Guardian Unlimited that he was ready to challenge the Malaysian political elite that sacked and imprisoned him. "I am committed to a reform agenda, I believe in a democratic process and a more accountable government," he said. "I can't reasonably expect this to happen without political involvement. If I chose to submit, then I would give credence to the government and support their repressive measures." Mr Anwar, who was sacked as deputy prime minister by the then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, in September 1998, has just announced his plan to run for party president of the opposition People's Justice Party, currently led by his wife Wan Azizah. In doing so, he is challenging a court order banning him from any political activity until next year.

After his dismissal, Mr Anwar was arrested and charged with what were widely regarded as trumped-up charges of sodomy and corruption. A cause celebre for human rights groups, Mr Anwar was released from solitary confinement in 2004 after the court overturned the sodomy charge on appeal, but his criminal record bars him from holding political office and from running in general elections until April 2008. Despite the ban, Mr Anwar said there were ways of circumventing the order.

"I am not allowed to speak at public forums but there are ingenious ways of getting around this," he said. "I will address the public at funerals and feasts, these are limited avenues but it has to be done." Since his release, Mr Anwar has held teaching posts at Oxford University and Georgetown University in Washington DC. Last year, he was appointed honorary president of AccountAbility, a London thinktank advocating better corporate governance and more transparency, and has been banging the drum on anti-corruption. Mr Anwar has been particularly outspoken on Britain's decision to halt a major corruption investigation into BAE, Britain's biggest arms company, in its dealings with Saudi Arabia.

In his capacity as president of AccountAbility, Mr Anwar submitted a letter to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that was scathing of the government decision. "What better reference point and benchmark for corrupt politicians and business people alike around the world to be able to speak of the case of 'Britain's national interests' in justifying cronyism, nepotism or straight-forward, arms-length bribery," he said. For Mr Anwar, the campaign against corruption in international development - he fully backs the World Bank's push for greater transparency and accountability on projects even if that ruffles feathers in recipient countries - and his decision to challenge the Malaysian government are part of the same struggle. His decision to run for president of the opposition party will pose a test for the Malaysian courts and for Mr Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Badawi.

There is speculation that Mr Badawi could call a snap general election this year, preempting the lifting of Mr Anwar's political ban. Mr Anwar fully expects such a ploy as Malaysia's divided opposition has performed poorly in recent by-elections. Asked whether Malaysia's "democratic deficit" had anything to do with the fact that it was a Muslim country, Mr Anwar firmly rejected the notion. "The newly independent Muslim states were democracies," Mr Anwar said. "Indonesia had a free election in 1955 until it was hijacked by Sukarno. Iran had democratic elections only to be hijacked by the CIA, British intelligence and the oil companies. Seventy five to 80% of Muslims are familiar with the democratic process. Unfortunately, it's not happening in the Middle East as much as we want it to." By declaring his intention to take up politics again, Mr Anwar will be pushing Malaysia's tolerance for pluralism to the limit. He will also find out whether Malaysians support his notions of reform and change or whether they are content with the status quo.
= = = == =
Malaysia’s Anwar seeks return to power

By Tom Burgis in London; Published: March 15 2007 11:52 | Last updated: March 15 2007 15:31

Anwar Ibrahim, the former golden boy of Malaysian politics, said on Thursday he hopes to stand for prime minister in elections that could be held by the end of this year. The former deputy prime minister spent five years in prison convicted of sodomy and corruption after accusing his government colleagues of graft. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Anwar said he would stand in May for the presidency of the opposition Keadilan party, a post currently held by his wife. He said he would seek the premiership in elections late this year or early next, provided he wins the backing of his party’s allies.

Either ambition could put him in violation of a ban on holding political office that lasts until April 2008. The ban was imposed automatically after a corruption conviction that resulted from a widely criticised trial shortly after he was fired as deputy prime minister in 1998 by Mahathir Mohamad, then premier and his erstwhile mentor. Abdullah Badawi, Mr Mahathir’s successor as prime minister, could lift Mr Anwar’s ban but Mr Anwar said he would challenge the ban in the courts were it not lifted. “I don’t have a choice,” Mr Anwar said during a visit to London. “Either I opt out and stay overseas or return to Malaysia and work with my friends. I hope not to return to jail but it is a risk I have to take.” Mr Anwar, 59, ruled out a return to the ruling Umno party, describing it as “corrupt to the core”.

Currently an adviser to the World Bank, he hopes to bolster Keadilan’s flagging fortunes with a platform of economic growth, institutional reform and tackling graft. However, Tamara Lynch, research analyst at Chatham House, a London think-tank, said Mr Anwar’s moment may have passed. ”His supporters saw him as a Nelson Mandela of Malaysia who would come to power and change everything. But now not that much needs to change.” For a man who adhered to the Washington Consensus of fiscal austerity as finance minister during the Asian financial crisis, Mr Anwar has travelled a long way. If elected, he said he would use the soaring profits of Petronas, the state oil company, to fund a rural education drive and other soc

Separately, Mr Anwar also revealed he had written to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s anti-bribery committee in his role as president of the British-based AccountAbility think-tank. His letter denounced the British government’s much-criticised role in the cancellation of the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation into alleged corruption in arms deals between BAE and Saudi Arabia.
= = = =what he said in 2004

ASIA-PACIFIC: Anwar vows to
go back into politics if court appeal succeeds
By Hugh Williamson in Munich, Financial Times; Published: Sep 11, 2004
Anwar Ibrahim, the former Malaysian deputy prime minister, plans to return to national politics if the remaining conviction against him is overturned by the federal court. That pledge, made for the first time since his release from prison last week, came in an interview with the Financial Times in
Germany, where he is undergoing medical treatment. He said: "I'm committed to the reform agenda and this can only be expressed effectively in a functioning democracy in partisan politics. If this requires I take a road in having to contest in the elections, I'll do it."

Mr Anwar, who aims to overturn the conviction for abuse of power, said he did not want to join the government of Abdullah Badawi, prime minister, or UMNO, the ruling party, but was keen to help build a "responsible opposition". "I don't wish at this stage to be part of the government. I want to express my views, but not necessarily by joining the ruling party of government. I don't want to give any indication [in this direction] because I think we need to press upon the public that a responsible opposition is a necessity in a functioning democracy." He said it was "premature" to decide exactly what opposition role he would play, including whether he would lead the National Justice party, formed by his wife after his arrest.

Mr Anwar made his comments in a private clinic in Munich, southern Germany, where he underwent surgery this week for a spinal injury he said he received in prison. He said he could hardly express how wonderful it was to be free. "I've gone from the inferno to paradiso in a matter of days". Only eight days ago was under armed guard in prison. "I read a lot about culture shock, and now I've experienced what it’s all about. It's a different world. Freedom, the taste of it - it's indescribable." He sat up in bed surrounded by flowers from well-wishers. His wife, Wan Azizah, a medical doctor who campaigned for his release, was at his bedside. He condemned the terrorist attack on Thursday in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, for which the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Islamic extremist group has claimed responsibility. Mr Anwar acknowledged several leading members of JI were Malaysians, including Azahari Husin, who is suspected of planning the attack. Malaysia "should shoulder more responsibility" in fighting international terrorism, he said. He added that he would like to play a role in Malaysia and the broader south-east Asian region in counter the rise of "fanaticism, extremism and terrorism".

He hoped the federal court would on Wednesday overturn a ruling on the abuse of power conviction against him. The court on September 2 threw out sodomy charges. Mr Anwar acknowledged that if the conviction stood, he would be banned from taking up political office until 2008. He said the court decision to release him last week was influenced by political considerations within the government. He said he wanted to push for political and economic reform when he returned to Malaysia, and would be happy to sit down with Mr Abdullah. "It would be useful to meet him, although I'll disagree with him on lots of issues."

He felt "no personal enmity" towards the prime minister, although he criticised him for not moving quickly enough on reforms such as fighting corruption. Mr Anwar was jovial for most of the interview, but could not hide his deep bitterness towards Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister who sacked him from the cabinet and pressed sodomy and other charges. Mr Anwar had harsh words for Dr Mahathir, comparing him unfavourably to the former Russian leader Joseph Stalin. But his tone was also partly one of a victor. "People in the ruling party don't consider him seriously any more," he said. "His rhetoric is regarded as obsolete." And would Mr Anwar be pressing charges against his enemy if the court overturns the abuse of power charge? "No," he replied. "I have no malice. I don't want to waste my time on him."

= == = =and over in Canada this REPORT from

Haroon Siddiqui; Toronto Star ; Mar 12 2007;

He walks slowly, with measured steps. On the stairs, he holds onto the railing. His back still hurts eight years after a police chief’s punch sent him crashing to a concrete floor and gave him the black eye and bruises that shocked the world. I’ve finally caught up with Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, for whom Canada – especially Paul Martin, a pal from the World Bank circle – lobbied during his six years in solitary confinement (1999-2004). Last summer, Ibrahim had to cancel a visit to Toronto, and in December, our conversation on his last day of a visiting professorship at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. had to be cut short. Today over dinner, the Malaysian equivalent of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi is happy to oblige.

He was heir-presumptive to Mahathir Mohamad, longstanding prime minister, but was dismissed Sept. 2, 1998 and arrested two weeks later, which is when he was dragged handcuffed and blindfolded to a room. Later testimony showed that the burly police chief had come in quietly, put his index finger to his lips to motion everyone to be silent, so he could add the sting of surprise to his blows. “The moral of the story,” Ibrahim tells me, smiling, “is that if you ever get to name a police chief, make sure he is thin.” Slapped with a trumped-up charge of sodomy, Ibrahim had the conviction overturned by the courts but was found guilty of corruption and barred from politics until April 2008. He was not released until well after Mahathir stepped down in 2003. After medical treatment in Munich, Ibrahim went to Oxford to teach and then Georgetown. Now back home and plotting his political return, he finds Mahathir’s successor, Abdullah Badawi, blocking him at every turn, using some of Mahathir’s tactics.

Why had Mahathir turned on him?

The court of “close family members and cronies were feeling insecure with my talking about corruption and the need for freedom.” But real trouble came when “he asked me to bail out his son, who had then a home in Vancouver and whose company was ailing and needed 2 billion ringgit ($600 million). “Mahathir wanted the treasury to bail it out, and I said, `Look, there’s no way we can do it, except to table a supplementary budget in parliament.’ “As finance minister, I had to disagree. At about that time, I met Martin and he understood my position.”

Mahathir didn’t.

“He got the state petroleum company, Petronas, to come up with the money” and fired Ibrahim. In solitary confinement, Ibrahim took to performing the post-midnight voluntary prayer called Tahajjud, memorizing the Qur’an, exercising and reading both Islamic and Western canons, “enough to become a professor.”

“I have a great wife and kids and friends who stood by me, as did many people abroad. Paul did. And the Canadian high commissioner himself appeared at my trial, and then made sure some Canadian official was always present in court during the proceedings. “My consolation was that others have had it worse. When I met Nelson Mandela later, I told him that compared to his, mine was a short walk to freedom.” Mahathir has since turned against Badawi for cancelling his legacy projects, such as a causeway to Singapore. Badawi, in turn, has turned against Ibrahim, even though both are family friends and met two years ago. “He was exceedingly polite.” But harassment continues. “I cannot go to a campus. I mean I can go but only with a permit. We are organizing a meeting here in Kuala Lumpur and the police are refusing a permit.” Even when one is forthcoming, “there’s police all over, hundreds of them checking out cars.

“Nobody dare (help me). They get harassed. Their licences may be revoked.”

The media maintain a blackout, and the bloggers are “harassed and hauled into police stations, and have their computers confiscated.” His wife Wan Azizah, an MP, leads their National Justice Party. But he plans to run for the presidency in May. “If the Registrar of Societies, in the ministry of home affairs, does not approve my request to run, we will go to court.” It’s a good issue to launch his campaign for the next election. “Yes, but I’ll need a good judge.”

It’s possible that Badawi would call the vote this fall, well before Ibrahim’s ban ends next spring. Ibrahim fully expects it.
So, why the Quixotic quest?

The self-described “incorrigible optimist” says he has a commitment to democracy. “I went to jail because of it. Now that I am out, I cannot abdicate that responsibility. The country needs a change. The situation is not hopeless. You cannot under-estimate the wisdom of the people. They are aware of what’s going on.”
What can Canada do to help?
Canada can continue to talk about freedom, democracy and human rights. You are seen to be more balanced and fair. You can air some of these concerns that I have outlined.”


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