Police under pressure towrap up investigations quickly…
Posted July 5, 2008on:
I suspect that what’s going to happen is that there’s now tremendous pressure on the police to wrap up the investigations as quickly as possible then they will pass the papers to the Attorney-General and I think the next big flashpoint is whether or not the Attorney-General decides to prosecute or not to prosecute.
Radio Singapore International
History is repeating itself in Malaysia after former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was accused of sodomy for the second time in 10 years. The country was rocked by the sensational news when Mr Anwar’s young aide claimed that he was sexually assaulted. How will these allegations affect Mr Anwar’s ambitions to seize power from the ruling Barisan Nasional by September? Inside Malaysia examines the country’s latest political twist this week. I’m Saifulbahri Ismail.
The question of whether Anwar Ibrahim is gay is again the talk of the town. The man in the spotlight this time is Saiful Bukhari Azlan, a 23-year old volunteer with the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat. He lodged a police report last Saturday claiming that he was sodomised by his boss. Mr Anwar, a father of six children, immediately dismissed the allegations. At the same time, he filed a defamation suit against Mr Saiful. The 60-year old politician accused the government of fabricating a conspiracy to derail his ambitions to take over the government. Addressing a big rally of more than 7000 people on Tuesday, he vowed to fight every inch of the way to prove his innocence. Ibrahim Suffian, executive director of Merdeka Centre, was not surprised by Mr Anwar’s reaction as the political stakes are getting higher :
I think it’s in a way expected that Anwar will vigorously fight these allegations because I think he can sense that he is approaching power in a real sense that he thinks he has the ability of taking away power from Barisan Nasional for the first time. And he will see this as an attempt to stop him from getting close to forming the next national government. So, he will see this as an attempt against him to personally stop him from becoming the next prime minister.
Anwar, who is the de facto leader of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition has made it clear that the opposition will take over the government before September 16. Although their plans have been derailed by this sudden twist of events, the opposition is maintaining its target to form the next government by September. Yang Razali Kassim is a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore :
He’s free to do whatever he wants, he’s free to pursue his political agenda as I see it. But if he is arrested as a result of the investigations, then that will certainly derail all his plans. Already he has said his plans to stand in the by-elections has been derailed, so if there is any arrest of Anwar Ibrahim and we can expect a lot of fluidity in Malaysian politics.
So how are Malaysians reacting to the allegations against Anwar? His 1998 sodomy conviction was overturned by the federal court in 2004. So it is not surprising that the public are skeptical of the latest allegations against Anwar. A quick survey done by the independent Merdeka Centre research firm found that nearly 60 per cent of those polled view the allegations as politically motivated. The firm’s pollster Ibrahim Suffian explains :
It looks as if the Malaysian public does not really believe the allegations, and also then in the same vein indicates a lot of people also feels that this is a politically motivated issue, that it may not necessarily bear out because there’s a lot at stake with Anwar upping the ante and saying that he is going to take over federal government and so on, and so there is perception that a lot of people who will be at a loss trying to prevent Anwar from further advancing.
Whether or not this public perception changes during the course of investigations remains to be seen. Khoo Kay Peng a political analyst says the stakes are high for all parties involved :
I think public perception has already been formed. The outcome of the case will have a very telling effect on both sides. Whoever happen to be found guilty, I think the impact will be really great. Because I think at the end of the day, politics is about perception. I think unfortunately for this case, public perception has been formed.
If you’ve just tuned in you’re listening to Inside Malaysia on Radio Singapore International. This week we are looking at the Anwar Ibrahim sex scandal which has sent ripples through the Malaysian political landscape. It is still early days to determine the exact repercussions of the latest turn of events. Some observers feel that adversity might strengthen the unity of the opposition. Ibrahim Suffian is executive director of Merdeka Centre :
And at least based on the signs that we have seen so far the opposition is rallying together behind him and supporting him, even individuals within the opposition that previously questioned him as far as what his policies for the Malay were and so on are now together with him again. So this whole issue seems to be helping the opposition come together and making him potentially stronger.
Still, Yang Razali Kassim, from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies feels that one must not rule out the possibility of the tide turning against Anwar :
On the other hand it could also turn out to be negative for Anwar if the investigations throw out some doubts about his credibility. If that is the case, then he would have to fight in the court of public opinion and he would have to win back the ground and turn it around in his favour. It all boils down the outcome of the investigations that are on-going right now.
For the Malaysian police which has been under scrutiny lately, it is important that the investigations are done in a credible and transparent manner. According to Professor James Chin from Malaysia’s Monash University the investigations have to be done quickly too :
I suspect that what’s going to happen is that there’s now tremendous pressure on the police to wrap up the investigations as quickly as possible then they will pass the papers to the Attorney-General and I think the next big flashpoint is whether or not the Attorney-General decides to prosecute or not to prosecute. This is where the political factor comes in. If the Attorney-General prosecutes Anwar, then Anwar and his party will certainly go around town and tell everyone that it is political prosecution. If the Attorney-General does not prosecute and say there is not enough evidence for prosecution, Anwar will also gain as well, people will see this simply as a form of harassment against him and his party, so either way it looks like Anwar will come out the winner of this whole incident.
During the 1999 general elections, the opposition gained much ground after public sentiment turned against the Barisan Nasional. Voters still remember the Anwar sodomy case and the black eye that he suffered while in detention. If Anwar is again found not guilty, what would be the impact on the ruling coalition? Yang Razali Kassim with this view :
If these allegations are again proven wrong, the impact will be very devastating on the ruling National Front. It could backfire in a very nasty way. In 1998 there was also the fear that the BN could lose and as proven in 1999 the then general elections that followed the BN suffers heavily although it didn’t lose power. This time around the BN has already lost several states to the opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim. So, as a result there is a lingering doubt whether the ruling coalition can last. The National Front could lose power.
Whatever the outcome of the latest allegations against Anwar, the country’s reputation will be affected says analyst Khoo Kay Peng :
I think it is the credibility of the country at stake, not only the country but also institutions within this country. We want to ensure that nobody is making use of any institutions or anything like that for their own political purpose. So if the allegation is true then I think it is really very serious for this country. Malaysia will loose its credibility if we allow such things to happen and it continues to happen. So, I think the cases must be brought up to the highest priority to ensure there is transparency, there is highest level of investigation given to ensure that public are well-informed because we do not want a precedent created where fabrication can be used to topple leaders or any personalities in this country.
Already confidence in the economy has been shaken. The stock market has fallen to a 15 month low. Analysts say the political uncertainty, inflation and the worldwide rise in oil and commodity prices make for a potent combination. Many will be watching closely the political struggle in Malaysia.
That ends Inside Malaysia this week. I’m Saifulbahri Ismail for Radio Singapore International.