Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Malaysians seem unwilling today to accept anything less than real democracy....”DEMOKRASI TERPIMPIN” IS LONG DEAD!!
For the second time in roughly a decade, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is facing trumped-up charges. But this time around, his supporters are unlikely to yield until they see real democracy.
Much has changed in Southeast Asia over the past decade. But travel to downtown Kuala Lumpur today, and walk along the Moorish-influenced public greens, and suddenly the Malaysian capital seems trapped in the 1990s.
At that time, the Asian financial crisis was battering the country’s economy, and urbanites hit by the downturn and frustrated by the country’s tightly controlled political system, had taken to the streets, where they were met by riot control troops, who battered them on a daily basis until the government’s long-ruling coalition put Anwar Ibrahim, the country’s popular opposition leader, on trial. The charge: Sodomy, a serious crime in a predominantly Muslim nation.
Though the trial was a farce—accusers later recanted their statements, and Anwar appeared in court with what the government called a “self-inflicted” black eye—he was convicted, and ultimately served six years in prison.
Today, the same story seems to be unfolding across the city. Anwar is again on trial for sodomy, in a sketchy case full of holes, which the government seems to have initiated to end his career and weaken the opposition. As a result, tens of thousands of middle-class Malaysians have been rallying, both to demand his freedom and for greater political openness, and once again, the government has responded with beatings, tear gas, and water cannon.
Yet unlike a decade ago, the demonstrators aren't likely to give up so easily. Though Anwar could once again be sent to jail, Malaysian politics have been changed irrevocably—both by him and by the current prime minister—and Malaysians seem unwilling today to accept anything less than real democracy.
Roughly 10 years ago, the trial of Anwar, a former government insider, drew sizable protests. But these demonstrations had little lasting impact. Anwar had only recently broken from the government, and the nascent opposition had few other leaders and little to no ability to organize in an effective fashion. The government had complete control of the print and broadcast media and easily rigged elections, making it difficult for activists to organize once the riot troops attacked. And while the Asian financial crisis had dealt a significant blow to Malaysia’s economy, the country was still doing better than others in the region, leading to some political complacency among the middle class.
Over the past decade, the country and the region have changed dramatically, even if Anwar’s plight has not. China and even Indonesia and Thailand have witnessed tremendous economic growth while Malaysia, whose weak education system and brutal politics have driven entrepreneurs out of the country, has seen its economy sputter. Educated Malaysians are fleeing the country, as is their purchasing power. And the spread of blogs and social media in a highly wired country has allowed activists to bypass the government-controlled media and combat election rigging, while a decade of largely grassroots organization has strengthened and diversified the opposition.
These days, a broad alliance of secular liberals and Chinese minorities who are inveighing against the state’s affirmative action policies for ethnic Malays, have aligned with an Islamist party that wants Sharia law to have greater influence in a mostly secular country. More united, these seemingly oppositional forces have managed to win four Malaysian state government elections, and in 2008, came close to gaining a majority in parliament.
Though Anwar could once again be sent to jail, Malaysian politics has been changed irrevocably—by both him and the current prime minister.
During that election, an aide to Anwar named Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan suddenly came forward with new sodomy allegations against his boss. The fact that the accuser had waited 48 hours to make his accusation, ruining any potential semen samples—and that he met with senior government officials before making his claim—made the charges, which Anwar has denied, seem highly dubious.
As the trial proceeds this month, Malaysia’s judiciary seems unsure how to handle it. In the past, as in Anwar’s first trial, judges simply did whatever the government wanted; they fashioned their rulings to fit the punishment that the regime desired. But with public criticism mounting, and the opposition seemingly gaining momentum daily, the possibility that some of these judges could one day face punishment for unjust rulings has left them unsure of how to handle the case, and created an opening for a fair trial. Already, the judge has rejected some of the prosecution’s evidence, a small victory that Anwar rarely witnessed during his previous trial.
Whether or not Anwar is convicted, many senior government officials seem to now realize that Malaysia is bound to change, and that putting Anwar behind bars will not end calls for reform. Though hardliners in the ruling coalition, which have governed since the country’s independence in 1957, seem to be eagerly awaiting Anwar’s sentence, the country’s prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, has in recent months, begun to sound a lot like, well, Anwar himself.
In September, to the dismay of many Malaysians who had long viewed the prime minister as no different than his predecessors, Najib announced he was ending the decades-old Internal Security Act, which allowed the government to imprison anyone without charges. The prime minister has admitted that the country’s economy is faltering, and he’s tried to lure educated Malaysians back home. He’s even called for ending decades of affirmative action programs designed to benefit ethnic Malays—a risky move in a Malay-dominated country.
Najib has gone so far that, even if Anwar is acquitted, the ruling coalition might genuinely triumph in the 2013 parliamentary elections. Whatever the outcome of the trial and the election, the country should finally be able to move forward and Malaysians should finally be able to put the 1990s behind them.
written by uxzee, October 04, 2011 22:09:13
Najib welcomed and met Saiful in his house 2 days before the alleged sodomy and he denied meeting Saiful initially on national TV, only to force admit this 2 days later. Now Najib is telling the court, and he really wants us to believe, that his meeting with Saiful has got nothing to do with the Sodomy 2. ...
written by Dr. T, October 03, 2011 14:06:43
It is not easy to fool the public anymore. People today are better educated and better informed. The younger generation of today are nomore timid and/or easily intimidated. It would be wise for the present leadership to understand this. There could be violent uprisings if the present younger generation feels their future threatened by the present leadership. ..
written by Ex-bedoin, October 03, 2011 09:51:40
Sham trial or not, I saw this sweet-looking chap swore on the Holy Quran, with the palm of his left hand on the holy book. I happened, by chance one night, to watch Brunei International TV broadcasting the opening ceremony of the Parliamentary session. The sultan was preceded by someone holding a huge Al Quran over his head, and he had gloves on! How beautiful and how revealing that was to me. I say no more! ...
written by R.Prem Kumar, October 03, 2011 02:32:15
Najib far ahead in reforms agenda, so far that he might triumph? Joshua, Najib made one glaring error - in kicking Anwar to the courts, he gave him free publicity. At a fraction of the advertorial budget otherwise, which he is spending on defense cost. Any advertising company and any PR company can attest to it. ...
written by FreeMalay, October 02, 2011 14:57:38
How can the consensual sex of sodomy, with no evidence of the use of force, be punishable to one of the two parties involved only? Surely this is a travesty of justice in itself. Let alone all the laughable evidence so far presented by the prosecutor. Any court of justice worth its salt would have thrown the case out a long time ago, but not this farcical Malaysian court. ...
written by Makyong, October 02, 2011 12:38:58
maybe the Hudud should be implemented right now and those who have any part in putting Anwar away can be put on trial with the new laws.perhaps justice will then be seen ...
written by Hariharan, October 02, 2011 12:01:24
Some time back,the Indian High Court declare Consentual Sodomy goes against freedom of expression law.Is it true ?
written by arazak, October 02, 2011 11:07:34
Majority of Malaysian and the International community see this is a sham trial. Only the UMNO regime who trumped up the sodomy charges believe it is true.
They believe on their own lie. So pathetic! ...
written by educationist, October 02, 2011 09:33:12
Interesting read, but either Joshua does not hear the beat of the rakyat or he's one of the UMNOputra's bloggers!!
"..the ruling coalition might genuinely triumph in the 2013 parliamentary elections." - that the UMNOputras may triumphed is not uncertain but a genuine victory?
Please!! Don't take the rakyat to be fools- with such an uneven playing field & the EC all but in name a division of the UMNOputras!!
Anwar Sodomy 2 trial - yes, he got that right, it's a sham sodomy trial but the UMNOputras are dead set to get Anwar behind bars & I believe the Lingam scripted verdict is already with the judicial officer involved!!
Posted by HSBP Class of 72/73 Sixth Formers at 9:13 PM