GOVERNMENT CONSPIRES TO QUELL GROWING OPPOSITION
On 10th February, the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was jailed for 5 years by the federal court which rejected his appeal against conviction for sodomy which is illegal in Malaysia. At the end of the judgment, Anwar protested from the dock, telling the judges that they had become “partners in crime in the murder of judicial independence”. There were around 2,000 people gathered in front of the court to protest the injustice against Anwar.
This conviction is widely regarded as a political plot by the BN (National Front) government under Najib Razak to weaken the growing opposition from the People’s Coalition (PR). Socialist Alternative condemns this unscrupulous action of the ruling government that has utilised the court, the media and other government machineries to undermine the freedom and democratic rights of the opposition as well as the ordinary people.
An independent Merdeka Center poll last October revealed that 48% of people had little or no confidence in the judiciary. With another mockery in the court system plus uncertainty in the economy and deteriorating social needs, public distrust towards the BN government could grow further. With the current developments, the PR would have been in a better position to unseat the BN in the next general election which must be held by 2018. But the verdict of the ‘kept’ court could put the three coalition parties of PR in disarray without Anwar who has been acting as the uniting figure. There have been increasing conflicts between the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Islamic Party (PAS), who are in the PR coalition with Anwar’s Justice Party (PKR). But with growing anger towards the BN, there will be an attempt for PR to unite under a new leadership to strengthen its position.
The governments of the USA and Australia have issued statements criticising the court ruling as ‘politically motivated’, but when Obama and Tony Abbott recently visited Najib (Obama even played golf with Najib in Hawaii last December), they did not pressure him for a fair trial for Anwar. This once again shows the hypocrisy and inconsistencies of capitalist governments towards democratic rights and injustices. But some international leaders merely against the Anwar verdict because they are from the same school of thought of free market capitalism. Anwar has been a firm supporter of the agenda of the World Bank and the IMF.
Victim of power struggle
Anwar, who was once the deputy prime minister of the country, was jailed before for six years on charges of corruption and sodomy brought by the Mahathir regime. This was during the Asian Financial crisis in 1998 when political conflicts exploded within UMNO, the dominant party in the BN, based mainly on the Malay population. Anwar led the ‘Reformasi’ movement, participated in by young people and layers of the middle class to protest against the autocratic rule of Mahathir. But he managed to strengthen his grip on power by avoiding serious economic and social crises by using ‘capital controls’ and other measures.
Anwar was released from prison in 2004, and subsequently played the role of uniting the different opposition parties under Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Coalition). In the 2008 general election, the PR was able to deny the ruling government the two thirds majority that it had maintained since 1970. In the 2013 election, Pakatan further increased its votes and won 52 percent popular support. But with the unfair electoral system it could not gain enough parliamentary seats to form a government at the federal level.