|KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17: Even as Umno-BN Youth leaders
and ultra-Malay group Perkasa|
demonstrated against a protest letter signed by 50 Australian MPs, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry has added to the chorus of calls for a fair trial for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“I call on the government of Malaysia, and specifically on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, to ensure a fair and equitable resolution of the legal proceedings currently under way against former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim,” Kerry said in an official statement carried on his blog.
“It has been over a decade since Anwar's first trial, on charges that were later overturned by the Federal Court. The current charges closely mirror the ones levied years ago, and have been brought soon after Mr. Anwar's resumption of his role as elected Member of Parliament and leader of the parliamentary opposition.
“I urge the Malaysian government to accord Mr. Anwar every legal protection to which he is entitled as a Member of Parliament and as a citizen - and to settle his case in a manner that builds confidence in the impartiality and credibility of the Malaysian judicial system.”
Tougher measures may be needed
But while the solidarity that global civil rights groups and the international community have shown to Anwar has been inspiring, it may not be enough to sway Najib, who is fighting for his political survival.
Tougher measures may be needed as Malaysia veers to the path taken by the Myanmar military junta against democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyii..
Putting arch rival Anwar in jail would give Najib the breathing space he badly needs before he can turn against more sinister enemies from within his fragmented Umno party. Already, odds are being wagered on how long more he can last in his party and the country’s top job.
“Najib is taking the country down with him. And the hot-headed reactions of the Umno-BN Youth and the silly statements made by Perkasa is really damaging for our international reputation,” Tian Chua, PKR strategic director, told Harakahdaily.
He was referring to Wednesday's rowdy demonstration staged by some 200 Umno-BN Youth members and Umno-backed Malay rights group Perkasa. They had protested noisily outside the Australian High Commission in downtown Kuala Lumpur, carrying placards that read "Butt Out" and "Don't Meddle In our Affairs".
Perkasa accuses Danby of homosexuality
Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin also handed a memorandum to Australian High Commissioner Penny Williams, demanding an apology and accusing Canberra of interfering with Malaysia's sovereignty.
Ibrahim Ali, the Perkasa chief, went so far as to accuse Michael Danby – the MP for Melbourne Ports – of being a homosexual.
“Birds of a feather flock together. I heard that Danby is a homosexual,” Ibrahim was quoted as having said.
Yet, Danby had spearheaded the Australian protest in his capacity as head of the parliamentary sub-committee on foreign affairs. There is also a large Malaysian student and worker population in Australia.
Danby had married his longtime partner, barrister Amanda Mendes da Costa, in February 2008 at the Parliament House in Canberra, the first Jewish wedding to be held in the building. He has two children from his first marriage.
In the name of decency, drop the charges
50 of Australia’s lawmakers – both front and back benchers – had signed a protest letter, urging Najib to drop the sodomy charges against Anwar.
“We members of the Australian parliament believe Malaysia is an important country, an emerging power in our region, and a friend of Australia. However the trial of Anwar Ibrahim raises serious concerns for us,” the MPs wrote in the letter delivered to the Malaysian High Commission in Perth last week.
“While Australia and many other countries no longer have laws against sodomy we respect the right of Malaysia to determine what should be its laws relating to personal morality.
“Of more serious concern however is the fact that this trial is taking place at all, particularly given the testimony of Munawar A. Anees in the Wall Street Journal. We understand that the US State Department has urged Malaysian authorities to resolve this matter in a manner that builds confidence in the impartial rule of law in Malaysia, and we agree with this sentiment.
“Many friendly observers of Malaysia find it difficult to believe that a leading opposition voice could be charged with sodomy a second time, and so soon after his party made major gains in national elections. It should be made known to the Malaysian Government, that in our opinion, global esteem for Malaysia will be affected by these charges against Mr Anwar. We hope that Malaysia’s authorities will not pursue these charges.”