SMEARS THICKEN THE PLOT IN MALAYSIAN POLITICS
Friday, 04 July 2008
A national drama involving leading government figures, conspiracy claims, personal smears, sodomy allegations and a grisly murder appears to be driving Malaysia inexorably towards its biggest political upheaval since independence in 1957.
Act One of this unfolding epic was played out in March's general election when the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered heavy losses at the hands of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's PKR party and its allies. Although it held on to power, the government's parliamentary majority was slashed to 58 seats.
The results seriously wounded the prime minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, already criticised as a weak, uninspiring leader, and triggered a power struggle within his Umno.
With the party facing defeat for the first time since the British left, and with tens of millions of dollars in public contracts and patronage at stake, the plot has thickened in recent days.
First Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the ambitious deputy prime minister and Abdullah's presumed heir, was linked in sworn court testimony to the 2006 murder of a Mongolian female translator with whom, it was claimed, he once had a sexual relationship. The killing of Altantuya Shaariibuu was particularly gruesome, her body having been blown to bits with explosives in a jungle clearing.
Then last week a university dropout told police he had been sodomised by Anwar in a luxury apartment. The allegation was similar to claims made against the married father-of-six in 1998 after Anwar, as deputy prime minister, fell out with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister at the time. Anwar was beaten by police, tried, found guilty and jailed ─ only for the verdict to be overturned by the federal court after Mahathir retired.
Anwar has dismissed the allegation as a transparent, repeat attempt to smear him, part of a conspiracy that he said was hatched by Najib and high police officials to block his path to power.
"He [Najib] feared that I will use the Altantuya case against him to embarrass him and probably lead to his downfall," he said this week.
Najib firmly denies involvement in any conspiracy and also denies any connection with the murdered Mongolian.
Malaysia's raucous media has, meanwhile, been having a field day. Writing in The Star, commentator Suhaimi Aznam even suggested Anwar had invented the sodomy allegation to embarrass the government ─ and labelled him a drama queen.
Dr Mahathir also weighed in, saying he was "not surprised at all" by the new claim. And the complainant's fiancee, who says shoes are her real passion in life, has told the papers that she will stand by her man and bravely weather the storm.
Tian Chua, the PKR party information chief and a new MP, said the sodomy claim had backfired. "This allegation is not sticking. The latest poll shows 60% of people think it's nonsense, only 10% believe it's true," he said. "The government did it to get some breathing space, to deflect attention from the crumbling of their party."
Tian said Anwar had started legal proceedings against his accuser and against senior police officers involved in the previous case 10 years ago. The opposition leader would also begin a "national fightback tour" this weekend. "We are going on the offensive for the next 100 days," he said. The final act of the drama would come in September when he predicted the opposition would have enough parliamentary seats to defeat the government.
Not everyone agrees that denouement is certain or even likely. Anwar's political comeback has become one of the longest running shows in Southeast Asia. Abdullah has vowed to stay on. And Dr Mahathir reportedly suffered a mild heart attack yesterday. Amid the furore, cooler heads urge caution.
"I think we have to wait and reserve judgment until the police investigation [into the sodomy claim] is complete," said a leading political analyst in Kuala Lumpur. "All of this is beginning to resemble a circus. We are becoming a laughing stock."
POLITICIANS STICK TO BATTLE LINES OVER NAJIB'S ALLEGED ROLE
Friday, 04 July 2008
By Hazlin Hassan, The Straits Times
MALAYSIA'S politicians have stuck to their battle lines regarding the allegations by a private investigator linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to a murdered Mongolian woman.
Private eye Balasubramaniam Perumal claimed that the police had omitted certain facts when investigating the murder, including an alleged link between Ms Altantuya Shaariibuu and Datuk Seri Najib.
Opposition politicians say the police must investigate the claims, while Umno leaders rubbish them.
Meanwhile, commentators and postings on major political websites and blogs are calling on Datuk Seri Najib to disprove the allegations.
The allegations against Mr Najib were unveiled by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday at the headquarters of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). He trotted out a statutory declaration by the private investigator.
This led opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysian deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa to call for an independent commission to investigate the claims, to ensure the probe is unbiased.
Too many statutory declarations were being filed, he said, adding: 'One after the other, we start filing so many statutory declarations. It will start to have no value.'
Indeed, while the sworn statements have been explosive, they came as a disappointment to some who were hoping to see concrete proof of a conspiracy in the Altantuya case.
Prominent blogger Ahirudin Attan said: 'I was hoping for solid evidence that would bring a closure to the Altantuya murder case. Instead, I get another statutory declaration based on hearsay, a lot of hearsay.'
Blogger bigdogdotcom asked why the sworn statement was revealed 'on a PKR platform and at this point of time when de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is being accused of yet what seems to be another sodomy charge'.
Analysts said the accusations against Mr Najib could pose yet another headache for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's ruling party Umno, which is already reeling from its dismal performance at the March elections.
Ms Tricia Yeoh, director of the independent Centre for Public Policy Studies, said: 'Assuming the truth of the statutory declaration, it should be of great concern to every Malaysian that investigation procedures are handled poorly, with omission of important information, and that the police force has not seemed to act independently of political influence.'
But government leaders such as Umno Youth secretary-general Abdul Rahman Dahlan lambasted the allegations as 'ridiculous and preposterous'.
He said: 'A statutory declaration is challengeable in court anyway. It is not something that is factual.
'I believe Malaysians at the end of the day will have common sense. Everybody must remain calm.'