The Anwar Ibrahim Sodomy II trial has been touted as Malaysia’s trial. It started yesterday.
That could not be further from the truth – Malaysia is a basket case, plain and simple. It has been that way for some time now. It’s a country slowly waiting for its demise.
For now, let’s focus on the Anwar trial. It is all about destroying the credibility of Malaysia’s most charismatic opposition leader (and possible future Prime Minister). Anwar is currently the only individual that can hold the opposition coalition together and mount a serious challenge to UMNO. The trial is about exhausting and demoralising the opposition leader and the coalition he leads through expensive and time consuming legal battles.
The Australian Financial Review published an excellent article that put into context the sodomy trial but also analysed Anwar Ibrahim’s strategy since the 8 March, 2008 General Election where the opposition claimed a historic win (in a system where denying the ruling party 2/3 majority in Parliament is a win). The article paints a fair picture of the only man now capable of transforming Malaysia.
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times did pieces which considered the implications of the trial for democracy in Malaysia. Without a doubt, Anwar Ibrahim has the support of the international media and rightly so. That the case was ever brought to trial demonstrates how far the country has regressed since Independence especially during the Mahathir era. The Lowy Institute has a nice piece that captures in summary the damage Mahathir did.
Australians have shown plenty of interest in Anwar’s new trial; although most other embassies have sent officers to observe the trial too. Michael Danby, Federal Member for Melbourne Ports and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, weighed in on the issue. His speech was supportive of Anwar and critical of the ruling party. However, the speech seemed a little incoherent. In the first paragraph, Mr. Danby accuses the Malaysian government of using democratic institutions for its own vested interests but concludes in the last paragraph, “…I hope that the Prime Minister, Najib and his ministers are not involved…”.
It appears that ASEAN regimes do not give up power easily – whether it is an illegal military junta in Burma, an illegal but elite, military backed government in Thailand, monarchies such as Brunei and Singapore (I’ll laugh if you tell me otherwise), banana cases in the rest of Southeast Asia with the exception of Indonesia – which is probably the only country that is heading in the right direction.
Notwithstanding Obama and Rudd’s praise – Malaysia is no different. Malaysia’s story is similar to the “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” The government has decided that Anwar must “die”. Will Malaysians stand-by and become willing participants to this “murder” or will Malaysians change the ending of this story. Only time will tell.
Update 05/02/2010: Barry Wain has provided his view on the Anwar Trial via this article in The Age.
Update 07/02/2010: The influential Washington Post ran an op-ed describing how important Anwar Ibrahim’s trial is to the “West”
Update 12/02/2010: ABC Interview with Barry Wain on the Anwar Ibrahim trial.