May 15, 2009
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman is busy attacking Anwar Ibrahim at the State Department in front of Hillary Clinton and a bunch of journalists? Why? Why does a country’s foreign minister feel the need to take personal attacks against an opposition leader in a press conference on US – Malaysia relations?
Watch the video here. The question from the Reuters journalist comes in around the 15:00 minute mark where the journalist asks: (sorry, it loads quite slowly in Malaysia where we still have internet access speeds from 1998)
Opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim faces charges again, and I believe a trial later this summer, on charges that the State Department itself in the annual human rights report said are politically motivated. Did you raise his case specifically in your meeting today?
Secretary Clinton’s response was pretty clear. We think the case stinks to high heaven as the State Department said last summer and Malaysia better not pull another 1998. She said:
Well, with respect to the latter question, we raised rule of law issues and the larger questions concerning the institutional reforms that Malaysia has been pursuing. We’re on record as to our opinion as to that particular case, and I think that speaks for itself.
Anifah should have said that Malaysia’s legal system is credible and due process would be followed in the administration of justice. And left it at that. Instead he opened his mouth and inserted his foot as far as it could go by attacking Anwar Ibrahim. He said:
I’d like to address the comment on Anwar Ibrahim. You know, we have utmost faith in our judicial system. And recently, as late as a few days ago, the court has declared that the chief minister of a particular state which comes from the opposition as election of a chief minister which is a rulings against the government.
Let’s be honest here – the High Court ruling comes after three months of manipulation of court rulings and the use of the entire government and media apparatus to orchestrate an illegal takeover of the Perak State government. The application for a stay to the High Court’s ruling was granted in less than 24 hours while the similar application by Nizar has been postponed and delayed. He continues his attack:
And insofar as Anwar Ibrahim is concerned, (inaudible) he – we know him very, very well. And he has – more or less, what he has said, especially overseas, most of the things are untrue; for example, like the involvement of our honorable prime minister and the murder of a Mongolian citizen. And he has repeatedly said before the elections that he will provide evidence and yet, until today, he has not given anything.
First of all, if I was the Prime Minister I would sack Anifah immediately upon landing in Kuala Lumpur. Where in the question by the journalist did anyone mention a Mongolian woman? In fact most people in the press corp probably didn’t even know that there were allegations linking the PM to the mongolian woman. But after the Foreign Minister’s defensive, bumbling rant against Anwar Ibrahim, I am sure everyone is now googling Najib and Mongolia. That’s diplomacy, Malaysia style.
As for evidence, enough questions are raised to pursue the topic. Articles have been published in the international press all over the world. The conduct of the trial of the accused murderers was comical at best. Yet there are no denials by the people allegedly involved. The caution statement was leaked showing clearly that someone instructed the two officers to kidnap and murder the Mongolian woman and they were promised a payment for services. Who was that person? Why is that person not being questioned? I could go on and on. Then he digs a deeper hole for himself:
And also just for the information of the audience here that, you know, he also said that he will form a government on 16 September and he has changed the dates many time. And he was trying to entice the members of parliament. And I was personally offered to jump into the oppositions and offered a very lucrative position, and also to be told it’s like a deputy prime minister. And these are not known to the world at large.
Oh, it’s interesting that you make such allegations and accusations now, more than 7 months after September 16th. Could it be, Mr. Foreign Minister, that now that you’ve been made Foreign Minister and get to fly all over the world that you no longer covet the position of Deputy Prime Minister, if in fact as you allege you were offered such a position (a claim that few in Malaysia would be capable of believing especially given your substandard performance in this press conference as a diplomat representing the Country abroad)? And why oh why are you crying to Hillary Clinton about your internal political fumbles. She’s already been briefed by her staff that Malaysia is currently a political basketcase. She knows about Altantuya, about Anwar about Perak, about human trafficking, about corrupt military procurements, an unprofessional police force and a judiciary lacking integrity. So why air more dirty laundry to her? To represent the nation or because you’re too scared of Anwar Ibrahim you think that complaining in Washington DC will somehow bring the State Department to your aid. Then Anifah goes into the world of fantasy:
And he has started, you know, trying to buy into other, you know, legislative members. And I think what he is doing – he has not accepted the result of what – the last elections. And we have lost five states and we willingly and accept the people’s verdict. And all the time we leave it to the people to decide, and which, on the other hand has not been able to accept.
Does Najib Razak’s orchestrating the takeover of the Perak state government count as “willingly accept the people’s verdict”? Does refusing to allow for a dissolution of the Perak state assembly count as “willingly accept the people’s verdict”? Does dragging the Speaker Sivakumar out of the assembly hall by his collar count as “willingly accept the people’s verdict” [see video here]. This next comment must be a joke:
And it’s also my concern and that of our government that it is what he has been doing overseas to tarnish the image of Malaysia, which impinge trade and indirectly and directly, you know, bring hardship to the people of Malaysia, which he said he’s very, very concerned about.
I think the Malaysian government does a very good job tarnishing its own image abroad without the help of Anwar Ibrahim. Show me one positive article about Malaysia in the international media in the last 2 years that wasn’t paid for by the government of Malaysia. Does Anwar own the WSJ, Economist, BBC, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald (I think the author was the victim of a tear gassing in Malaysia), Al Jazeera, Times of London, Le Monde, Liberation, New Yorker? I think when you shoot tear gas and water cannon at innocent people, including journalists holding video cameras (see al jazeera here) then you’re not likely to get favorable press. What about the prolonged detention of people under the ISA without trial? (see al jazeera here) What about the blatant corrupt practices in the procurement of military goods? What about the fumbling conduct of Malaysian ambassadors and diplomats particularly those involved with paying Jack Abramoff millions of dollars of money funneled from Malaysian companies to schedule a 10 minute meeting between Mahathir and George Bush.
And therefore, it is our wish and hope that he will respect the democratic system in Malaysia, which is very open and which, I think, we have conformed to the wish of the people. And we have repeatedly told him that if he believes that he is the rightful prime minister, or his party has been sidetracked, then it is – wait for the next election. And he has continuously gave wrong impressions and accused all the government officials of being corrupted, which is part and parcel of the system (inaudible). And the people have rejected him in Malaysia, and is a proof that he has not been able to accept.
I think Clinton opened her comments questioning the democratic institutions in Malaysia. There are other comments Anifah made which people should hold him to task on. He said he would immediately called the ASEAN Secretary General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, for a meeting to discuss what ASEAN can do to help Suu Kyi as she faces another three years of detention. Can we get some confirmation on that?
One hopes our Ambassador to the US (Jamaluddin Jarjis?) won’t be as uncharismatic and parochial as our Foreign Minister so that we can actually improve relations with our most important trading partner, and not burn more bridges. If it’s Jamaluddin Jarjis I daresay we’re in for more comic relief.