April 28, 2014
Goodbye, Mr.President and Thank You for coming to our Country. Thank You also for this reminder: “Malaysia won’t succeed if non-Muslims don’t have opportunity.”
US National Security Advisor Dr.Susan Rice tells Najib and Cohorts: Respect The Rule of Law
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (left) today met Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and expressed concern at a sodomy conviction against him that is widely seen as politically motivated.
Wrapping up a US visit to Malaysia led by President Barack Obama, Rice also called on the government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to ensure the rule of law in the country.
“Ambassador Rice emphasised to Mr Anwar that the United States has followed his case closely, and that the decision to prosecute him and the trial have raised a number of concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts,” a White House statement said after their meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
Anwar was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail on March 7 on charges he sodomised former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan. He is free pending an appeal.
Anwar says the charge is false and part of a long-running government campaign to smear his name with charges of sodomy, which is illegal in Malaysia.The opposition has heavily eroded the ruling coalition’s control of parliament in recent elections.
Rice also said during the meeting that it was “critical for Malaysia to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently, and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia’s democracy and judiciary”.
Obama left Malaysia today morning for the Philippines as part of an Asian tour that also took him to Japan and South Korea.
The President nudged Najib in a joint press briefing yesterday to ensure rights were protected, but also indicated the issue was unlikely to stand in the way of US plans to improve ties with Malaysia. Obama is keen to shore up US engagement with a region in which China’s increasing assertiveness is causing growing alarm.
Anwar released a statement after the Rice meeting, saying he told her that US-Malaysia ties should include not just trade and security and other traditional issues but also “human rights, good governance and democracy”.
The US administration raised eyebrows by leaving Anwar off Obama’s list of appointments. But the President said sending his senior foreign policy official to the meeting signalled the importance he attached to it.
Malaysia’s ruling regime has kept a tight grip on power for decades, often jailing or pressuring opponents with court charges.Critics say it has launched a clampdown on rights and free expression since Anwar’s opposition won the popular vote in elections last year for the first time.
Najib retained power due in part to an electoral system favouring his coalition. – AFP, April 28, 2014.
Ambiga: We told President Obama what Najib didn’t
by Hafiz Yatim@http://www.malaysiakini.com
Members of the civil society presented Malaysia in its rawest form to US President Barack Obama during their nearly hour-long meeting with him yesterday.
Human rights group Hakam Associate President Ambiga Sreenevasen, who was among those present, shared with Malaysiakini what was discussed during the historic session with President Barack Obama.
“Some of the issues (raised) were the divisive politics, religious and racial extremism, discrimination, authoritarianism of the government by way of repressive legislation, free and fair elections and the rule of law…,” Ambiga said.
Also highlighted were the charges against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and the persecution of the opposition by way of sedition charges and charges under the Peaceful Assembly Act.
Obama, she said, was also briefed on how Malaysian authorities stifled the media.
“We made it clear (to the President) that Malaysia was neither a moderate Muslim nation nor was it a democracy in the true sense of the word,” the former Bar Council President added.
Ambiga’s views were similarly shared by Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, who said Malaysia was neither a democratic nor a moderate country, and that old laws were used against the opposition, as highlighted by Bar Council president Christopher Leong, who were among those who met with Obama.
Earlier today, PKR Vice-President N Surendran also pointed out that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had mislead the public by saying that the Sodomy II case against Anwar was private action when it was the Attorney-General who initiated the charge.
Obama meets, Najib did not
Ambiga said Obama had put the civil society leaders at ease and that the meeting very informal, throughout.“Obama was concerned about what we raised and agreed with us on the importance of upholding the rule of law and human rights. Interestingly, he had apparently earlier said, at the town hall meeting (at Universiti Malaya) that Malaysia cannot prosper as a nation if there was discrimination against the non-Muslims.
“This is a significant statement by President Obama and needed to be said. Sadly, we decry such discrimination in other countries but do not fully appreciate the effects of such conduct on the future of our nation.”
As what had been reiterated by Maria (left), Christian Federation of Malaysia General Secretary Rev. Dr Hermen Shastri and Leong, Ambiga said the US President indicated he would raise these concerns with the Malaysian government when he could. Obama, Ambiga said, asked the NGOs to continue with their engagement on human rights issues.
She pointed out that lawyer Honey Tan, one of the proponents of the Universal Periodic Review and one of the participants, made an interesting observation, that while the Prime Minister Najib has not met with these members of civil society groups despite requests made, the US President has.
“Hence, we are very appreciative of the time the US President spent with us. More importantly, I believe that this meeting sends out a powerful message that civil society plays a significant role in the advancement of democracy the world over,” Ambiga, a recipient of the US International Women of Courage Award in 2009, said.
In reference to Obama’s statement at the state dinner that Malaysia should have, in the next generation, a better nation than the one given to us, Ambiga said in Malaysia’s case, the next generation was not being handed over a better Malaysia.
‘A divided nation for the next generation’
“We are handing them a nation divided by religion and race. Ultimately we recognise this is our battle to fight. For us it was important the President knew about Malaysia as it is, and put the human rights on the agenda of cooperation with the Malaysian government.”
Ambiga said while Najib had stated the Peaceful Assembly Act for shoring his reform image, he failed to admit that this law prohibits street protests and that opposition members are facing charges on the matter.
While Najib also declared that the government had nothing to do with Anwar’s sodomy trial, he failed to admit that it was the government that appealed against the High Court’s acquittal of Anwar.
She also described Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s immediate response to Obama by saying that Malaysia does not discriminate as not encouraging and Ambiga wondered whether there would be a change in the Malaysian government’s attitude towards human rights and civil society.