Search

Search form

Inside Cover: 28 Jun 2010

Inside Cover: 28 Jun 2010

BANGKOK – Like Jarndyce versus Jarndyce in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim seems to drag on forever.

It has become both a sick joke and a byword for interminable legal proceedings – seasoned with a typically Malaysian and profoundly unsavoury political dimension.

Anwar, a 63-year-old former deputy prime minister, is accused of having sex with a 25-year-old male aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, two years ago.

This month, his lawyer, Karpal Singh, was again stonewalled by the prosecution, namely the government, which has refused to furnish medical reports that allegedly prove Saiful was sodomised.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak initially denied knowing Saiful. Then, when Saiful admitted meeting the PM before pressing charges, Najib suddenly remembered that he had indeed met Saiful.

Said Karpal: “They are all out to put Anwar in jail again. There is no doubt in my mind.”

A decade ago, after being given a black eye by the police chief and enduring a sordid show trial during which a stained mattress was left in the courtroom, Anwar was convicted of sodomy and corruption.

He spent six years in jail before that first sodomy conviction was dismissed on appeal and he was released.

Anwar, who is married with six children, claimed those first charges were trumped up by former premier Mahathir Mohamad to avert a leadership challenge.

He now says the second charges were fabricated to thwart his opposition alliance, which won five of Malaysia’s 13 states in the last election and denied the government a two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time ever.

I frequently interviewed Anwar, as well as Najib and Mahathir, and for that matter Karpal, during my five years in Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s.

The brilliant, quicksilver Anwar was always the one who stood out, although not always for the best of reasons.

The fact is, there has always been something, and I use the word advisedly, queer about Anwar. It always seemed that what you saw was never quite what you got.

Yes, he was accessible, amiable and open – up to a point.

Asked if he were gay, he would smile and answer in that soft purr:

“Roger, come on, please....” And you would think: My God, he could be!

Then you would think: So what? There have been known gay ministers in Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere in the region, including Muslims, and they were never beaten up in custody and hounded out of office.

It is time Malaysia grew up and adopted the adage of the late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who said: “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Even the staid US congress has recently agreed to abolish the silly “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule about homosexuals in the military. If macho soldiers can fight beside openly gay colleagues, it’s hard to figure why supposedly intelligent politicians cannot do the same.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all