Malaysian government persists with bogus charges against Anwar

By John Roberts, 28 July 2008

Political tensions remain high in Malaysia following the arrest and release of de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges of sodomy. The police, backed by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, are pressing ahead with the so-called investigation, while Anwar has launched a political counteroffensive with the declared aim of forming a new government in September.

Malaysian opposition leader arrested: an act of political desperation

By John Roberts, 17 July 2008

In what is a sign of political desperation on the part of the Malaysian government, police yesterday arrested leading opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim, subjected him to three hours of interrogation, and detained him overnight. The arrest over trumped-up charges of sodomy and its timing are aimed at politically undermining Anwar and the opposition right at the point when the government confronts potential splits in its own ranks and motions of no confidence in parliament.

Malaysian opposition leader threatened with spurious new charges

By John Roberts, 1 July 2008

In the midst of the country’s deepening political turmoil, Malaysian police suddenly announced on Saturday that they were investigating charges of sodomy against de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Saying that he feared an attempt on his life, Anwar, on the advice of his Peoples Justice Party (Keadilan), went straight from a party meeting in Kuala Lumpur to seek refuge in the Turkish Embassy.

Rising prices hit Malaysia

By Wan Ali, 17 June 2008

As in other Asian countries, price rises are hitting Malaysia, raising concerns in ruling circles over the potential for social discontent and protests. Inflation, particularly for food and fuel, was a major issue in national elections held in March that resulted in a sharp reversal for the ruling Barisan National (BN) coalition. The government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in 34 years.

Malaysia’s ruling coalition rattled after election debacle

By John Roberts, 13 May 2008

The new Malaysian parliament was sworn on April 28 after national elections on March 8, which delivered a major blow to the ruling Barisan National (BN) coalition. Unruly scenes during the country’s first ever televised parliamentary session highlight the sharp underlying political tensions that have surfaced as cracks have begun to appear in the regime that has ruled the country since independence in 1957.

In a highly political decision, Malaysian court frees Anwar Ibriham

By John Roberts, 15 September 2004

In an unexpected ruling on September 2, the Malaysian Federal Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, freed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim after overturning his conviction on a charge of sodomy. Anwar had already served six years after being convicted on a charge of abuse of power in April 1999. He was about to start serving the nine-year sentence for the sodomy charge, imposed in 2000.

Government routs opposition parties in Malaysian elections

By John Roberts, 29 March 2004

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi scored its largest-ever electoral win at the national polls in Malaysia on March 21. BN won 198 of the total of 219 parliamentary seats, up 50 from the 1999 election. Badawi’s own United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the major component of the BN coalition, increased its seats from 71 to 109.

Mahathir’s anti-Semitic comments: fallout from Washington’s “war on terrorism”

By Peter Symonds, 31 October 2003

Just a fortnight before he was due to retire, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad triggered an international furore over anti-Semitic remarks made to the triennial gathering of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). The episode was symptomatic not just of Mahathir’s racialist outlook but the rising anger in Muslim countries at the murderous actions of Washington and its close ally, Israel.

Malaysian government detains opponents without trial for another two years

By John Roberts, 3 October 2003

In a politically-motivated manoeuvre, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last week extended the detention of nine political activists for another two years. They have been held without trial or charge since August 2001 under the country’s notorious Internal Security Act (ISA) on suspicion of terrorism.

Scant media coverage as Malaysia keeps Anwar in jail

By John Roberts, 4 September 2003

On August 19, Malaysia’s Court of Appeal issued a 206-page judgment rejecting a legal appeal by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim against his conviction in 2000 on charges of sodomy. Anwar, who has just completed the mandatory portion of a six-year sentence for a corruption conviction, must now serve a further nine years on the sodomy charge.

Malaysia rounds up Acehnese refugees for deportation

By John Roberts, 26 August 2003

In a flagrant attack on democratic rights, Malaysian police last week set up road blocks around the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur and detained scores of people seeking to register as refugees. Many were from the war-torn province of Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra where the Indonesian military has been conducting a huge offensive against separatist guerrillas since May.

Signs of a growing antiwar movement in Malaysia

By John Roberts, 3 April 2003

After two weeks of hostilities in Iraq, antiwar protests in Malaysia are growing in size, creating concerns in ruling circles about the potential for political instability.

Workers deported from Malaysia continue to perish in border camps

By Noel Holt, 10 October 2002

More than one month since the Malaysian government suspended its campaign to deport tens of thousands of workers from neighbouring countries, at least 10,000 still languish in shocking conditions in Malaysian and Indonesian holding camps. This week, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad agreed to a Philippines government request to open up the Malaysian transit camps to inspection. He warned, however, that while the deportations had been temporarily halted, the arrest and detention of immigrant workers would continue.

Malaysian court rules: no evidence to justify political detentions

By John Roberts, 23 September 2002

A ruling in Malaysia’s highest court, the Federal Court, on September 6 has revealed the blatantly political character of the continued detention of four opposition figures on trumped-up allegations of “terrorism” and “subversion”. The four have been held without trial for over a year under the country’s notorious Internal Security Act (ISA).

A highly political decision:

Top court in Malaysia rejects Anwar’s appeal

By John Roberts, 24 July 2002

A three-judge panel of Malaysia’s highest judicial body, the Federal Court, has rejected an appeal by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim over his 1999 conviction on charges of abuse of power. In their ruling on July 10, the judges claimed that the errors pointed out in the appeal had not contributed to “a substantial miscarriage of justice”. They also refused to reduce the six-year jail sentence.

Malaysian prime minister’s sudden resignation points to political instability ahead

By John Roberts, 5 July 2002

On June 22, Malaysia’s 76-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dropped a political bombshell in the midst of the three day national conference of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). One hour into his closing speech, Mahathir suddenly announced that he was immediately resigning all his party and government positions, ending 21 years in office.

The Bush administration embraces Malaysian autocrat

By John Roberts, 28 May 2002

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to Washington on May 13-14, signalling an improvement in relations, clearly demonstrated the changed US priorities in South East Asia under the Bush administration, particularly since September 11.

Washington rolls out the welcome mat for Malaysia’s Mahathir

By John Roberts, 25 April 2002

The effusive praise heaped on Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week by a senior US official is a sign of the warm welcome he is likely to receive in Washington next month—a marked shift from the cool relations that existed under the Clinton administration. In order to pursue closer ties with Malaysia’s rightwing ruler, Bush has all but buried the previous official expressions of concern about Mahathir’s anti-democratic methods and barely disguised frame-up of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Malaysian government cracks down on immigrant workers

By Terry Cook, 4 February 2002

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government last month stepped up its campaign to expel tens of thousands of immigrant workers from Malaysia. On January 24, Assistant Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced what he termed a “temporary halt” on the recruitment of Indonesian workers by Malaysian businesses.

Malaysian government uses "terrorist" smear to bolster its political fortunes

By John Roberts, 1 February 2002

The Malaysian government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been cynically exploiting the US “global war on terrorism” to undermine its political opponents, particularly the Islamic-based Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), and to lift the flagging fortunes of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

Malaysia’s Mahathir in a delicate balancing act

By John Roberts, 1 October 2001

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reacted cautiously to the political situation following the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. On the one hand, he has been keen not to alienate the Bush administration. On the other, he has attempted to shore up his shaky political position at home, particularly against the Islamic-based Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), which has been making gains among the country’s predominantly Muslim Malays, who constitute 60 percent of the population.

Malaysian human rights report details methods of police repression

By John Roberts, 4 September 2001

Another crack has appeared in the political support in Malaysian ruling circles for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has held power for two decades and routinely used the police and the courts in the crudest fashion to deal with his opponents.

Islamic party in Malaysia targetted in latest government crackdown

By John Roberts, 18 August 2001

The Malaysian government has extended its crackdown on political opposition by arbitrarily arresting 10 more people under the country’s repressive Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial. The latest police roundup included at least six members of one of the main opposition parties—the Islamic-based Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), a coalition partner in the Alternative Front group.

Mahathir detains Malaysian student leaders

By John Roberts, 25 July 2001

Malaysian police have increased to 12 the number of people arrested under the country’s draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) since a crackdown on political oppositionists and government critics began on April 10. The ISA enables the government to detain anyone deemed to be a threat to national security indefinitely without trial, subject only to a review every two years.

Malaysian judge orders the release of two opposition detainees

By Peter Symonds, 11 June 2001

A Malaysian High Court decision on May 30 to free two opposition leaders held without trial under the country's Internal Security Act (ISA) is a further sign of the dissatisfaction in ruling circles with the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir reacts to growing criticism

Nine opposition leaders in Malaysia arrested in government crackdown

By John Roberts, 30 April 2001

Malaysian police last week detained another opposition leader under the country's draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), bringing to nine the number of oppositionists now being held. Lokman Noor Adam, a Keadilan (National Justice Party) youth leader, was arrested just after midnight on April 24 after attending a rally in Shan Alam city, just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

An uncertain future for Malaysia's prime minister

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 26 March 2001

The 20-year rule of Malaysia's 75-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is looking increasingly uncertain. Over the last few months, Mahathir has been criticised over the outbreak of racial violence on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and from within his own United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) for corporate bailouts. He has cracked down on opposition parties, as well as trying to woo them into talks. In the background, the country's economic position is deteriorating.

Malaysian government puts "Islamic" arms raiders on trial for treason

By John Roberts, 26 September 2000

The trial began in Kuala Lumpur on September 11 of 29 men accused of raiding two Malaysian army weapons stores on July 2 and murdering two hostages. Two of the accused are also charged with using weapons stolen in the raid to attack a brewery. The case is a highly sensitive one for the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the prosecution team is being led Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah.

Behind the US reaction to the Anwar conviction in Malaysia

By John Roberts, 5 September 2000

News of the conviction of Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has provoked sharp criticism internationally. Anwar was found guilty on August 8 on charges of sodomy along with his adopted brother Sukma Dermawan and sentenced to nine years in jail. The governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a number of European powers have issued official statements condemning the decision of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim found guilty in second frame-up trial

By John Roberts, 9 August 2000

Former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to nine years imprisonment by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. The predictable verdict was the product of a frame-up organised from the office of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, aimed at undermining political opposition to the coalition government led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Free speech—Singapore-style

By Carol Divjak, 20 June 2000

By August 2000 Singapore is to have a speakers' corner! Is this a chance for Singaporeans to experience free speech? It hardly seems likely, given that the city-state has been ruled for the last 40 years by a single party using police state methods to quash political opposition.

Two rulings from a servile Malaysian judiciary on the Anwar case

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 29 May 2000

Two legal decisions in the case of former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim last month demonstrate the blatantly political character of the country's judiciary, which acts as little more than a rubber stamp for the needs of the government headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

A stifled leadership challenge in Malaysia points to continuing rifts in UMNO

By John Roberts, 28 April 2000

Elections for the top party positions in Malaysia's ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) are due to take place on May 11. As in previous years, the results are a foregone conclusion. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his deputy Abdullah Badawi will win the posts of party president and deputy president, in all likelihood completely unopposed.

Extensive police crackdown against opposition rally in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds, 19 April 2000

The Malaysian government and police went to extraordinary lengths last weekend to prevent opposition groups from staging a protest march and rally in the capital Kuala Lumpur to mark “Black 14,” the anniversary of the conviction of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim on concocted charges of corruption.


Anwar's resumed trial produces further evidence of a political frame-up

By John Roberts, 14 February 2000

The trial of Anwar Ibrahim, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, resumed in Kuala Lumpur on January 25 after a two-month recess. Anwar, who is already serving six years on trumped-up charges of corruption, is being tried under Malaysia's anti-homosexual laws on charges of sodomy and faces a further 20 years in jail if convicted.

Five Malaysian opposition figures arrested in government crackdown

By Peter Symonds, 15 January 2000

In what may foreshadow broader political repression, the Malaysian government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has since Wednesday rounded up and charged five prominent opposition figures under the country's Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act. The arrests come just a month and a half after national elections, in which opposition parties were able to use widespread anti-government disaffection, particularly over last year's jailing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, to make significant electoral inroads.

A reader writes in on the Malaysian elections

11 December 1999

Chief Executive of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf in a message to Mahathir Mohamed on his re-election has stated that it "is a testimony to the deep confidence reposed by the Malaysian people in his leadership." (Dawn, National, December 3, 1999).

Malaysian election results a blow to the Mahathir government

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 7 December 1999

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) have greeted the results of the country's November 29 elections with the usual self-congratulations. The ruling Barisan Nasional in which UMNO is the predominant partner, retained its overall two thirds majority. As Mahathir was quick to point out, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), until recently the main parliamentary opposition, lost two of its long-time leaders—its secretary-general Lim Kit Siang and his deputy Karpal Singh.

Impressions of the Malaysian elections: little to do with democracy

By a correspondent, 29 November 1999

Malaysians go to the polls today to elect the national parliament and also parliaments for most of its individual states. The campaign has been remarkably short—a mere eight days, or a little over two weeks, if one includes the period since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a snap decision to cancel an overseas trip and dissolve parliament, paving the way for the early elections. By any standards, the election has little to do with any real democracy.

Mahathir concerned over losses in upcoming Malaysian election

By James Conachy, 25 November 1999

The campaign for the November 29 election in Malaysia was formally launched on Sunday. While it is likely that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will be re-elected, there are growing concerns within government circles at the extent of opposition to its rule.

Mahathir calls early election in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds, 11 November 1999

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday that he would dissolve parliament today and hold a snap election before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in the second week of December. The ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and its coalition parties have been in “election mode” since at least June in anticipation of the widely predicted poll.

Arrests follow pro-Anwar demonstration in Kuala Lumpur

By John Roberts, 2 October 1999

The Malaysian government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has reacted to a 10,000-strong political rally in support of jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim by arresting leading opposition figures.

A non-election for Singapore's new president

By John Roberts, 1 September 1999

The government of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong is due to install its preferred candidate, S.R. Nathan, as Singapore's second state president today. The process by which Nathan came to be “elected” provides an insight into the anti-democratic character of the Singapore regime and the nervousness of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) at allowing any channel for expressing opposition.

Malaysian government instigates a politically motivated 'anti-corruption' drive

By John Roberts, 20 August 1999

Malaysian economic regulatory authorities—the Securities Commission and the central bank, Bank Negara—have initiated an extensive crackdown in the corporate sector in the name of ending corrupt practices. However, questions have been raised by opposition figures and in financial circles about the selective, political nature of the measures that have targeted businessmen connected to opponents of the Malaysian government.

Long-running trial of Malaysian human rights activist

By Carol Divjak, 15 July 1999

The ongoing trial of Malaysian human rights activist Irene Fernandez is another crude attempt by the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to silence its critics. The “crime” of Fernandez and her organisation Tenaganita was to publish a report into conditions of migrant detainees in government camps. Rather than investigate the allegations of abuse and torture, the government responded by interrogating Fernandez and charging her with maliciously publishing false news.

Anwar put on trial again as Malaysian government prepares for elections

By Peter Symonds, 16 June 1999

A second trial of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim began last week in the capital of Kuala Lumpur as the Malaysia government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad prepares for a party congress and national elections. Anwar and his adopted brother, Sukma Dermawan, have been accused of sexual misconduct or committing sodomy on his family's former driver Azizan Abu Bakar—a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years jail and whipping for convicted persons under the age of 50.

Unknown pig virus kills 117 people in Malaysia

By Angela Pagano, 28 April 1999

In southern Malaysia, hundreds of pig farmers have lost their livelihood and livestock due to an unknown virus believed to be transmitted by pigs. Over the last six months, 117 people have died and 236 have been hospitalised. More than 11,000 people have fled or been forced out of the affected areas in the state of Perak, and the districts of Sikamat and Bukit Pelandok, in the state of Negeri Sembilan.

Stage set for deepening political crisis

Anwar Ibrahim jailed for six years in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds, 15 April 1999

In a highly political judgement brought down on Wednesday, Malaysian High Court Judge Augustine Paul found former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim guilty of four charges of corruption and sentenced him to six years jail on each charge. The sentences are to be served concurrently, but do not take into account the seven months that Anwar has already been in jail since he was arrested on September 20.

Malaysia's murky politics

Mahathir crows over Sabah election win

By Peter Symonds, 19 March 1999

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has hailed the results of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in last week's election in the state of Sabah as a "clear victory," saying he was "ecstatic". Mahathir, who visited the northern Borneo state four times during the campaign, has been under considerable political pressure following his sacking and expulsion of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim last September.

Anwar's wife to challenge Malaysian prime minister at next elections

By Peter Symonds, 6 March 1999

The wife of former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim announced last week that she will challenge Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the next general elections, due to be held before April 2000. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who established the Social Justice Movement (Adil) last December, intends to stand in Mahathir's own constituency of Kubang Pasu in northern Malaysia near the border with Thailand.

Unanswered questions over the police bashing of Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim

By Peter Symonds, 6 March 1999

The official public inquiry being conducted in Malaysia into the bashing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in police custody last September has finally revealed who carried out the attack, but at the same time has left the most essential questions unanswered.

Singapore opposition leader jailed

By Angela Pagano, 3 March 1999

Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan has been jailed for 12 days after a court found him guilty on February 24 of speaking in public without a permit and he refused to pay the S$2,500 fine. Chee has already served a seven-day sentence for refusing to pay a fine of $1,400 earlier this month for a similar offence. Under Singaporean law, a fine of more than $2,000 disqualifies anyone from participating in an election for five years.

Malaysian judge bars evidence of a political conspiracy in Anwar's trial

By Peter Symonds, 13 February 1999

If anyone had any doubts as to the political and biased character of the legal proceedings against former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim then the events of the week should have been enough to dispel them.

A highly political decision

Malaysian judge directs Anwar to answer charges

By John Roberts and Peter Symonds, 3 February 1999

The trial of Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has entered a new stage. The presiding judge Augustine Paul last Saturday rejected defence arguments calling for the dismissal of the charges and ruled that the prosecution had established a prima facie case. The trial is due to resume on February 8 when the opposition will begin to call its own witnesses, the first being Anwar himself.

A travesty of justice

Malaysian judge amends charges in Anwar's trial

By Peter Symonds, 16 January 1999

The latest twist in the trial of former Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim serves to underscore the contrived nature of the charges against him and the political nature of the case. In the middle of the trial, the presiding High Court judge Augustine Paul on Wednesday took the highly unusual step of permitting the prosecution lawyers to amend the four charges of corruption to make it far easier for them to prove their case.

A legal farce: Malaysian judge orders Anwar's lawyer jailed

By Peter Symonds, 2 December 1998

"A gale of creative destruction"

What Anwar Ibrahim means by "reformasi" in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds, 26 November 1998

Anti-Mahathir protests greet APEC leaders in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds and John Roberts, 18 November 1998

Malaysia: Anwar's trial backfires on Mahathir

By Peter Symonds, 10 November 1998

Riot police surround Anwar's trial in Malaysia

By John Roberts, 4 November 1998

Sharp clashes between police and demonstrators in Malaysia

By John Roberts, 28 October 1998

Deepening political crisis in Malaysia

Behind the sacking and arrest of Anwar Ibrahim

By Peter Symonds, 3 October 1998

Anwar's arrest intensifies Malaysia's political instability

By Peter Symonds, 22 September 1998

A political tinderbox in Malaysia

By Peter Symonds, 12 September 1998

Thousands of fleeing Indonesian workers detained

26 March 1998

The Malaysian and Singapore governments are intensifying their persecution of impoverished workers fleeing from Indonesia in search of work.