From 2008 to present day, Anwar Ibrahim has lead Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance), the opposition against the party that has been ruling since Malaysia’s independence in 1957. Parliament election results in 2013 were too close for the comfort of the reigning party. Though they won, that was likely the tipping point for the recent court overturning the acquittal of an old case. It is thought that the government’s way of protecting themselves is now jailing Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy in an attempt at defamation and likely keeping him from important upcoming elections.
The Barison National coalition, out of 222, won only 133 seats. 89 were lost and though they did remain the reigning party it has never been such a close vote before, giving them good cause for concern. However, it was previously reported that there were negotiations for a National Reconciliation Plan that aimed to calm a lot of tensions. Political, racial, and religious relationships have been strenuous and the plan was thought to be moving forward successfully since mid-2013. But without Ibrahim moving things forward doubts have been cast. A Pakatan Rakyat leader predicted, “Should Anwar be convicted, any reconciliation plan will be thrown out of the window.”
Supporters of the opposition gathered by the thousands to protest, insisting that the poll results were illegitimate. Ibrahim himself blames fraudulent actions by the current government for his loss of the election. Human Rights Watch also stated that Barison National coalition were set on knocking Ibrahim out of the way “by hook or by crook.”
Technically, homosexual acts are still illegal in Malaysia. Sodomy specifically is punishable by 20 years maximum but prosecution is rare. Anwar Ibrahim has always been adamant that these charges were brought against him as propaganda to hurt his political career by defamation, spreading lies to harm reputation. It does appear to be a likely conclusion, and many agree. These charges did not start until 1998. Before then Ibrahim had been working with the Barison National coalition as Deputy Prime Minister.
Following a falling out with the leaders he was fired. Then charged with sodomy and corruption. The sodomy charge was unsuccessful, but he did face six years in prison for abuse of power. Then another nine years in 2000 when found guilty for sodomy. Then again in 2008 Ibrahim was accused of sex with a male staff member. It was ruled in 2012 the DNA evidence had been contaminated and charges cleared. This is the acquittal the government has appealed against his name being cleared.
The charges in 2000 only held for four years before Malaysian Supreme Court decided to over turn the ruling. Upon being freed, Ibrahim promptly took a leadership position for the opposing side of the ruling government. He proved to be an emerging threat in 2008 elections and a real concern again in 2013 elections.
The courts decision of a guilty verdict on Friday will automatically disqualify Anwar Ibrahim from Kajong by-elections this month. However, he has also put his hat in the ring for Selanger, where he could be voted in to the state’s chief minister position. It would be a powerful post and one he is expected to win, “…and that’s why they are rushing,” he explained. Negative treatment of Ibrahim has caused street protests and rallies at least twice before and he warns that the current Prime Minister and his party will face “the wrath of the people.”
Anwar Ibrahim’s newly ruled jail time for sodomy in what is likely an attempt at defamation, has also bothered Phil Robertson the deputy Asia head at Human Rights Watch. “It’s a truly dark day for the Malaysia judiciary,” Robertson said. “[It] has shown itself incapable of standing up straight when national political issues are in play in cases before them.”
By: Whitney Hudson