Sunday, September 20, 2015
My 2 cents on Malaysian Politics
Nearly a decade ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, (now the detained) Malaysian opposition leader. I was returning to the USA from one of my overseas trips, and was about to head for Philadelphia from the JFK in NY. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had then been released from prison on an absurd charge or so it seems, was also returning from an overseas trip. He was at the JFK heading out for Washington D.C. with his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar. For her age, then in the mid-20s, she was stunningly intelligent and an elegant lady.
I introduced myself and obtained Datuk Anwar's phone number. In the coming weeks Datuk Ibrahim would become busy with his teaching in D.C. and his activities on international affairs, including the UN. Soon thereafter he returned to Malaysia to contest in election and won an MP seat. He has again been put back to prison on an old charge. Apparently, the government does not want him free. Anwar has always denied the charges against him, calling the case a conspiracy by Najib's government to cripple the opposition and end his political career.
My attention was drawn to Nurul Izzah's call to the Obama administration yesterday to put pressure on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razaq to release her father and abandon authoritarian policies.
In an interview in Washington during a visit to lobby U.S. officials and politicians, Nurul Izzah Anwar said it was important that Najib was not able to use a visit to Malaysia in November by President Barack Obama to bolster his position.
Nurul Izzah also said there was no basis for a Malaysian police investigation against her over charges contained in reports in pro-government newspapers that she attempted to buy stolen data on state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is at the center of a scandal involving Najib.
She called the allegations an "attempt to vilify and to tarnish me and to deflect from the fact that $700 million went to Najib's pocket and $650 million went out and nobody knows where the money is."
She said she was sticking to her plan to leave Washington on Saturday to return to Malaysia, even though there was the risk of arrest.
"I think I have no choice - I mean, I will face it, fight back, as we have done before," she said.
A Wall Street Journal report in July claimed government investigators looking into 1MDB have found that nearly $700 million was transferred into the prime minister's personal bank account.
Prime Minister Najib has denied taking any money from the debt-laden state fund or any other entity for personal gain. The country's anti-corruption unit later said the funds moved to Najib's accounts were a donation from an unidentified Middle East donor, and did not come from 1MDB.
I don't know what or where the truth is in matters relating to the charges and counter-charges in Malaysian politics. In recent days, I have seen Dr. Mahathir Mohamad join the rally against Nazib Razaq. Dr Mohamad has been a very well respected statesman not just within Malaysia but also around the globe. Many see him as The man behind Malaysia's success story. He, however, developed a very caustic relation with Anwar Ibrahim whom he had groomed at one time as his successor within the UMNO. Now he is also critical of Nazib Razaq who had succeeded his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. And then here is the appeal from Nurul Izzah to see that her father be released from prison. I admire and respect Nurul Izzah's efforts to see her father released.
Obviously, politics is increasingly becoming dangerous. As my Turkish Sufi friend Shaykh Abu Fida would advise: avoid politics; either it will kill you or you will kill others. That seems to be the case in our time around the globe - from Bangladesh to Malaysia to Australia to the USA to Venezuela to Brazil to Russia to Pakistan to India, let alone all those Middle Easter countries. Ordinary people are now tasked with the difficult task of selecting between the politicians, which is increasingly become difficult to choose a good person from a bad one.
I can only pray and hope that truth will come out as the winner.