Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Anwar Ibrahim’

Iftar with Anwar Ibrahim

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 11th June, 2018

Anwar Ibrahim and Abdullah FaliqLast night at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel there was a particularly joyful Iftar dinner in honour of Malaysian politician Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison last month after a decade of incarceration, most of it in solitary confinement. As the charges against him were widely seen as fabricated, one might expect him to feel aggrieved against the man who wanted him out of the way, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but in a dignified speech before breaking the day’s Ramadan fast he said that one had to learn to forgive and forget. Only Dr Ibrahim’s wife and children were allowed to visit him in jail, but he was able to read voraciously, not only political and economic volumes but also religious texts (Islamic and others) and the complete works of William Shakespeare — the latter six times. Two themes were central to Anwar Ibrahim’s remarks last night: inclusivity and good governance. Malaysia has Islam as its official religion, though only slightly over 60 per cent of the total population are Muslims, and he argued that it is important that other groups including Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, as well as the animists of Sabah and Sarawak, should feel they are citizens with the right to play a full part in society. He slammed corruption — often euphemistically referred to as “commission” when the bribes involve high officials or politicians — and said that the challenge of the coming years must be how to make Malaysia and many other countries genuine democracies, where rulers are accountable and there is the rule of law. I asked him whether his vision for his country chimed with Dr Mahathir’s Vision2020, which is essentially about economic and social development, but he said his ideas would comfortably supplement that programme. After recent elections, Dr Mahathir, now aged 92, somewhat unexpectedly returned to power after a period out of office and made Anwar Ibrahim’s wife, Wan Azizah, Deputy Prime Minister (a role Anwar himself had had before his downfall). For me it was a privilege, as a member of the Executive of Liberal International, to work with Wan Azizah during Anwar’s imprisonment, as she campaigned for their common goals, with tenacity and dignity. Soon maybe Anwar Ibrahim himself will be back in government, as it is widely expected that he will succeed Dr Mahathir in the Prime Minister’s office.

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The Strange Case of Anwar Ibrahim

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th August, 2008

I left my meetings in the European Parliament this afternoon to do a live BBC World TV interview on today’s by-election in Malaysia, which sent the supposedly ‘disgraced’ opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim back into parliament with two-thirds of the vote, on a high turnout. This was not a surprise for anyone who has been following Malaysian politics closely recently, especially in the blogosphere, which has grown phenomenally, ironically partly because of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad’s policy of making Malaysia an ‘intelligent’ nation with a computer literate population.

Anwar Ibrahim had been Dr Mahathir’s chosen successor until a bitter falling out, which culminated in Anwar’s being sent to prison on charges of corruption (later overturned) and sodomy. The elections in March this year were deliberately timed to be just before his period of disqualification from elected office ended, but he got round that by having an arrangement with his wife, who had taken over his seat when he involuntarily left politics and which she recently resigned so he could fight a by-election. The campaign was extremely short, but vigorously fought.

The government coalition and its undercover supporters threw everything at Anwar, including more sodomy charges (seen by most Malaysians as being politically motivated, but which could result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years if proved) and accusations that he is both a Chinese agent and a friend of Israel (politically damaging in a Muslim-majority country). Most of these charges were pure calumny, and the Penang voters who elected him showed what they thought of them. But this certainly won’t be the end of the story, in what has the making of the most radical shake-up in Malaysian politics for half a century — the time that the current ruling coalition has been in power.

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Looking Backwards and Forwards in Brussels

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th June, 2008

On the Eurostar from London this morning I was called by the BBC World Service to see if I could do a live comment on Anwar Ibrahim’s fresh troubles in Malaysia, so my first port of call on arriving in Brussels was the International Press Centre where I used to work for Reuters. I still have a cheesy photo of myself (with a suitably 1970s hair-style) and the late King Baudouin of Belgium when he came to open our office there.

The broadcast done, I walked to the European Parliament to sit in on a Round Table on Freedom and Security in Integrated Management of the European Union’s Borders (the EU has always had a knack of devising catchy titles), at which London’s current LibDem MEP (Baroness) Sarah Ludford was speaking. I’ll be spending three days here, learning the ropes, in the hope that this time (i.e. June next year), I really will be elected.

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