Last edited: November 06, 2004

Anwar Jailed After Confessions

PlanetOut, September 22, 1998

As the protests in his support grow more massive and more violent, and 2 men "confess" to engaging in sodomy with him, the deposed Malaysian deputy prime minister is arrested for jeopardizing national security.

What’s generally believed to be a gay-baiting campaign against recently ousted Malaysian deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was ratcheted up a notch this weekend, but it was the Internal Security Act which was used to finally arrest him on September 20, after demonstrations of unprecedented size against prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. It all occurred while the international press were in Kuala Lumpur for the first Commonwealth Games to be held in Asia, but Mahathir prevented transmission of photos of the protests and behaved as if the athletic event was the most significant news of the day.

On September 19, two of Anwar’s close male associates pleaded guilty to having been passive sex partners of Anwar and were each sentenced to six months in jail for gross indecency. Sodomy violations can bring much stiffer penalties, including lashing. One of the men, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, an Indonesian interior decorator who is Anwar’s adopted brother, faced a complaint by Anwar’s former private secretary Mohamed Azmin Ali of having engaged in sex with Anwar in April 1998 at his official residence, and said he had gone along with Anwar in gratitude for his help in obtaining Malaysian citizenship. In a separate Sessions Court hearing, the other man, Dr. Munawar Ahmad Aness, a Pakistani with resident status in Malaysia who is Anwar’s friend and speechwriter, faced a complaint by Chief Inspector Rajakopal of having engaged in sex with Anwar in March 1993 at Anwar’s home in Bukit Damansara, and said he had gone along with Anwar in fear of losing his job. The hearings included explicit details, which have appeared in local media reports. One British reporter described the trial as "an almost comically rushed and dodgy-looking affair," and Anwar himself marveled that the hearings and sentencing took place within a single day.

A married father of six who has long had a reputation as a clean-living devout Muslim, Anwar held a press conference where he proclaimed, "I say categorically that these are absolutely false charges, without an iota of truth to them. To avoid any doubt whatsoever, I once again clearly and specifically deny that I have been involved in these despicable activities." He claimed that the men had been denied access to legal counsel and to their families, and had been tortured while in custody for more than a week; he bore them no ill will. Although attorneys appeared in court with the men, they apparently were not retained by them or their families, and attorneys who showed up to represent them who apparently had been hired by their families where chased off before the judges heard the cases.

Although ever since he was deposed September 2 Anwar has been touring the country, speaking to enthusiastic crowds of thousands of supporters advocating Mahathir’s resignation and the end his government by cronyism, this was the first occasion on which he specifically named Mahathir as part of the "conspiracy" to smear him. That "conspiracy" began with the appearance of a book called "50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Be Prime Minister," which has since been withdrawn from distribution under court order and whose author is facing a lawsuit by Anwar. Police investigations into the allegations in that book led to official depositions accusing him not only of sodomy but of hundreds of instances of adultery and prostitution, accepting bribes, and even treason and possible connection with murder. Anwar’s firing from both his cabinet post as finance minister and deputy prime minister and from membership in Mahathir’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party quickly followed.

At this point Anwar and others were expecting that he would arraigned for the sex charges on September 21, when the Commonwealth Games would be ending. But on September 20, 30 - 50,000 people gathered in Merdeka Square near the National Mosque to hear what turned out to be Anwar’s last speech before his arrest. One Internet report purportedly from an eyewitness said that crowd swelled to 100,000 and ultimately to as many as 200,000, filling all four lanes of the highways for miles as they marched on to the Parliament. En route, several thousand trashed the headquarters of the UMNO, and at least 5,000 proceeded several kilometers further towards Mahathir’s official residence, chanting for his resignation. While the same purported eyewitness account had the army arriving in jeeps only to join with the marchers in their chanting, there is no question that police massed and took on the crowd with tear gas and water cannons -- while the visiting Queen of England was at Sunday services in a nearby church. One report described the situation as the "largest and most violent demonstrations seen in 30 years."

That night, about 100 police went to Anwar’s home and took him into custody. As it transpired, they were not charging him for the sex crimes, but for the actions of the crowds including vandalism, blocking traffic, and threatening national security. Under the Internal Security Act, it may be two weeks before he appears in a courtroom. Reportedly dozens of his young supporters have been arrested since. A heavy police presence has been maintained around the Games and particularly around the Queen, although Anwar had said his supporters had no desire to trouble her in any way.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note, as Australia dominated the Games in both wins and sheer numbers, celebrating Aussie male press photographers were reportedly seen dancing with their South African counterparts "for lack of female company."

[Home] [World] [Malaysia]