Malaysia’s Anwar Says Won’t Be Muzzled
September 15, 2004
By Barani Krishnan
KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysian dissident
politician Anwar Ibrahim says he will not be silenced by a ban on holding
political office, after failing to have his criminal record erased by the
country’s highest court.
“I’ll continue with my agenda. It doesn’t make a
difference to me,” the ex-deputy premier told Reuters from his hospital bed
in Munich, Germany, where he was recovering from back surgery.
The Federal Court, which two weeks ago quashed a sodomy
conviction against Anwar and freed him from almost six years in jail, denied
on Wednesday to re-hear an appeal against his last remaining criminal
conviction, for corruption.
The corruption count, which landed Anwar in jail in 1999
and sparked violent street protests, prevents him under Malaysian law from
standing for party office or parliament until April 2008.
Anwar, who says he was framed after a fall-out with
former leader Mahathir Mohamad, maintained throughout his imprisonment that he
would fight for reforms when freed—a pledge he reiterated after his release
a fortnight ago.
“I think the law on the political ban is quite
clear,” he said in a phone interview.
“Under the law, you cannot hold political or public
office, but you can be very active politically. You can give speeches, hold
news conferences. You can even hop down to Singapore or Bangkok to give a
press conference, if there’s a problem.”
A pardon from Malaysia’s king, given on the advice of
government, is now the only way for him to beat the ban.
But Anwar said he wasn’t sure of pursuing that option.
“I think I will have to see the grounds and what the implications are before
I proceed on that.”
Before his jailing in 1999, Anwar was a lightning rod for
discontented Malays, the ethnic grouping that dominates domestic politics. He
also commanded a strong faction within the ruling party, the United Malays
National Organisation (UMNO).
UMNO’s leadership said on Tuesday it would not readmit
“To me, it’s no consequence because I’ve never
given any indication of joining them,” he said. “But I’ve received a lot
of calls from people in UMNO. Some even came to Munich to see me.”
Some of the high-profile visits and telephone calls came
from Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia; Chris Patten,
ex-governor of Hong Kong and Surin Pitsuwan, former foreign minister of
“We spoke about my participation in an international
role. Some have mooted the idea of a mediator for the Middle East cause,” he
said. “But I don’t think I want to come up with any decision in the next
few weeks. You need to assess the situation. The political landscape has
He said he was recovering well after the surgery and
walking slowly now. “I’m hoping to jog soon.”
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