Thursday, May 20, 2010

Anwar ups game in battle against Sodomy II

May 20, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has stepped up his fight for the hearts, minds and column inches in the international media against the Najib administration, in a battle to sway public opinion over his Sodomy II trial.

In a major turnaround, respected international news magazine The Economist commented last week the international community’s silence on the opposition leader’s second sodomy trial.

“Twelve years ago Malaysia was teetering on the brink of financial ruin, and nervous foreign investors looked to Mr Anwar as a safer pair of hands,” said the magazine in the issue dated May 13.

“This time Malaysia’s finances are in fairly good shape and it is the rich world that is fretting over deficits. It may find less to say about Sodomy II.”

In July last year Anwar (picture) was called a chameleon by the influential weekly.

The article that accused Anwar of sending different messages to different audiences was published just months after Datuk Seri Najib Razak took over the government and at a time when his administration was intensifying its efforts to win over the international community.

The editorial pages of international news magazines and newspapers have become a major battleground for Anwar and Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Anwar used to dominate coverage in international media due to years of cultivating friendship with some of the top editors and influential newsmakers in Washington, New York and London.

But Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak signalled his intention to challenge Anwar’s ‘darling’ status in the international media when the Wall Street Journal Asia published an article with his byline on the day he assumed office last year.

Najib also secured a meeting recently with President Barack Obama in what was seen as a move by his handlers to boost his international standing and credibility at home.

But The Washington Post, in an editorial yesterday, said it was shameful that Obama had not raised concerns about Anwar’s sodomy trial in his meeting with Najib last month.

“In short, Mr Anwar is a natural ally of the United States — which is why it is odd that the Obama administration has all but ignored his case,” it said.

“While the previous sodomy conviction was condemned by the senior Clinton administration officials, including Vice President Al Gore, the State Department has said nothing publicly about this trial,” said the newspaper.

“Nor did the White House mention it when President Obama met with Mr. Najib in Washington last month — an event hailed by Kuala Lumpur’s pro-government press as a U.S. endorsement,” it added.

Both The Washington Post and The Economist provided in mocking tone summaries of the testimony given by the prosecution’s star witness Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

“Two days before the alleged encounter, the man said, he met with Mr Najib; the next day he phoned the national police chief. Before filing his complaint, he consulted with a close friend of Mr Najib’s wife. When the accuser finally stepped forward, two days after the supposed sex, doctors could find no evidence of sodomy,” said The Washington Post.

The Economist was equally scathing.

“That an ordinary citizen should have been granted such access has stoked suspicions. On the very same day, Mr Saiful went to see a police officer who played a key role in “Sodomy I”. Later, according to Mr Saiful’s testimony, he spoke by phone with Malaysia’s senior cop. How did he get the number? asked Mr Singh. Overheard it from Mr Najib, came the rather feeble reply,” the magazine wrote in its summary of the latest testimony.

It is unclear how the Najib administration plans to respond to the latest barrage of attacks from some of the most influential international media organizations but he signalled today his uncertainty about the effectiveness of the all-out assault employed by local media against Anwar’s character at the launch of Utusan Malaysia’s new headquarters in Jalan Chan Sow Lin this morning.

“I understand that sensational news sells... especially with that ‘one person,’” Najib said this morning in a veiled reference to Utusan Malaysia’s constant attacks on Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar was first accused of sodomy soon after his sacking from the government in 1998. His conviction was however overturned by the Federal Court in 2004.

In June 2008, just two months after he was eligible to run for public office, the PKR de facto leader was accused of sodomising his 23 year old aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The Bush administration then had raised its concerns over the case but the US State Department has been silent since Obama took over in January last year.

On the domestic front, Anwar is also continuing his campaign to defend himself at public rallies nationwide.

He was in Penang yesterday and will speak in Kuala Selangor tonight before heading to Malacca tomorrow.

Source: Malaysian Insider

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