Anwar Ibrahim Accuses Local Ethnic Minority Leaders Of Kowtowing To Umno
Opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim has accused Malaysia's ethnic Chinese and Indian leaders of being toadies of the ruling Malay party, and urged voters to support his wife's reformist party in a closely-watched by-election.***** Keep in mind that it is Anwar who is revealing so much of the inner relationships as well as the misdeeds of the Barisan. Having been at the centre of Malaysian politics for so long, if there is one person who knows the goings on in Umno and the BN as much as Dr Mahathir and other top leaders present and past, then it must be the former DPM. Would the present pemimpin2 in the MCA and the MIC dare to refute Anwar's accusations? I wonder!
In a series of speeches late Tuesday, Anwar also railed against government corruption and renewed a call for scrapping the decades-old affirmative action program for the majority Malays.
"The ministers ... they steal from the poor. The ministers and their children are all rich but the villagers remain poor," he told a crowd of 400, mostly Chinese residents, in Ijok town where his wife's People's Justice Party candidate is pitted against the ruling National Front in Saturday's by-election.
The election would provide an indication not only of Anwar's popularity but also the support for National Front and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ahead of general elections likely to be held late this year or early 2008.
The National Front coalition is dominated by the United Malays National Organization, which represents the Malays, while the other two major components in the coalition represent Malaysia's Chinese and Indian minorities.
But the minorities have often complained that the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress do not stand up for their religious and social rights.
Anwar said MCA and MIC leaders cannot fight for minority rights because they kowtow to UMNO.
"Whatever UMNO says, the MCA will do," he said. "I know. I have been in the government before," said the former deputy prime minister, adding that the MIC's leaders were the same. The National Front candidate in the Ijok by-election is from the MIC party.
"We must change the government, change the policies, so that we can have a better country and justice for all," he said to loud cheers from the crowd.
Malaysia's ethnic minorities feel that they are discriminated against by the affirmative action program, known as the New Economic Policy, which gives privileges to Malays in jobs, education and business.
"The Chinese feel they are second-class and Indians are even worse off. We must reject the NEP, change the policy," said Anwar, a Malay and former UMNO member who was seen in the 1990s as the future prime minister under former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's leadership.
But the two fell out in a power struggle, and Anwar was fired in 1998 by Mahathir who accused him of corruption and homosexuality. Anwar said the charges were fabricated. He was tried and sentenced to 15 years in jail for corruption and sodomy. The sodomy conviction was overturned by Malaysia's top court and he was freed in 2004.
After being fired, Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, set up the People's Justice Party, and she holds the party's sole Parliamentary seat. Anwar does not hold any official post in it because the corruption conviction bars him from holding any political office until March 2008.
That has not prevented him from campaigning for the Ijok by-election. Although Anwar's charisma has drawn crowds in Ijok, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Kuala Lumpur, it is far from certain his candidate will win on Saturday.
"It will be tough," said a 60-year-old coffee shop owner who wanted to be known only as Tiew, fearing reprisals by the authorities. "People can be easily swayed because the government has invested a lot of money here for the election. Look, the roads have just been tarred and we got new street lights," she said.
State officials have announced that 36 million ringgit (US$10 million; €7.4 million) will be spent to improve roads and public infrastructure in Ijok, a sleepy district comprising mostly palm oil and rubber plantations.
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Interesting read: Zainuddin Maidin Questions Motives Of Foreign Media