Fuel Price Hike 'Unconscionable', Says Anwar Ibrahim
In a move to end decades of heavy subsidies that have kept Malaysian fuel prices among Southeast Asia's lowest, the Malaysian government Thursday jacked up the pump price of gasoline by 41 percent to 2.70 ringgit (US$0.87) a liter, or 10.23 ringgit (US$3.30) a gallon.
Diesel prices shot up 63 percent to 2.58 ringgit (US$0.80) per liter.
Speaking at a forum in Manila, Anwar noted that Malaysia is a net exporter of petroleum, which annually generates "huge resources and profit."
"To decide summarily, without regard to the plight of the vast majority, particularly the poor and the marginalized, to me, is unconscionable," he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, Domestic Trade Minister Shahrir Samad said Friday that the government will not revise the price increases despite opposition protests, but assured there would not be further hikes anytime soon.
Like some other Asian countries, Malaysia had faced a spiraling fuel subsidy bill that could have been more than 56 billion ringgit (US$17 billion) this year due to rising world oil prices.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister who now leads an opposition coalition, said, "We cannot opt for any other thing except for market economy ... but this cannot be done without regard to the issues of good governance and accountability."
Anwar was fired by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 in a power struggle. He was expelled from the ruling party and convicted of sodomy and corruption, charges he says were politically motivated.
He was released from prison in 2004 after the sodomy conviction was overturned, but the corruption conviction barred him from holding political office until April 15, 2008. (International Herald Tribune)