Anwar not worried about appeal, eyes polls

The Opposition Leader says the appeal against his acquittal from sodomy case will not derail his election plans.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim said he isn’t worried about public prosecutors’ move to appeal a court decision acquitting him of sodomy earlier this month, and said he remains confident it won’t derail his campaign to lead a new government to power in elections expected later this year.

“The judgment [in the sodomy case] was very strong” and “difficult to appeal,” Anwar said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published today.

He told the paper that the appeal process would likely take at least six months, meaning it could loom over and outlast the election campaign.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has to call an election by March 2013, but under Malaysia’s parliamentary system of government, many analysts predict it will be called much sooner, triggering one of the most fiercely fought electoral contests this nation has ever seen. Anwar said he believes the election is unlikely to take place later than June.

Anwar also criticized the way Najib’s government pursued privatizations, saying that without open, public tenders, key companies remain controlled by a well-connected few.

Privatization “looks good, but look again at the procedures,” said Anwar. “The issue is not about privatization, it is blatant corruption.”

A Malaysian government spokesperson said Thursday the government was “fully committed to openness and transparency in all privatizations and divestments of state-owned assets and to tackling corruption wherever and whenever it is found.”

The spokesperson noted that Malaysia has introduced a new online database of government contracts so that anybody can alert authorities to any potentially improper actions.

“We are determined to ensure that all government contracts are awarded through a process that is fair and open to scrutiny,” the spokesperson said.

After being embroiled in the sodomy trial—which he claims was politically motivated—Anwar is now shifting gears from defending his reputation to fighting to win an election.

On Israel and homosexual rights

After leading the opposition to one of its strongest-ever showings in 2008′ general election, Anwar was accused by former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan of sodomizing him, setting in train another marathon, headline-stealing trial which Anwar again said was designed to end his political career.

Najib and his government have repeatedly denied having anything to do with the case.

If elected, Anwar said, he would speed up the removal of racial quotas for university places and focus on helping lower-income groups regardless of race instead of solely aiding ethnic Malays.