Washington Post: Do not invite Najib to White House after Anwar jailed


(Malay Mail Online) – An influential US paper has urged Washington not to invite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the White House after Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was jailed for sodomy.

The Washington Post said last week that the Federal Court’s decision to uphold the Court of Appeal’s sodomy conviction and five-year imprisonment sentence against Anwar — which came on the heels of a crackdown against activists under the Sedition Act 1948 — showed that Malaysia lacked an independent judiciary.

“A leader who has just jailed his main opponent should not be received at the White House,” said The Washington Post in an editorial titled “Malaysia’s political backslide.”

“The criminal case used to imprison Mr Anwar, who has been one of the foremost advocates of liberal democracy in the Muslim world, was as morally reprehensible as it was farcical,” the US daily added.

The Court of Appeal had last year reversed Anwar’s acquittal of sodomising former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The Washington Post pointed out that sodomy is rarely prosecuted in Malaysia, although it is illegal.

Anwar’s incarceration leaves the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) federal opposition pact without a clear leader.

The pact consists of PKR, the secular DAP and Islamist party PAS that have been butting heads with each other, despite coming together after Election 2008.

The newspaper noted that the Najib administration had been moving towards dismantling pro-Bumiputera policies, promoting free and fair elections, repealing the Sedition Act and reducing police powers until the Anwar-led PR won the popular vote in the 2013 general election.

“The ruling United Malays National Organisation clung to power only because of the gerrymandering of parliamentary seats,” said the paper, referring to Barisan Nasional (BN) lynchpin party Umno.

“Mr Najib has since launched a campaign aimed at crippling the opposition — a crackdown that reached its peak Tuesday with the sentencing of Mr Anwar to five years in prison.

“It was a major regression for a country that values its strategic partnership with the United States, and it was the continuation of a bad trend in Southeast Asia, following the military coup that toppled Thailand’s democratic government last year,” The Washington Post added.

Following a string of sedition investigations and prosecutions last year, the police recently launched probes under the colonial-era law against political cartoonist Zunar and PR lawmakers Nga Kor Ming and Rafizi Ramli for their tweets on the Anwar verdict.

The Washington Post criticised the US government of issuing a “carefully balanced” statement in response to Anwar’s conviction, despite President Barack Obama’s promise last September at the United Nations for “an even stronger campaign to defend democracy.”

The White House had said in a statement that the US was “deeply disappointed” by the verdict, but also expressed the superpower’s commitment to expanding its co-operation with Malaysia on “shared economic and security challenges.”

“Mr Najib, who was invited to play golf with Mr Obama in December, is unlikely to take the president’s ‘campaign to defend democracy’ seriously unless it consists of more than such carefully balanced statements.

“One way to send a message would be to withhold the invitation to visit Washington that the prime minister is hoping for this year,” said the newspaper.