Sex, lies, murder and Malaysian politics

Links: Brunei’s half-day energy conservation marathon. Military torture in Malaysia. Feather-boa bicycle bandits in Vietnam. The official mouthpiece of Myanmar’s junta.

Thanks Erwin of Inquirer for writing about the poll automation briefing event last Saturday.

Malaysian politics are sizzling with sex intrigues, murder accusations, scandalous lies and intra-party squabbles.

A few months ago a government minister resigned after admitting he was the person caught in a videotape having sex with a young woman in a hotel. The video was uploaded on the Internet.

Early this month opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was accused of sodomy by his 23-year-old aide. Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by 20 years of imprisonment. The victim alleged he was sexually assaulted by Anwar up to eight times in various luxury hotels in Paris and Hong Kong. This is the second time the former deputy premier was accused of sodomy. The first case was filed ten years ago and led to Anwar’s imprisonment – although he was later cleared of those charges.

But Anwar has a bombshell of his own. He organized a press conference at which a private investigator revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak had sex with a 28-year-old Mongolian model who was brutally murdered in 2006. The model was shot twice in the head and her body was blown up with plastic explosives. Najib denied having an affair with the woman.

Najib’s close associate was accused of abetting the murder. A prominent Malaysian blogger also wrote that Najib’s wife was present when the Mongolian model was murdered. The blogger was subsequently charged with sedition and criminal defamation.

Who is telling the truth? It is definite that at least one of these persons is lying. It is also apparent that all of these accusations and counter accusations are politically motivated. Najib insists Anwar used a desperate tactic to divert the people’s attention from his sodomy case. On his part, Anwar believes the sodomy charge was part of a government maneuver to defeat the plan of the opposition to seize power this year.

Before the sex scandals, Malaysia was already facing a political crisis. Last March the opposition managed to secure one-third of the parliamentary seats. Five states were put under their control. Some member parties of the ruling coalition threatened to withdraw support for the prime minister.

Adding to the problem of the government is the resignation of former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad from the political party to which he belonged. He urged other politicians to leave the ruling party as well. It is no secret that Mahathir is not happy with the performance of his handpicked successor, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Mahathir wrote in his blog that he has every right to be concerned over the “flip-flopping mismanagement” of the country and that of the party he helped to revive in 1987. “The party does not belong to Dato Seri Abdullah alone. Nor is it meant to support him as leader even when he mishandled the elections and the country,” he added.

Before the sex scandals, Malaysians were talking about the country’s faltering economy. Fuel subsidies were removed, which led to higher oil prices. Big protests were held in different parts of the country. Many people, including the frustrated sections of the middle class, began to question the economic policies of the government which they blamed for the rising cost of living in Malaysia.

Today Malaysians are more interested in the sodomy case and other sex scandals involving influential persons. The economic crisis is still a major issue, but sex and murder will always tickle the people’s imagination.

The opposition should not be distracted by the sex scandals. Analysts believe the opposition can form a new government with the help of some administration defectors. This could be done in the next few months, but the pressure against the ruling government must be sustained.

One way to weaken the already weak government would be to mobilize the people against high oil prices, inflation, the deteriorating economy and corruption. Young Malaysians are furious over the shameful acts of their leaders. The people should be made to remember why they voted for many members of the opposition in the last elections. In short, the issue should be refocused on the unpopular prime minister.

Abdullah Badawi had earlier promised to step down at the end of the year. Now he is saying he will leave office in 2010. It seems the ruling party has succeeded in preventing a possible opposition takeover this year.

It is good that Anwar is asking his supporters to “protest by all means," and to use stadiums and other public spaces as venues of protest actions. But the issue should be more than just the sex lives of politicians. It should still be about the economy and more importantly, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Related entries:

Malaysia and fuel protests
Sex and youth
Chacha and political crisis

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