Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim (born August 10, 1947) is a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia. Early in his career, he became a protege of the former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, but subsequently emerged as the most prominent critic of Mathathir's administration. In 2000, he was sentenced a highly controversial trial to nine year's prison for corruption and sodomy. However, in 2004, an appeals court reversed the conviction and he was released.
The early years
Anwar was born in Cherok Tok Kun, a village on the mainland side of the northern Malaysian state of Penang to a hospital porter. He was educated at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar and the University of Malaya, where he read Malay studies.
In 1971, as a student, Anwar founded a Muslim students organisation, Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia (PKPIM). He was also elected President of the Malaysian Youth Council or Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM).
In 1974, Anwar was arrested during student protests against rural poverty and hunger. he was imprisoned under the Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial. He spent twenty months in the Kamunting detention camp for political prisoners.
Groomed for leadership
In 1982, Anwar, who was the founding leader of a youth Islamic organisation called Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), shocked his liberal supporters by joining the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), led by Mahathir who became prime minister in 1981. He moved up the political ranks quickly: his first ministerial office was that of Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983; after that, he headed the agriculture ministry in 1984 before becoming Minister of Education in 1986. In 1991 Anwar was appointed Minister of Finance. In 1993, he became Mahathir's Deputy Prime Minister after winning the Deputy Presidency of UMNO against Ghafar Baba.
In the early 1990s, Anwar was being groomed to succeed Mahathir bin Mohamad as prime minister, and the latter frequently alluded in public to his 'father-son' relationship with Anwar; for several months in early 1997, Mahathir appointed Anwar to be acting Prime Minister while Mahathir took a two-month holiday. Towards the end of the 1990s, however, their relationship began to deteriorate, triggered by their conflicting views on governance. Issues such as how Malaysia would respond to a financial crisis were often at the fore-front of this conflict.
During the Asian financial crisis in 1997 Anwar, in his capacity as finance minister, responded to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan for recovery which meant a restructuring of the economy involving opening up to greater foreign investment and competition. He also instituted an austerity package that slashed government spending by 18%, cut ministerial salaries and deferred major investment projects. Large-scale infrastructure development projects known as "mega projects" were set back as well, despite being a cornerstone of Mahathir's plans for developing the nation. These measures aroused bitter opposition from Mahathir. It also angered many affected business figures some of whose business empires had developed through exclusive government contracts, cheap credit from public funds or commercial sources backed by government guarantees, concessions, and various other forms of rent seeking. In particular, Tun Daim Zainuddin, the powerful Treasurer of UMNO and Executive Director of the NEAC, had large holdings of Malaysian banks and other businesses that would be vulnerable to such actions. Daim was a close confidante of Mahathir (both being from the same town) and had been the Finance Minister before Anwar.
Although many Malaysian companies faced the threat of bankruptcy, Anwar declared: "There is no question of any bailout. The banks will be allowed to protect themselves and the government will not interfere." Anwar advocated a free market approach, sympathetic to foreign investment and trade liberalisation, whereas Mahathir favored currency and foreign investment controls, blaming unchecked speculation by currency speculators like George Soros for the shrinking economy.
In 1998 Newsweek magazine named Anwar the "Asian of the Year." However, that year, matters between Anwar and Mahathir came to a head around the time of the quadrennial UMNO General Assembly. The Youth wing of UMNO, headed by Anwar's associate, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (also a member of ABIM), gave notice that it would initiate a debate on "cronyism and nepotism". In light of the recent fall of President Suharto of Indonesia, thought to have embezzled huge amounts of money from the Indonesian treasury, this was widely interpreted as a proxy attack on Mahathir. The response was swift, Mahathir issued lists of "cronies" who had benefited from government share allocations and privatizations. To the chagrin of Anwar and his allies, several of them were on the list, including Anwar and Zahid.
At the General Assembly, a book, 50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM ("50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister") was circulated containing graphic sexual allegations as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar. This book carried the byline Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of the government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National. In a country where printing presses are licensed by the government, this implied the involvement of the Mahathir administration. Shortly thereafter, Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a defamation action against the author.
In August, police charged the author of the "50 Reasons" book with malicious publishing of false news. In September, the judge who had banned the book's distribution was transferred to a lower court despite being a senior judge, further raising concerns among the public about the independence of the judiciary.
In July 1998, a visit by the Indonesian opposition leader Amien Rais led to more pointed comparisons of Malaysia and Indonesia. Domestic critics accused Mahathir of tolerating cronyism, and the international financial press and the IMF demanded greater transparency in government and UMNO-managed enterprises.
Trial and conviction
Anwar was fired from the Cabinet on September 2, 1998, amid police reports that he was under investigation. The following day, he was expelled from UMNO. On September 14, Munawar Anees, Anwar's former speechwriter, and Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja, Anwar's adoptive brother and also a speechwriter of his, were arrested under suspicion of engaging in sodomy. Five days later, they were given a jail sentence of six months after pleading guilty to "unnatural sex" with Anwar. They later recanted their confessions, and appealed the sentence, claiming to have been coerced into entering a plea of "guilty". Anees made a statutory declaration of how they were coerced into making a guilty plea.  Two of Anwar's secretaries, Mohamad Ahmad and Mohamad Azmin Ali, were both held separately as part of police investigations into the "50 reasons" book. Both were later released.
On September 20, Anwar led a protest march in Kuala Lumpur demanding reformasi (economic and political reforms) and Mahathir's resignation. Anwar's attacks on the suspected nepotism of Mahathir's rule were fortified by widespread discontent over the perceived suppression of democratic rights in Malaysia. Critics questioned Anwar's actions, wondering why he had waited until he was sacked to publicly challenge Mahathir's actions. Some suggested that he had engaged in nepotistic and corrupt activities himself, and was using the issues to topple Mahathir. It was also possible that he harbored hopes of replacing Mahathir although Anwar was no longer a member of UMNO and every prime minister had been an UMNO leader.
That night, Anwar's home was raided by armed men wearing masks. His arrest was announced several hours later, as was that of several of Anwar's supporters, including Zahid (Zahid was later released and expelled from UMNO).
Charges of corruption and sodomy
On September 29, 1998 Anwar appeared in court, bruised and with a black-eye, and pleaded innocent to charges of corruption and sodomy. The chief inspector of police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor, later admitted to beating him while he was blindfolded and chained to a prison bed, and was eventually sentenced to two months in jail. An photo of Anwar with black eye and one hand raised became a symbol of the political opposition in many reformasi posters.
Anwar was accused of corruption relating to the police investigation into and arrest of the author of the "50 Reasons" book. He was also accused of sodomy with his government-appointed driver, Azizan Abu Bakar. The trials were judged by Augustine Paul, a judge with no previous high court experience who had been transferred from the Malacca sessions court. The ranking judge in the court, who had granted an injunction of the book, was transferred out to a lower court in Shah Alam instead of being allowed to hear this case or being promoted to the appeals court as was normal procedure.
During the trial, Mahathir appeared on Malaysian television in a special appearance to clarify the arrest of his deputy. During this appearance he graphically described sodomy and mimed certain sexually explicit acts in front of a shocked nation.
On April 14, 1999, Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and nine years in prison on August 8, 2000 for sodomy. The sentences were to be served concurrently. Similarly, Sukma was also found guilty of sodomy.
In a speech during the proceedings against him, Anwar explained why he what he believed to be the underlying motive behind his persecution. He told the court: "I objected to the use of massive public funds to rescue the failed businesses of his (Mahathir's) children and cronies."
Malaysia had seen communal race rioting on May 13, 1969, but nothing on a similar scale since. For the first time since 1969, large scale protests took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur with people of all races marching and taking up Anwar's battle cry of reformasi. For many ,it was a new experience and it had a festive atmosphere with parents bringing along their children. The government responded however with tear gas, baton charges and arrests. Order was enforced by calling in the FRU (Federal Reserve Unit) a para-military unit because of allegations that the PDRM (Royal Malaysian Police) and army were not "reliable" enough to take actions against fellow Malaysians.
The trial also unleashed a flood of international criticism. US vice president Al Gore denounced the sodomy trial of Anwar as a "mockery", but Mahathir bitterly rejected foreign interference. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/873592.stm
Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, subsequently formed Barisan Alternatif (the National Justice Party), which based its platform on campaigning for Anwar's release and reformasi. The party joined the (Alternative Front) coalition, formed in response to the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front).
The following year, Anwar's corruption conviction was upheld by Malaysia's Court of Appeal. In July 2002, Anwar lost his final appeal against the corruption conviction in the Federal Court.
It is generally believed that Anwar's influence over the general public and politics in Malaysia has waned, except for a few dedicated followers of his — in the following general election, the ruling coalition under a new leader, Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, regained Terengganu and nearly captured Kelantan. By then, the Barisan Alternatif had crumbled, with the socialist opposition Democratic Action Party leaving the coalition, due to the differences with PAS over the formation of an Islamic state as part of the coalition platform. Before the election, the National Justice Party had changed its name to the People's Justice Party — it performed poorly in the election, only retaining a single parliamentary seat, that which belonged to Anwar's wife. Not surprisingly this was Anwar's old parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh proving that in spite of his conviction, he still had the support of his old constituents.
It has been speculated that the Malaysian public was not ready for a multi-racial issue-based party but were instead stuck to the racially or religiously based parties they had grown up with. It is also possible that Malaysian voters were simply uneasy over the prospects of a political party perceived to be based on the issue of Anwar's release. However, without access to a free-press or established party newsletters such as PAS' Harakah or DAP's Rocket Keadilan had no way to effectively communicate its platform. Furthermore, many candidates fielded were professionals or social activists. Not many of them managed to connect with the grass roots, particularly given that they did not have any established party operatives. Also "safe" opposition seats were retained by various parties and keadilan was left to fight it out in National Front strong holds where chances of winning were slim and the political contest used as a means to embarrass various prominent members of the National Front.
Release from prison
On September 2 2004, a panel of three judges overturned the sodomy conviction by 2 to 1, finding contradictions in the prosecution's case. However, the judges noted "We find evidence to confirm that the appellants were involved in homosexual activities and we are more inclined to believe that the alleged incident at Tivoli Villa did happen." Sukma Darmawan's conviction was similarly overturned.
Anwar had already completed his sentence for corruption, his sentence being reduced for good behaviour. Although the point was by now moot, an appeal on the corruption charges was heard on September 6, 2004. Under Malaysian law a person is banned from political activities for five years after the end of his sentence. Success in this appeal would allow him an immediate return to politics. On September 7, the court agreed to hear Anwar's appeal. However, on September 15, the of Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that its previous decision to uphold a High Court ruling that found Anwar guilty was in order, relegating Anwar to the sidelines of Malaysian politics until April 14, 2008. The only way out for Anwar would be for him to receive a pardon from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
At the time of his release from prison, Anwar was reportedly suffering from serious back problems, which his family claimed to be the result of the abuse by the ex-police chief and systematic abuse during his incarceration. However, the UMNO-owned newspaper, the New Straits Times, reported in its September 6 issue that the injuries had actually been caused by a fall from a horse in 1993 during Anwar's tenure as deputy prime minister, although why this injury had taken approximately ten years to manifest itself was never quite explained in that article. His wife, an ophthalmologist, had argued during his imprisonment that he required treatment for his condition at a clinic in Germany. The government refused, claiming that such treatment was readily available in Malaysia, offering medical treatment if necessary. However, in September 2004, Anwar was permitted to travel to Munich for back surgery.
- Free Anwar Campaign
- Anwar Online: Reformasi
- Malaysia Today online newspaper including a column by Anwar Ibrahim.
- Utusan Malaysia September 2, 2004 Anwar freed as court quashes sodomy conviction.
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