WASHINGTON, June 2 — US President Barack Obama yesterday warned Malaysia must be careful that the high profile prosecution of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim does not have a “chilling effect” on democracy.
Hosting a group of young leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries at the White House, Obama was asked about the case of former deputy prime minister Ibrahim, who was jailed on much-criticised sodomy charges.
“Malaysia has a history of democracy that has to be preserved,” Obama said.
“It is important that if an opposition leader who is well known has been charged with a crime, that that processof how that is adjudicated and how open it is and how clear the evidence is, that is all subject to scrutiny.”
“What you don’t want is a situation in which the legitimacy of the process is questioned, that has an adverse impact on democracy as a whole.”
Anwar was jailed in February for five years on charges that he sodomised a former male aide, a case he says was fabricated by the government.
The prison term threatens to permanently end the 68-year-old’s political career.
Obama said everyone should be “making sure that there is not a chilling effect on potential opposition”
“You have to respect the rights of even those people who you disagree most with, because otherwise there is no way a democracy can flourish over the longterm.” — AFP