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KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 ― With the Najib administration facing even more pressure now to explain the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has seized the opportunity to rally his supporters, saying although tough times are expected ahead for Malaysians, the country’s growing opposition cannot be silenced.
Anwar, who was given the opportunity to pen an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the international daily now facing the possibility of lawsuit by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said Malaysia is ready for the change long-trumpeted by the federal opposition, one that he claimed would see a return to the underpinnings of the Federal Constitution.
The PKR de facto leader, now five months into his five-year jail sentence for sodomy, also said a “brighter future” is possible with good governance and the rule of law.
“We believe in the dismantling of Malaysia’s system of race-based privileges that has devolved into nothing more than rent-seeking for the privileged few.
“We believe that corruption is a slow bleed that robs future generations of the education and business opportunities that will make them prosper,” he wrote in the piece.
Anwar, who was the deputy minister from 1993 to 1998, said his decision to stay in the country to face prosecution had not been easy and had put a “tremendous burden” on his family but insisted that he had done so because he believes the country is ready for change.
“Malaysia is ready for change.
“This is why, rather than flee my country, I chose to stay and continue the fight for peaceful, democratic reform from my prison cell,” he said.
He also said in four decades in public service, this was the first time racial and religious sensitivities have become so inflamed, and at the same time so poorly managed by the country’s political leadership.
He said the “real danger ahead” is that Malaysia could devolve into failed states after several decades of economic mismanagement, opaque governance and overspending.
“The irresponsible manner in which the current leadership is handling religious issues to curry favor from the extreme right is fueling sectarianism.
“Increased political repression may drive some to give up on the political system altogether and consider extralegal means to cause change, thus creating a tragic, vicious cycle,” Anwar said.
The only way out of this “mess”, he said, was to uphold the Malaysian Constitution, to ensure better checks and balance in the administration, keep the elections free and fair; and a media that is not afraid to challenge authority.
The Najib government is currently under pressure to explain the 1MDB scandal, following the series of exposes by media outfits claiming to be in possession of documents that show impropriety in the state investor’s allegedly opaque deals.
In its July 2 exposé, WSJ, citing documents from Malaysian investigators currently probing 1MDB’s financials, said a money trail showed that US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had been funnelled into what is believed to be Najib’s accounts.