The Islamic Post Blog

The Spectre of Intrigue in Malaysia by Khalida

By Raheemah Atif, Islamic Post Staff Writer

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad (above) has reportedly asked Prime Minister Badawi to step down. (Shutterspeak photo)

“I have been told that my assassination has not been ruled out as a means to subvert the people’s will and bring an end to the transformational changes taking place in Malaysia,” said ex-deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia when describing the volatile state of affairs in his country from the Malaysian Embassy of Turkey, where he recently sought refuge. Mr. Ibrahim heads the coalition of opposition parties that charted unprecedented gains in the general elections held this past spring.  In contrast, the United Malays National Organization, party of incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, suffered heavy losses, conceding key political ground previously held firmly by the UMNO, the party of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad.

Mr. Mahathir Muhammad, recognized by many as the impetus of the newly transformed and industrialized nation, held the office of Prime Minister of Malaysia for an unprecedented and critical 22 years.  Under his leadership and with the cooperation and support of his nation and government, Malaysia evolved from a primarily agricultural and mining economy, to an independent, progressive manufacturing nation, fully competitive in the world market. A crucial stratagem by the Malaysian government after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 was to strictly refuse the aid of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund;  financial webs that were not permitted to entangle, and systematically prevent healthy financial development.  The result: a booming electronics trade fostered by the panic-stoked Y2K fear in the United States, and its insatiable demand for new electronic products and components, accompanied by unprecedented growth via a unique outlook in relation to government, politics, and economics. The creation of a banking system basically immune to external financial shock added essential stability, along with effective provisioning for meeting the needs of the citizenry, i.e., a burgeoning infrastructure to cement the society’s foundation, and finally, a legal system: an amalgam of Islamic Law with other democratic facets.

Ex-deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim (right) advocated for cooperation with the World Bank in 2006 towards good governance, at the behest of then Bank chief, Paul Wolfowitz, who ultimately resigned during a corruption scandal.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir has reportedly asked Prime Minister Badawi to step down.  Although, Mr. Badawi was Mr. Mahathir’s choice to succeed him at the helm of the Malaysian government, he commented to news sources that Mr. Badawi should accept total responsibility for not only the heavy political losses of their party, but the administrative maneuvering and legislative changes that have affronted and damaged Malaysia and its economy, and threaten to loosen the bolts of solid government that Mahathir’s administrations  set firmly in place.
At press time, Mr. Ibrahim lodged an official complaint to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency that allegations against his personal character were contrived by the same individuals in the government who initiated similar accusations a decade ago. Mr. Ibrahim was ordered to voluntarily appear before a police investigative committee for questioning regarding the allegations.  The former deputy premier was issued an arrest warrant by the Malaysian police. Then, in a dramatic move, masked members of a special police unit apprehended Mr. Ibrahim, detaining him overnight in a jail cell. He was released the next morning after posting bail without being formally charged.
“I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress.  These actions are being repeated today to undermine the forces of reform and renewal which were unleashed in the March 2008 elections,” Mr. Ibrahim said, dismissing the new charge as complete fabrication. Reuters reported Mr. Ibrahim to have been acquitted of similar sexual misconduct charges that were lodged in 1998. Mr. Ibrahim endured incarceration until 2004, when he was officially exonerated.
Ex-Premier Ibrahim has rebounded, taking on an active political role, despite awareness of the ensuing conflict with former political adversaries, in order to further the perspective and expectations of the Malaysian people who have cast behind him their votes of confidence. Mr. Ibrahim advised via the press: “I urge the Malaysian people to stand against the repressive forces that will be unleashed by the government in the coming days and weeks.”
The political upheaval occurring in Malaysia today casts a dismal shadow upon a landscape of positive growth and productivity in a sovereign nation that has overcome its most daunting economic and political challenges.  Observers note the good fortune of Malaysians to live in a nation whose GDP has grown by 7% consistently, whose currency is steadily appreciating in value against the U.S. dollar, and whose merchandise trade surplus will increase to $38 billion U.S. in 2008, according to the international forecasts.
Malaysia has emerged through more than a half century of foreign manipulation and imperialism and, despite serious racial disturbances in 1969, as a monolith of sorts.  Although it is multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and a nation of many states and languages, the people of Malaysia have unified in their support for the wisdom of their leadership, and are supportive of the strategies that have forged much more than solid economic policies and vital infrastructure.
An aspect of the Malaysian narrative, and perhaps the most important implication in the current turmoil, is the most sought after commodity – oil.  In 2004, Malaysia’s interior department revealed that the country’s oil reserves stood at 4.84 billion barrels, while its natural gas reserves increased to 89 trillion cubic feet.  The government  predicts that at current status quo production rates, Malaysia will be able to produce oil for up to 18 years and natural gas for 35 years. The country ranks 23rd in the world for oil production and 13th for natural gas.

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