Will Obama’s govt stand by Malaysian democracy?
In anticipation of the Anwar Ibrahim sex trial verdict expected today, the Washington Post made a half-hearted attempt at pressuring the United States to punish the Najib Razak government if it thwarts Malaysia’s growth towards greater democracy.
But the Post’s editorial is unlikely to have much impact on the US establishment.
When push comes to shove, the lofty ideals of “truth, justice and the American way” will get short shrift from a US government that, like any other government elsewhere, will be more concerned with its own interests.
And an America that is retreating into self-protection, as announced in Barack Obama’s new defence strategy, is more likely to be concerned with safe passage through the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca than with safe passage of Malaysian democracy or Anwar Ibrahim’s dire straits.
Malaysians must keep in mind that throughout his two decades of persecution Anwar was continually labelled an American agent bent on Malaysia’s destruction — but that it was his chief persecutor Mahathir Mohamad who secretly opened the doors to the US military (including SEALS, Marines and the Seventh Fleet).
The America that called on the Iraqis to rise against Saddam Hussein also stood by idly watching the Kurds rise and die. The America that toppled Saddam Hussein (with Malaysia quietly on its side) was also the same America that propped up tyrannical regimes across North Africa until nearly the end, as it did with Suharto and Marcos. And Malaysian governments, then as now, have remained on close terms with tyrannies everywhere.
When political change swept through North Africa, as with the Philippines and in Indonesia, change came through the efforts of the people themselves, not through ruling elites. Malaysians should keep that firmly in mind when the High Court delivers its verdict this morning on Anwar Ibrahim, the so-called secret American agent, persecuted for two decades by America’s secret clients, Mahathir Mohamad and now Najib Tun Razak.
When push comes to shove, political leaders and their bureaucrats everywhere have one common characteristic: they seek out someone they can do business with. And democracy (for us, the people) isn’t a profit centre for them.
A ‘test’ of democracy Malaysia might fail
Mr. Anwar has been persecuted before … and spent six years in prison before being exonerated. Since then he has become one of the best-known advocates for liberal democracy in the Muslim world. The coalition he has fashioned … could make Malaysia the second majority-Muslim country in Asia, after Indonesia, to become a working democracy.So far, the Obama administration’s stance has been weak … there has been little overt pressure; when President Obama met with Mr. Najib in November, he said nothing publicly about human rights or democracy. Instead he heaped praise on the prime minister for “the extraordinary cooperation that we’ve received on a whole range of issues.”In fact Malaysia has been a modest help on terrorism cases, and it forms part of the administration’s strategy for bolstering its position in Asia. That, however, is not a rationale to step aside as Mr. Anwar, and the country’s hopes for democracy, are crushed. The State Department has said that the Anwar case is “a test of Malaysia’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” If the verdict fails that test, there should be consequences for Mr. Najib’s relations with Washington.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for such consequences.
Malaysians must look to ourselves to secure our freedoms, not to the leader of the free world or to the gnomes in the bureaucracies in the land of the free. They’re usually too busy looking after their own business, and our freedom is but a bargaining chip for securing their own freedom.
That is why, contrary to the WashPost headline, it will not be Malaysia but the US government that will probably fail the test of democracy after today’s court verdict.
- A Chance for Obama to speak up for the Rule of Law in Malaysia. (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- The Guardian: Guilty verdict against Anwar Ibrahim will hurt Malaysia’s reputation (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- Under Najib, politics in Malaysia has lost all sense of decency and sensibility (hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com)