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Murder, Mayhem, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Man in Malaysia

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Posted on April 15 2011 12:53 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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There was much understandable indignation directed at the Malaysian politicians responsible for the trial of Anwar Ibrahim in 1998—most notably, of course, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was Anwar’s mentor and the instigator of the trial that put Anwar behind bars when he began to challenge Mahathir’s leadership. It was a political exercise, and it was meant to get the up-and-coming Anwar out of the way—eliminate the coming dissent within the party structure.

But it also, as we have written here before, made Anwar a star—the hero in an exotic and anachronistic Malaysian drama. His supporters in the West took his side largely because of their sense of justice and his ability to play to their egos. And so, when Anwar was put on trial for the second time several years ago for sodomy, his supporters sprang to action once again. Paul Wolfowitz and Al Gore said he not only “has been charged under very dubious circumstances,” but also that “as a political leader, statesman and intellectual, Mr. Anwar possesses qualities that encourage hope for the future.”

Their sense of judicial fairness is important here, because new information has come to light in another trial—this one involving Anwar’s current political nemesis, Prime Minister Najib Razak. The difference this time around is that Anwar is the one who may have been manipulating evidence and fabricating his rival’s culpability. And this begs the question: Will Anwar’s champions speak as loudly for Najib as they did for Anwar?

The story goes back to October 2006, when a young Mongolian translator named Altantuya Shaariibuu was found murdered in the jungle outside Kuala Lumpur. Two policemen were convicted of her murder, and her one-time boyfriend was acquitted. But the boyfriend was an associate of Najib, a fact that spurred numerous rumors about Najib’s possible involvement. None of the rumors ever marshaled enough evidence to subpoena Najib to testify—though that didn’t stop some from trying.

One of the claims came from the editor of a popular Malaysian-interest blog called Malaysia Today. Earlier this week he made an interesting confession. Here is how the Malaysian news agency Bernama reported it:

Malaysia Today founder and editor, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, has revealed that his statutory declaration (SD) linking Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu was made based on information and demand by several individuals aimed at preventing Najib from becoming prime minister.

He said he had never accused the prime minister or his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor of being involved in the murder of the Mongolian woman and that he no longer believed the story of these individuals.

He added that these individuals were connected to several politicians including Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and that they had put pressure on him to do what he did to prevent Najib from taking over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who was relinquishing the post.

“I no longer accept the story. I think it’s quite impossible. It can’t be that the prime minister’s wife would want to go to such place; it’s a jungle. I’m imagining, climbing up the hill, going into the jungle at night, at 12 midnight, I think it’s quite impossible,” he said in an exclusive interview with TV3 Group Editor Datuk Ashraf Abdullah in Perth, Australia, recently.

So Anwar Ibrahim pressured a journalist into fabricating a statement that would implicate Anwar’s primary political opponent in a murder in the hopes of destroying his political career. I would be interested to know what Wolfowitz and Gore think about that development.

But there is another reason this is meaningful. It follows on what we reported in late March: Anwar is bleeding supporters, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for his party. Saturday marks the conclusion of the regional elections in Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state and a stronghold of Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional party. The results will be a major determinant in when the next national elections will be held. Since Najib will ultimately make that decision, expect Anwar’s opposition party to continue its slide.

What is ironic about this is that, as regular readers of NewsReal Blog are aware, Anwar has been working with the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, and the unrest in the Middle East has catapulted the Brotherhood to the center of the debate and, in Egypt, almost certainly to the governing class.

A rising tide generally lifts all vessels. The fact that the global Brotherhood’s tide is rising while Anwar is sinking like a stone means that, at least in Malaysia, things are moving in the right direction.

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