Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim warns of rising repression
in the country as a new prime minister takes office this week.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to take over Thursday as prime
minister of Malaysia, when Abdullah Badawi steps down.
Malaysian opposition-leader Anwar Ibrahim told reporters in Bangkok
that recent developments suggest the Najib administration could usher
in a further stifling of dissent and a return to the authoritarian
style of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
"We can only
point out to the statements he has made, measures like banning
newspapers, threatening tough measures the moment he took over the
presidency [of his party, UMNO]," he said. "That is why the opposition
People's Alliance views this with great consternation that Datuk Seri
Najib represents the old order."
The government recently shut
down two opposition newspapers for three months, preventing them from
reporting on a series of high profile events, a hotly contested
by-election in Perak state on April 7 and the verdict in a sensational
murder case involving a close aide of Najib Razak two days later.
Razak is seen as a protégé of Mahathir Mohamad. In an interview with
the French news agency AFP, Mahathir said he expects Najib to govern
more firmly than Mr. Abdullah, who was seen as a moderate.
Abdullah's exit came a year after the United Malays National
Organization suffered its worst electoral defeat, losing more than a
third of the seats in Parliament.
Opposition-leader Anwar was
once UMNO's rising star, until he was fired by Mahathir Mohamad in 1998
and jailed on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct. He was
released in 2004.
After the United Malays National Organization
poor showing last year, the three-party opposition People's Alliance
was close to taking control of parliament - which could have opened the
way for Anwar Ibrahim to become prime minister.
by-election in Perak state next week pits candidates from the Islamic
party and the United Malays National Organization in what is seen as an
early referendum on the Najib government.
But Anwar says with Najib Razak as prime minister, it would be a tougher battle to wrest control of Parliament.
do you enter elections where you do not even have one minute on
television? I have been the leader of the opposition since August.
Not one interview, not one minute on the Malaysian media," he noted.
Ibrahim is in Bangkok until Tuesday and will meet Thai Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva and other officials. Anwar and Mr. Abhisit are
expected to discuss cooperation in addressing the Muslim insurgency in
southern Thailand, which borders Malaysia. Anwar called for greater
engagement, rather a purely military solution, to end the continued