Stand Off in Malaysia

Anwar wrote a letter to the Malaysian PM to discuss the transition of power as the former has the numbers to force a change of government. Meanwhile, Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim resigned over the abuse of the ISA in the detention of a blogger, a journalist and an opposition politician. The charge was for racial incitement and we are left to ponder why Ahmad Ismail from UMNO who started the whole ugly charade was also not detained under the ISA. Zaid’s resignation, but not defection yet, is part of the loud visual drumming of support for BN leaders to defect on September 16.

By tomorrow, there might be a new boss in Malaysia. Or there might not be, and another round of ISA arrests would begin.

Malaysia’s Anwar says he will soon seize power

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim pledged Monday to oust Malaysia’s entrenched government and brazenly urged the prime minister to hand over power “smoothly and peacefully.”

As he addressed a rally of some 10,000 supporters, however, Anwar said he would not meet a self-imposed Tuesday deadline to topple the government through parliamentary defections and instead hoped to negotiate a transition.

“We do not want to force it. We do not want to go to (the capital) Putrajaya and drag them down. Therefore, we want to negotiate with the prime minister and ask him, ‘Do you want one week, do you want two weeks?'” Anwar said.

The comments were certain to add to the pressure on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad and his ruling National Front coalition, which is already in a disarray because of dissent and a festering rebellion against Abdullah’s weak leadership after disastrous election results in March.

Earlier in the day, Anwar sent a letter to Abdullah saying he had enough support to form a government and asking the prime minister for a meeting to discuss the “transition of power.”

“We want the transition of power to be done smoothly and peacefully. We have the numbers and we are ready … to form the government,” he said.

The letter could, however, be seen as a show of bravado meant to scare the National Front.

Thousands at the evening rally chanted “Reformasi,” or reform, and “9-1-6” — a reference to Sept. 16, Anwar’s original deadline for removing the government through ruling coalition defections.

“The people will rise to build a system of true democracy,” Anwar said to loud cheers from the audience.

Opposition leaders who spoke before Anwar gave a new interpretation of the deadline date, saying it was the beginning of a campaign to oust the National Front, which has been in power uninterrupted since 1957 when Malaysia gained independence from British colonial rule.

“It doesn’t matter whether it happens tomorrow, the next day or whenever. People want it to happen. The 9/16 movement will begin seriously tomorrow,” said Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party.

Kamaruddin Jafar, a leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, said “tomorrow we will begin a clear movement toward a change of government.”

Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, PAS and DAP formed a coalition before the March 8 general elections, winning an unexpected 81 seats in the 222-member Parliament. With the support of an independent member, the alliance is 30 seats short of a majority.

It was the worst electoral result ever for the National Front, and triggered an undercurrent of dissent against Abdullah that has become a torrent in recent weeks.

In a sign that the government is panicking, on Friday it arrested an opposition lawmaker, an anti-government blogger and a reporter under the Internal Security Act that allows indefinite detention without trial. The act is normally used for people regarded as security threats.

The journalist was freed Saturday but the other two remain in jail.

“Some people doubted whether a change of government should occur. But the ISA arrests have convinced them that it should,” said Lim, the opposition leader.

The use of ISA has been criticized by lawyers, human rights groups and even some Cabinet ministers. On Monday, the minister in charge of legal affairs, Zaid Ibrahim, submitted his resignation to Abdullah in protest.

Abdullah, however, said he has not accepted the resignation and told Zaid to “think carefully.”

“If he is tired, he can take a leave … a short one will do,” Abdullah told reporters.


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