Obama to Najib: Release Anwar
US President says release Malaysia’s prisoner of conscience. Don’t hold your breath
It is ironic that despite being told by the President of the United States to free opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister Najib wants to hide behind Malaysia’s legal system, because he certainly has had no hesitation to use and abuse it for his own political ends.
I have heard from five people, both Malaysians and Americans and all in a position to know, that during his meeting with Najib Razak on November 20, US President Barack Obama called on the Najib to release Anwar from prison.
The request reportedly was made on humanitarian grounds, because of Anwar’s deteriorating health. But the US government position that Anwar’s trial was flawed and politically-motivated, and that Anwar is a political prisoner, is a matter of record.
A lot has happened since the famous golf game last December starring Najib and Obama. Starting with Anwar’s conviction in February, there was that major front page expose in the New York Times, detailing all the allegations of corruption surrounding Najib and his family.
Sarawak Report started exposing more and more documents about 1MDB and the missing billions. The 1MDB reporting was all very complicated and convoluted, because the paper trails were hard to follow. But then The Wall Street Journal published an article that everyone could understand. US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) had allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal bank account, and for weeks he could not explain how it got there.
And then, just like magic, most of that money allegedly went overseas again – but no one knows where, and Najib isn’t talking. Everyone could understand that story – you don’t need an MBA in international finance. Then the New York Times reported that Najib and his family were under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. What a name!
As for human rights and democracy, Najib’s crackdown on the opposition has been reported widely in the Western press. Human Rights Watch recently put out a 151-page report on the “climate of fear” that Najib has created. Unprecedented – 151 pages! Then there was that United Nations group that recently called for Anwar’s release.
Obama is a lawyer. He now understands that the evidence is overwhelming and that Najib is not the man he thought he was. As I have said before, Obama is not the only world leader who believed Najib’s rhetoric of reform. But put it all together, and with all the news this year, it reached the point where Obama finally recognized the reality about both Malaysia and Najib.
Change in stand
Last February we launched the White House petition on ‘We, the People’, which called for making Anwar’s release from prison a priority for US foreign policy. That has now happened.
But that is not thanks to me or the petition, it is thanks to the great investigative reporting in the world press, on Malaysian websites, and on Sarawak Report. Especially, it is thanks to the courage of so many Malaysians who refuse to be intimidated by the heavy hand and threats of Malaysia’s Home Minister and Inspector-General of Police (IGP).