Time running out as Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar fights for top job

Time running out as Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar fights for top job
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim during his election campaign rally in Ulu Klang, Selangor state, on November 16, 2022. (REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain)
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Updated 17 November 2022

Time running out as Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar fights for top job

Time running out as Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar fights for top job
  • Anwar allied with erstwhile tormentor Mahathir during the 2018 elections and beat corruption-tainted PM Najib Razak, but Mahathir did not honor the term-sharing agreement later

KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s perennial opposition leader, has often been on the cusp of power but age is catching up with him and Saturday’s election could be his last chance to win the top job.
The 75-year-old, whose political career spans four decades and includes two prison stints, is optimistic his Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition can finally win enough seats to form a government and replace the graft-tainted ruling party.
So long the runner-up of Malaysian politics, Anwar could be running out of time to achieve his long-held but elusive ambition of leading the Southeast Asian nation.
“This is Anwar’s last election. If he fails to get the support to become PM, there will be expectations that he should step aside,” Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham Malaysia told AFP.
“If he chooses to stay on, this will only serve to weaken the opposition further and fragment it. There are other leaders ready to lead.”
Anwar was a firebrand Muslim youth leader when he was recruited in 1982 into the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the main political party that ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years.
His star rose meteorically, with the suave young politician becoming finance minister and then deputy prime minister in the early 1990s under former premier Mahathir Mohamad, a youthful counterbalance to the political veteran.
The pairing, considered one of the most dynamic duos in Southeast Asian politics at the time, soon unraveled.
Tensions came to head during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, when they had a bitter falling out over how to handle the debacle.

Supporters of Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at a campaign rally in Ulu Klang, Selangor state, on November 16, 2022. (REUTERS)

Some observers say Anwar had been too impatient to become prime minister, slighting his patron.
Mahathir sacked Anwar, who was also expelled from UMNO and charged with corruption and sodomy, the latter a crime in the largely Islamic nation.
He was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption in 1999, with an additional nine-year prison term added for the sodomy charge the following year, the two sentences to run consecutively.
As Anwar claimed political persecution, street protests erupted and evolved into a movement calling for democratic reforms.
Photos of Anwar with a black eye, inflicted in prison by Malaysia’s then police chief, were published in newspapers around the world, turning him into a symbol for a struggle that adopted the battle cry of “Reformasi!,” or reforms.

The Mahathir-Anwar tussle has dominated and shaped Malaysian politics over the past four decades, “alternately bringing despair and hope, progress and regress to the country’s polity,” according to Oh Ei Sun of the Pacific Research Center of Malaysia.
The Malaysian Supreme Court overturned Anwar’s sodomy conviction in 2004 and ordered him freed.
After a brief hiatus from politics as an academic, Anwar returned to lead an opposition coalition in the 2013 general election.
His alliance won 50.87 percent of the popular vote but failed to muster the numbers needed for a parliamentary majority.
Controversy continued to hound the married father of six. He was again sentenced to jail for sodomy in 2015, this time for five years, at the age of 70.
He has maintained his innocence and received a full pardon from the Malaysian king three years into his sentence. Anwar returned to parliament months later after winning a by-election.

Anwar allied with Mahathir during the 2018 elections when his erstwhile tormentor came out of retirement to challenge incumbent Najib Razak, who was mired in the billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.
Their alliance scored a historic victory against UMNO and Najib, who is serving a 12-year jail term for corruption.
Mahathir became prime minister for the second time, this time with an agreement to hand over the premiership to Anwar later.
He never fulfilled that pact, and their alliance collapsed after 22 months, leaving Anwar empty-handed again and paving the way for UMNO to return to power.
Anwar has rejected any more alliances with Mahathir, who is again running for parliament at age 97.
“No matter how you dice it, the relationship between Mahathir and Anwar is cold,” Malaysian political analyst Charles Santiago told AFP.
Anwar’s campaign rallies for Saturday’s vote have drawn sizeable, enthusiastic crowds, many still chanting the “Reformasi!” slogan made popular 30 years ago.
“To save this country from endless political turmoil and corruption, I appeal to the people to give their support so that we can emerge with a clear majority,” he told AFP.

UN chief fears world is heading toward a wider war

UN chief fears world is heading toward a wider war
Updated 11 sec ago

UN chief fears world is heading toward a wider war

UN chief fears world is heading toward a wider war
  • Guterres fears likelihood of further escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict means the world is heading towards a "wider war”
  • World must work harder for peace not only in Ukraine but in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, UN chief says

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations chief warned Monday that the world is facing a convergence of challenges “unlike any in our lifetimes” and expressed fear of a wider war as the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said experts who surveyed the state of the world in 2023 set the Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight — the closest ever to “total global catastrophe,”
He pointed to the war in Ukraine, “runaway climate catastrophe, rising nuclear threats,” the widening gulf between the world’s haves and have-nots, and the “epic geopolitical divisions” undermining “global solidarity and trust.”
In a wide-ranging address Guterres urged the General Assembly’s 193 member nations to change their mindset on decision-making from near-term thinking, which he called “irresponsible” and “immoral,” to looking “at what will happen to all of us tomorrow — and act.”
He said this year’s 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should serve as a reminder that the foundation of the inalienable rights of all people is “freedom, justice and peace.”
Guterres said the transformation needed today must start with peace, beginning in Ukraine — where unfortunately, he said, peace prospects “keep diminishing” and “the chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing.”
“I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. It is doing so with its eyes wide open,” he said.
The world must work harder for peace, Guterres said, not only in Ukraine but in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict “where the two-state solution is growing more distant by the day,” in Afghanistan where the rights of women and girls “are being trampled and deadly terrorist attacks continue” and in Africa’s Sahel region where security is deteriorating “at an alarming rate.”
He also called for stepped up peace efforts in military-ruled Myanmar which is facing new violence and repression, in Haiti where gangs are holding the country hostage, “and elsewhere around the world for the two billion people who live in countries affected by conflict and humanitarian crises.”
The secretary-general said it is time for all countries to recommit to the UN Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes, and for a new focus on conflict prevention and reconciliation.
The proposed new UN Agenda for Peace, he said, calls for “a new generation of peace enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by regional forces,” with a UN Security Council mandate that can be enforced militarily and guaranteed funding. “The African Union is an obvious partner in this regard,” he added.
Guterres also said it is time for nuclear-armed countries to renounce the first use of all nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons, a possible use that Russia has raised in Ukraine.
“The so-called `tactical’ use of nuclear weapons is absurd,” he said. “We are at the highest risk in decades of a nuclear war that could start by accident or design. We need to end the threat posed by 13,000 nuclear weapons held in arsenals around the world.”
As for the global financial system, Guterres called for “radical transformation” to put the needs of developing countries at the center of every decision.
He pointed to rising poverty and hunger around the world, developing countries forced to pay five times more to borrow money than advanced economies, vulnerable middle-income countries denied concessional funding and debt relief, and the richest 1 percent of the world’s people capturing “almost half of all new wealth over the past decade.”
Multilateral development banks must change their business model, Guterres said.
Guterres told diplomats that 2023 must also be “a year of game-changing climate action,” not of excuses or baby steps — and there must be “no more bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.”
The world must focus on cutting global-warming greenhouse gas emissions by half this decade, which means far more ambitious action to cut carbon pollution by speeding the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, especially in the world’s 20 richest global economies, he said.
It also means cutting emissions from the highest emitting industrial sectors — steel, cement, shipping and aviation, he said.
Guterres had a special message for fossil fuel producers who he said are scrambling to expand production “and raking in monster profits.”
“If you cannot set a credible course for net-zero, with 2025 and 2040 targets covering all your operations, you should not be in business,” he said.
The secretary-general invited any leader in government, business or civil society to the Climate Ambition Summit he is convening in September — with a condition.
“Show us accelerated action in this decade and renewed ambitious net zero plans — or please don’t show up,” Guterres said.

US imposes security zone in search for Chinese balloon remnants

US imposes security zone in search for Chinese balloon remnants
Updated 40 min 19 sec ago

US imposes security zone in search for Chinese balloon remnants

US imposes security zone in search for Chinese balloon remnants
  • China called the shooting down of the balloon an “obvious overreaction”

WASHINGTON: The US Coast Guard on Monday imposed a temporary security zone in waters off South Carolina during the military’s search and recovery of debris from a suspected Chinese spy balloon that a US fighter jet shot down.
The White House said the balloon’s flight over the United States had done nothing to improve already tense relations with China and its national security spokesperson dismissed Beijing’s contention that the balloon was for meteorological purposes as straining credulity.
Beijing condemned the shooting down of the balloon and urged Washington to show restraint over the episode. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters: “Nobody wants to see conflict here.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned Feb.5-6 visit to China because of the balloon’s flight into US airspace last week. It was shot down off the Atlantic Coast on Saturday.
Kirby said Blinken would seek to reschedule the trip when the time is right.
The trip to Beijing would have been the first by a US secretary of state since 2018 as the United States and China have sought to mend ties that have been under severe strain over a range of disagreements, including US attempts to block Chinese access to some cutting-edge technologies.
The United States was able to study the balloon while it was aloft and officials hope to glean valuable intelligence on its operations by retrieving as many components as possible, Kirby said.
China called the shooting down of the balloon an “obvious overreaction.”
“China firmly opposes and strongly protests against this,” Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said in remarks to the US embassy in Beijing posted on the ministry’s website.
US officials have played down the balloon’s impact on national security, although a successful recovery could potentially give the United States insight into China’s spying capabilities.
Senior US officials have offered to brief former Trump administration officials on the details of what the White House said was three China balloon overflights when Donald Trump was president. US officials said those balloons came to light after Trump left office in January 2021 and was succeeded by President Joe Biden.
A senior US general responsible for bringing down the balloon said on Monday the military had not detected previous spy balloons before the one that appeared on Jan. 28 over the United States and called it an “awareness gap.”
However, Air Force General Glen VanHerck, head of US North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command said US intelligence determined the previous flights after the fact based on “additional means of collection” of intelligence without offering further details on whether that might be cyber espionage, telephone intercepts or human sources.
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China learned that its balloon had drifted over the United States after being notified by Washington.
“The unintended entry of this airship (into the US) is entirely an isolated, accidental incident. It tests the sincerity the US has in improving and stabilizing bilateral relations and the way it handles crises,” she said.
Mao said another balloon, spotted over Latin America, was an unmanned civilian airship on a test flight that “severely deviated and unintendedly entered the space above Latin America because it was affected by the weather and because it has limited self-steering capability.”
On Sunday, Colombia’s military said it sighted an airborne object similar to a balloon after the Pentagon said on Friday that another Chinese balloon was flying over Latin America.
While calling for US restraint, China has warned of “serious repercussions” and said it will use the necessary means to deal with “similar situations,” without elaborating. Some policy analysts said they expect any response to be finely calibrated, however, to prevent diplomatic ties becoming even worse.
Brokerage ING said in a Monday note that the incident could exacerbate the “tech war” and would have a negative near-term impact on China’s yuan currency.
“Both sides will likely impose more export bans on technology in different industries. This is a new threat to supply chain disruption, although the risk of logistical disruption from COVID restrictions has now disappeared,” it said.
“This new risk is more of a long-term risk than an imminent one,” ING said.

Blinken tells Turkiye to ‘let us know’ what US can do after earthquake

Blinken tells Turkiye to ‘let us know’ what US can do after earthquake
Updated 43 min 34 sec ago

Blinken tells Turkiye to ‘let us know’ what US can do after earthquake

Blinken tells Turkiye to ‘let us know’ what US can do after earthquake
  • Blinken asked his senior staff to identify available funding to help Turkiye and NGOs in Syria

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Turkish counterpart to “pick up the phone and let us know” what the United States can do to help after a huge earthquake hit the country on Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
The Biden administration’s top diplomat spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by phone following the earthquake that killed more than 2,700 people across a swathe of Turkiye and northwest Syria.
“It was so important for the secretary to speak to his foreign minister counterpart, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, in the first instance to offer condolences and to make clear...that anything Turkiye needed that we could provide, they should pick up the phone and let us know,” Price said.
Blinken asked his senior staff on Monday morning to identify what funding might be available to help Turkiye and NGOs working on the ground in Syria, Price said.
Washington has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team and is in the process of deploying two urban search and rescue teams from Virginia and California that are expected to comprise 79 people each, the US Agency for International Development said.
The US consulate in the southern Turkish city of Adana would also host others working on rescue efforts, Price added.

Indonesia to open Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo before Ramadan

Indonesia to open Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo before Ramadan
Updated 06 February 2023

Indonesia to open Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo before Ramadan

Indonesia to open Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo before Ramadan
  • Mosque management will be undertaken by Indonesian, UAE officials
  • Solo location, about 20% original size, uses traditional Indonesian designs

JAKARTA: The public opening of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Indonesia will take place before this year’s Ramadan, a religious ministry official said on Monday, as the government pins hopes on the new mosque to attract tourists and become a center for moderate Islam.

The mosque in Solo, Central Java, is a smaller replica of the popular landmark in Abu Dhabi named after the UAE’s late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. It is a gift from UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who inaugurated it alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo in November.

Akmal Salim Ruhana, who heads the mosque affairs sub-directorate at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said the mosque was currently in its final stages of construction before a public opening.

“We have to open before Ramadan, because we have already prepared a bunch of programs for the holy month,” Ruhana told Arab News.

The mosque symbolized the close friendship between Indonesia and the UAE and will be managed by officials from both countries, Ruhana added, with both governments planning on developing an Islamic center in the same city soon.

“This is an expression of the good relations between the two countries, Indonesia-UAE diplomatic relations, and the closeness and friendliness of the two presidents,” he said.

Officials are also hopeful of the mosque’s potential to attract religious tourism.

“The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Solo has the potential to be a learning center for a moderate generation of Islam,” Heny Ermawati, spokesperson of the Surakarta City Government — another name for Solo — told Arab News. “The beauty of this building can be a point of attraction for tourists from all over.”

The Indonesian government had sent architects to draw in detail the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi, and the structure in Solo is about one-fifth the size of the original, Ermawati said.

The mosque — which can accommodate up to 14,000 people — has design elements unique to the region, she added, such as the usage of batik patterns on the flooring and carpets. Batik is an ancient art form in Indonesia, traditionally made with wax-resistant dye on fabrics.

Though it is not yet open to the public, the mosque has already created a buzz in Solo and throughout the country, with residents and visitors of the city flocking to the area to get a glimpse and take photos.

“Even though the mosque isn’t operational yet, it is already bringing big benefits for the local public … it’s a new icon for Solo,” Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from Padjadjaran University in West Java, told Arab News.

The mosque can facilitate community programs, including youth and women’s empowerment as well as teachings on moderate Islam, Rezasyah said.

“The soul of this mosque is its capacity to enlighten the people inside Indonesia on the importance of the future Indonesia-UAE relations, which is beneficial for both countries.”

Former military ruler Musharraf’s body arrives in Pakistan

Pervez Musharraf died on Sunday aged 79 in Dubai. (File/AP)
Pervez Musharraf died on Sunday aged 79 in Dubai. (File/AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Former military ruler Musharraf’s body arrives in Pakistan

Pervez Musharraf died on Sunday aged 79 in Dubai. (File/AP)
  • Plane carrying his body landed late Monday evening in Karachi
  • It was expected that he would be buried in the southern city, where his family settled after leaving Old Delhi following the partition of the Indian subcontinent

ISLAMABAD: The body of Pakistan’s exiled former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who became a key US ally during the “war on terror,” was repatriated on Monday, aviation sources told AFP.
Musharraf, who fled Pakistan in 2016 for medical treatment after a travel ban was lifted, died on Sunday aged 79 in Dubai, after a long illness.
The plane carrying his body landed late Monday evening in Karachi, the sources said.
It was expected that he would be buried in the southern city, where his family settled after leaving Old Delhi following the partition of the Indian subcontinent.
A military source told AFP that his funeral would take place on Tuesday.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 bloodless coup and was acting simultaneously as Pakistan’s army chief, chief executive, and president when the 9/11 attacks on the United States took place.
The general twice suspended the constitution and was accused of rigging a referendum shoring up his power, as well as rampant rights abuses including rounding up opponents during his nearly nine-year rule.
“In the end he left Pakistanis with a deep distaste for direct military rule — so that even though the military wields much power behind the scenes now, it does not want to be in power directly again,” Madiha Afzal, an analyst from the Brookings Institution, told AFP.
Musharraf became Washington’s chief regional ally during the invasion of neighboring Afghanistan in 2001, a decision which put him in the crosshairs of Islamist militants, who made several attempts on his life.
But it also earned Pakistan a huge influx of foreign aid, which bolstered the economy.
In Pakistan, where the military remains supremely powerful and enjoys significant support, Musharraf is a divisive figure.
“There was good in him,” 69-year-old Naeem Ul Haq Satti told AFP in an Islamabad marketplace.
“But his one act, which will be remembered throughout history, was he violated the constitution,” the retired civil servant added. “The most important thing a country has is its constitution.”
Musharraf had been suffering from a rare disease known as amyloidosis and last summer his family said he had no prospect of recovery.
Senior military chiefs “express heartfelt condolences on (the) sad demise of General Pervez Musharraf,” a brief statement released by the military’s media wing said Sunday.