On the weekend Crikey went to hear former Malaysian deputy PM, Anwar Ibrahim, speak to a group of academics and Asia experts at a lunch in Melbourne.

Anwar was jailed for six years by the former Malaysian prime minister Mahatir Mohammad on what is widely regarded as a concocted sodomy charge, and was released last September. He now lives in Washington, where he is a visitng fellow at the Johns Hopkins University, and has become an outspoken critic of the present Malaysian government, which has banned him from participating in Malaysian politics for another five years.

Under the current Badawi government “elections are flawed”, Anwar told the Melbourne gathering. There are thousands of phantom voters and you can’t verify the electoral role. “Just like the ALP,” chimed in former Australian Industry Minister John Button, adding some local context.

One of the journalists taking a close interest in Anwar’s comments on Saturday was the Australian stringer for Malaysia’s Straits Times, who said he planned to make the jailed politician’s comments about the current government the centrepiece of his weekly column. But would the government-controlled newspaper be likely publish harsh criticism of the Malaysian government, someone asked him? “That’s up to the powers that be in KL,” he said. But would his column be published? “No”, he perdicted.

The Age’s Tony Parkinson reported yesterday on Anwar’s call for Australia to pull its weight in the campaign to free Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi here. George Negus also interviewed Anwar on Dateline about allegations linking him with international Muslim organisations suspected of funding terrorism. You can read the transcript here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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