Prime Minister Rudd is spending today in Kuala Lumpur. Should be pleasant. Friendly chat with the opposite number Abdullah Badawi. Visit a school. Address a business lunch. Finesse the bilateral relationship. A bit of chicken satay. Carefully avoid the steaming heat and lingering thunderstorms. Head for the airport. All sweet, except for the elephant in the room — Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s de-facto opposition leader. Kevin Rudd has conspicuously decided not to meet with Anwar, a decision which effectively endorses the increasingly sleazy brand of democracy practised by Badawi’s ruling Umno party and raises uncomfortable questions about our PM’s practise-what-you-preach political behaviour. When it comes to democracy, justice and transparent governance, Malaysia is turning into a basket case. Although the government scraped back to power in recent elections, they did so in large part by banning the highly popular Anwar from running against them. Now that Anwar is free to stand for parliament, after a trumped up sodomy charge in 1998 which saw him jailed for years was officially repudiated, the Umno thuggocracy has again played the sodomy card to try to stop him. Two weeks ago, Anwar was forced to seek refuge in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur after his driver accused him of sodomy, an explosive charge in an Islamic country. Because Australia has a well-regarded and relatively high-profile in Malaysia, its endorsements carry rather more weight than they do in most other parts of the globe. If he didn’t have the guts to meet with an oppressed opposition leader at a critical juncture, Kevin Rudd should never have gone to Malaysia in the first place.
If he didn't have the guts to meet with an oppressed opposition leader at a critical juncture, Kevin Rudd should never have gone to Malaysia in the first place.