Saturday, April 27, 2013

The man who could be Malaysia's next prime minister has attacked Julia Gillard and other Labor leaders for failing to support the country's democracy movement.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim says he has been shocked by the refusal of Ms Gillard, former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Bob Carr to meet him during their official visits to Malaysia in recent years.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax, Mr Anwar said the Labor government seemed to be more interested in courting trade and asylum-seeker deals than in defending democratic principles.
''You come from a tradition that gives respect and recognition to the opposition, so why can't I meet the Prime Minister of Australia?'' he said. ''I go to India, I meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In Indonesia, I meet the President. What is so different about Australia?''
Mr Anwar's three-party coalition poses a serious threat to the 56-year dominance of Malaysian politics by the United Malays National Organisation in next weekend's national elections.
If he wins power, Mr Anwar has promised to end the endemic corruption within Malaysia's ruling elite, lift all restrictions on the government-controlled media and restore the independence of the judiciary and bureaucracy.

He was Malaysia's deputy leader and finance minister before being abruptly sacked by then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 and then jailed for six years on discredited sex and corruption charges.

Mr Anwar said that if countries such as Australia believed in democratic values they had to be prepared to support those same values in countries where they were abused.
He said Mr Rudd had refused to meet him when he visited Malaysia as prime minister in 2008, Ms Gillard had avoided meeting him when she came to Malaysia in late 2010 on her first overseas trip as Prime Minister and Senator Carr had not met him when he was in Kuala Lumpur last November.

During his 2008 visit to Malaysia, Mr Rudd is reported to have said: ''Democracy is not just alive and well in Malaysia, it is flourishing.''

Mr Anwar said he later contacted Mr Rudd and challenged him on the remarks: ''I said, Kevin, you're not serious … you can say you are happy to have good bilateral relations but you can't go further.''

He criticised Senator Carr for not meeting him on his visit to Malaysia in November: ''Even when Bob Carr was here he didn't see me. Then he quietly called me on the phone later.''
Mr Anwar said he had good personal relationships with a number of Australian politicians but they needed to stand up for what they claimed to believe in.

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