Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim spoke to the Nation's Group Editor-in-Chief Thepchai Yong in Kuala Lumpur last week prior to the visit of US President Barack Obama. He expressed his disappointment that Obama didn't see him, criticised the Najib government for what he sees as a cover-up in its handling of missing flight MH370, compared the ongoing political situation in Thailand and Malaysia, and urged a more "aggressive" approach by the Malaysian government in helping Thailand seek a peaceful solution to the southern insurgency. Here are excerpts of the interview:
THEPCHAI: ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THAT US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA IS NOT SEEING YOU DURING HIS VISIT TO KUALA LUMPUR?
ANWAR: Our request is that the US stays consistent and coherent. The US ambassador has explained that the [Obama's Asian visit] doesn't include meeting opposition leaders. I can't complain because the US has consistently been in support of the democratic process, rule of law, and has taken up my case. In that sense, I appreciate it. But I find it difficult to accept that the Malaysian government can use the trade agreement [TPP] and business to pressure the president of the United States. That doesn't go well for those fighting for freedom and reform.
SO YOU BELIEVE THE NAJIB GOVERNMENT WAS BEHIND THE DECISION OF THE US PRESIDENT NOT TO SEE YOU?
Yes, because their position has been clear. When I had programmes to see the president of Indonesia, Prime Minister Abhisit in Bangkok, or the visiting prime minister of Turkey, there were always problems and pressure. When they wanted to see me they were all stopped through diplomatic channels.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SAY TO PRESIDENT OBAMA IF YOU SEE HIM?
Be consistent with the American foreign policy in supporting reform agenda, transparent governments, democratic reforms. They have sent battalion after battalion of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and also drones in the war on terrorism, and here they can't be muted when the UMNO regime is using the court to deny my basic rights and those [rights] of other political leaders.
IT HAS BEEN TWO MONTHS SINCE THE DIS-APPEARANCE OF MH370 AND THERE ARE NO |INDICATIONS THAT THE PLANE WILL BE |LOCATED ANY TIME SOON. YOU HAVE SPOKEN OUT STRONGLY ON WHAT YOU SEE AS THE INEFFICIENCY AND INCOMPETENCE OF THE NAJIB GOVERNMENT. AND YOU HAVE ACCUSED THE GOVERNMENT OF A COVER-UP. WHAT IS YOUR THEORY ON THIS?
It's a tragedy, not only for the crew members, the passengers and their families, but it also opens up some of the major flaws in our opaque system of governance. No transparency and accountability. It's very difficult to understand what happened when there was a huge cover-up. I know the government is angry when I say that but I know about the radar which was procured when I was minister of finance. The Marconi system is a very sophisticated system comparable to the Thai radar system. And up to today, the government has not even released the cargo manifest of the flight except to say it was four tonnes of mangosteens . The Thais and Malaysians laugh about it because we know this is not the mangosteen season and you cannot get four tonnes off-season easily. The passenger list and the cargo manifest are there on all flights. Why are we hiding them? And there was also Interpol's report of stolen passports and we overlook(ed) that.