Malaysian police close off Parliament
By SEAN YOONG ; Associated Press Writer Published: July 13th, 2008 11:34 PM | Updated: July 13th, 2008 11:39 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian police locked down Parliament with roadblocks and massive security Monday to prevent opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his supporters from attending a key debate.
Malaysia was thrown into political turmoil in March when the ruling coalition suffered a severe electoral setback. The situation has been aggravated in recent weeks by accusations of sodomy against Anwar.
Anwar - who does not hold a parliamentary seat - was prevented by court order from attending an attempt by opposition lawmakers to force a debate on a "crisis of confidence in the government."
Opposition lawmaker Azmin Ali said there had been no plan to create "chaos" and that the massive security by the government amounted to "an evil provocation to scare the people."
The issue became moot when Parliament Speaker Pandikar Amin refused to allow the debate, prompting opposition lawmakers to walk out amid jeers by ruling party members, who shouted "Go on! Get out, get out!"
"Don't bring your political propaganda into this chamber. Don't make Parliament a laughing stock," Pandikar said.
The debate was not the same as a no-confidence vote, and did not threaten the government's stability. But police obtained a court order barring Anwar as well as the public from coming within three miles of Parliament, perhaps fearing a repeat of a mass anti-government street protest led by Anwar a decade ago.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi defended the police action, saying the massive traffic jams resulting from the police roadblocks were caused by "these people who are organizing the demonstration."
"Go to a stadium and shriek and scream at the top of your voice if you want to demonstrate," Abdullah said.
The unexpected police action intensified the political drama that Malaysia has been witnessing since the March 8 general elections in which the ruling coalition suffered badly, reducing the government's grip on power.
Since then, Anwar has launched a campaign to topple the government, which has a thin 30-seat majority in the 222-member Parliament, with ongoing defections.
But the opposition bid suffered a setback last month when a male aide accused Anwar of sodomizing him. The government fared no better when Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was sexually linked a few weeks ago to a slain Mongolian woman. A close friend of Najib is on trial on charges of abetting the murder.
Last week, Abdullah said he will retire early in 2010 and hand over power to Najib, who has denied knowing the Mongolian woman.
Also Monday, Anwar was supposed to present himself voluntarily to be questioned by police for the first time on the sodomy accusation. But his lawyer, Sankara Nair, said Anwar decided not to go because police were harassing and intimidating his staff.
"This was totally unnecessary" since Anwar had agreed to be questioned voluntarily, Nair said.
Wish he could also tell his SIL that: