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Anwar, back in Malaysia parliament, stages walkout

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Anwar, back in Malaysia parliament, stages walkout

By VIJAY JOSHI –

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim rejoined Malaysia’s Parliament on Thursday and staged a walkout to protest a proposed government law that critics say is meant to bolster a sodomy charge against him.

The government denies that the legislation, which would make it mandatory for criminal suspects to provide DNA samples, targets Anwar. He was forced to resign his Parliament seat in 1999 amid a sodomy allegation and now has been accused of sodomy in a separate case.

Anwar has dismissed it as a “sickening” government conspiracy to prevent his rise to prime minister. A special election was held Tuesday after his wife vacated her seat, which she had held for two terms during Anwar’s political exile. He regained the seat in a landslide victory.

Dressed in a dark-blue traditional Malay shirt, pants and cap, Anwar was sworn in as a legislator Thursday to take his seat amid loud thumping of desks by opposition members. He also was formally declared the leader of the combined opposition in Parliament.

“I am glad to be back after a decade. I really feel vindicated. I feel great,” Anwar said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and most Cabinet ministers from the ruling National Front coalition were not present during Anwar’s swearing-in.

Anwar had been a rising star in the National Front, the heir apparent to then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, but they had a falling out over policy differences during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Mahathir fired him as deputy prime minister in 1998.

Anwar was jailed for six years after he was convicted of corruption and sodomizing his family driver. The sodomy conviction was overturned by Malaysia’s top court in 2004.

His triumph in Tuesday’s special election came on the heels of big gains by the opposition in the March general elections that loosened the governing National Front’s 51-year grip on power.

The Front returned to power with a simple majority of 140 seats in the 222-member house. Anwar’s People’s Alliance coalition increased its strength from 19 to 82 seats and needs 30 more to form a government.

Anwar said the alliance remains on track to topple the government by Sept. 16 with defections from the National Front. If he succeeds, he will lead the first opposition-led government in Malaysia, which has been ruled continuously by the National Front coalition since independence from Britain in 1957.

“Anwar — whatever we think of him and many of us are deeply skeptical — is looking more and more like our future prime minister,” columnist Karim Raslan wrote in The Star daily on Thursday. “There is a mounting sense of inevitability to his impending succession.”

Still, significant hurdles remain for Anwar, the biggest of them the new criminal charge that he sodomized a 23-year-old male aide. A court will hear his case on Sept. 10 to set a date for the trial. Under Malaysian law, even consensual sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Anwar refused to give a DNA sample during the investigations into the sodomy allegation, saying he fears police would fabricate evidence.

On Thursday, Home Minister Syed Hamid’s closing speech on the DNA legislation debate was interrupted numerous times by heckling opposition lawmakers.

Just as Syed Hamid was finishing his speech, Anwar led all opposition members in a walkout, watched by stunned government lawmakers. He told reporters that the opposition had demanded the setting up of a select committee to study the bill first.

“We have walked out because they have refused to respond” to the request, he said. “So there’s no point in staying and participating in this debate.”

Associated Press writers Eileen Ng and Sean Yoong contributed to this report.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gvk18e1IzUJ9V-VNzo1_wg-4mkWgD92RA4VG0

More;

Anwar Makes Victorious Return to Malaysian Parliament Voice of America
Malaysia’s Anwar stages walkout after return to parliament AFP
BBC NewsSwissinfoAljazeera.netMonsters and Critics.com
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Malaysian Opposition Chief Wins Parliament Seat

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar wins parliament seat despite sodomy charge against him

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm

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