Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was suspended from parliament for six months for making a false statement, prompting a mass walkout by coalition colleagues today.
The Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee recommended banning him from the house of representatives after concluding he made a false statement in parliament, linking the government’s “1Malaysia” national unity concept with a similar campaign carried out by Israel.
Opposition members shouted protests as Nazri Aziz, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, read a motion in parliament, which was passed without debate. Three fellow members of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, including his deputy Azmin Ali, were also barred for six months after being cited for contempt. There was ‘‘pandemonium” in parliament ahead of the vote, the Star newspaper reported today online.
“We might challenge the suspension in court,” Anwar later told reporters in Kuala Lumpur after the decision.
Anwar, 63, was punished for claiming Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government got the idea for its “1Malaysia” campaign from media consultancy Apco Worldwide, which he said was also behind the One Israel concept. The government denied this.
Najib has used the “1Malaysia” slogan to help campaign for greater unity among the country’s various races and religions.
“If they want to challenge the suspension in court, let them go ahead,” said Khairy Jamaluddin, who heads the youth wing of the United Malays National Organisation, the biggest party in Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition. He was speaking to reporters in parliament.
“This decision makes Najib’s administration look foolish,” said Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University. “In short, this will increase public support for the opposition, and damage Najib’s administration,” she said in e-mail to Bloomberg News.