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Malaysia: Govt MPs off to Taiwan amid political uncertainty

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September 9, 2008

Malaysia: Govt MPs off to Taiwan amid political uncertainty

The first batch of 49 lawmakers from Malaysia's ruling party left the country Monday on a "study trip" as political uncertainty escalates ahead of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's looming deadline to seize power, reported Kyodo News.

Hours before the 41 lawmakers from the ruling National Front coalition flew off to Taiwan on the hastily arranged trip, Anwar chaired a meeting with leaders in his opposition coalition to "brief them on the progress of the take-over," Tian Chua, information chief of Anwar's People's Justice Party, told Kyodo News.

"He said it is still on track and told them to be prepared to move house," Chua said. Anwar is planning to topple the government by wooing the National Front (BN) lawmakers to defect. He has even set a deadline, Sept. 16, for the takeover.

BN currently controls 140 seats in Parliament, while the opposition has 82. Anwar would need at least 30 more lawmakers to topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration.

The so-called "study trip" has become what Lim Kit Siang of the opposition Democratic Action Party described as a "political farce" that shows the increasing panic in the BN leadership.

"The birds have flown," he said. They were "forced to flee from Malaysia to ensure that they don't take part in any Sept. 16 political changes."

Bung Mokhtar Radin, one of the 41 lawmakers who left Monday, told reporters at the airport that "this trip is for us to learn new technology in agriculture. We will spend one week there to learn
what we can." Another eight lawmakers are expected to depart on Tuesday.

Suhaini Aznam, the political writer in The Star English-language daily, wrote in her column Monday that BN "is playing right into Anwar's psy-war game."

"That BN backbenchers going abroad on an agricultural field trip gives ammunition to Anwar if he does not manage to make good on his promise," she said.

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