ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Anwar says plan on track to topple the government Tuesday
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, despite fighting a sodomy charge in court, said Wednesday his plan to seize power by September 16 is on track while the ruling party is mired in a row over a racial slur, Kyodo News reported.
Anwar, 61, made his second appearance in the Sessions Court on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on what he described as a "treacherous and malicious" charge by a 23-year-old former aide who has accused him of sexual assault.
Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, punishable with 20 years in jail and whipping.
Anwar says the charge is a conspiracy to derail his political comeback.
The prosecutors, he added, are manipulated by "political masters." "They should do a good deed in this holy month of Ramadan and just drop the charge," he told reporters outside the courtroom after his case was postponed to Sept. 24 to allow the defense to submit their objection to prosecution's application to transfer the case to the High Court.
The former deputy prime minister who saw his ambition for the premiership thwarted a decade years ago when he was sacked and jailed for corruption and sodomy is trying to engineer defections of lawmakers from the ruling National Front coalition, BN, to his camp.
The Anwar-led three-party opposition coalition scored a historic upset in the March 8 election when they succeeded in denting the BN's two-thirds grip in Parliament for the first time in 50 years.
The opposition quadrupled its seats to 82, while the BN fell to 140 seats.
Anwar needs to entice at least 30 BN lawmakers to his side to undermine Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government.
Anwar claims he has the numbers and has set a deadline of Sept. 16 as the day he will take over from Abdullah.
With six more days to go, when asked by reporters if the deadline is still on track, Anwar replied "very much so." But the BN has given Anwar a good excuse if he cannot deliver next week.
"There are technical problems," he said, "because 51 MPs have been shipped away."He was referring to 51 BN members of parliament who flew to Taiwan in the last two day on a hastily arranged trip the opposition charges is aimed at preventing them from taking part in Anwar's Sept. 16 plans.
Abdullah also faces a challenge beside Anwar.
He is struggling to contain public uproar over a racist remarks made by one of his party leaders.
Ahmad Ismail of the United Malays National Organization Bukit Bendera division in Penang State stirred up a political storm when he called the ethnic Chinese "immigrants squatting in this
country" and likening them to "American Jews" who not only control the economy but also politics.
The UMNO supreme council, the party highest decision-making body, is meeting later Wednesday to decide on the action to be taken on Ahmad after he refused to apologise.
Ahmad's charges have led to strained ties between UMNO and its Chinese coalition partners.