Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and three of his allies were suspended from parliament for six months yesterday in votes that triggered pandemonium and an opposition walkout.
Anwar, who is also facing trial on sodomy charges that he says are a political conspiracy, was this week found guilty of misleading members in a row over a national unity slogan.
He had criticized the government’s “One Malaysia” slogan aimed at uniting the multiracial nation, which he said had been copied from the “One Israel” political alliance of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in 1999.
The charge is highly sensitive in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is a supporter of a Palestinian state.
The government on Wednesday cited three senior opposition MPs for contempt for criticizing the parliamentary disciplinary probe against Anwar, and demanded that they also serve six-month suspensions.
“It’s so clear, it’s blatantly biased,” Anwar said after the suspension votes against the four were carried in parliament, where the ruling coalition has a clear majority. “It’s a mockery of the entire proceedings.”
The votes were held after chaotic scenes in the house where debate was drowned out by a half-hour shouting match, and opposition lawmakers unfurled placards reading “Save the Parliament.”
They later staged a walkout, chanting “Shame on you.”
Anwar was once a deputy prime minister in the ruling coalition but was sacked and jailed a decade ago on separate sex and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated.
He spent six years in jail before the original sex conviction was overturned, and returned to parliament at the helm of a reinvigorated opposition.