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Friday, October 29, 2010

Clinton plans to meet Pakatan's Anwar, Kit Siang and Hadi



Hillary Clinton - unlikely to be deterred by Umno protests
Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is highly likely to take time off her busy schedule to meet with Pakatan Rakyat leaders Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Hadi Awang, although such a move may enrage and trigger threats of protests from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Umno party.

And while oil to Umno’s fire, Clinton’s public recognition for Malaysia’s first significant opposition will carry enormous implications and send reverberations across international diplomatic and business corridors although the government here may refuse to acknowledge the development.

“In general, it is not unusual for U.S. officials to meet with major opposition party leaders when they visit 'democracies’ and especially if elections seem to be coming up in the near future. It is always a smart move to hedge your bets so to speak,” a diplomatic observer in Washington told Malaysia Chronicle.

Obama administration to emphasize support for democracy, civil society

Clinton will arrive in Kuala Lumpur for a short-visit on Monday as part of a two-week Asian tour and will depart for Papua New Guinea on November 3.

Azizah and the charismatic Anwar
While, in Malaysia she will meet Najib, senior officials, discuss bi-lateral ties, promote trade, and discuss educational exchanges between the two countries.

According to the observer, Clinton’s team would have considered many angles before reaching their
decision, including the need for the U.S. to show and affirm its support for democracy and civil society in its foreign policy.

“We need to put our money where our mouth is, especially in a country like Malaysia, where we might be able to make a difference. We can't do much about Myanmar, but in Malaysia maybe we can make a difference,” said the observer.

“It would be a good idea to meet with the leaders of Pakatan because we don't want the people in Malaysia to think we are pro-Umno. We need to be balanced.”

U.S. to show balanced hand - not pro-Umno

But already, there is concerted effort by Najib and his cohorts to ‘discourage’ her from bestowing any form of recognition for Anwar and his Pakatan colleagues. Not too long ago, former Australian premier Kevin Rudd was forced to withdraw a planned meeting with Anwar at the last moment due to intense pressure from the Malaysian government.

Karpal and Kit Siang
Umno or the United Malays National Organization has ruled Malaysia since 1957 with the help of several coalition mates. In the 2008 national polls, Pakatan won more than half of the popular vote to gain control of 5 of the country's 13 states, denying the Umno-BN an important two-thirds parliamentary majority.

It has continued to gain ground and apart from Anwar, who also leads the People's Justice Party (PKR) with his wife Wan Azizah, the other two Pakatan parties are the Democratic Action Party (DAP) led by Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh, and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) led by Hadi Awang and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

“There are already protests on pro-Umno blogs warning her not to visit Anwar. Such reactions are to be expected and nothing particularly surprising,” Dr Ong Kian Ming, professor of political science at UCSI University, told Malaysia Chronicle.

Hadi and Nik Aziz
Surprising or not, Clinton is unlikely to be deterred and the Najib administration not expected to sulk for long either, given that Malaysia does need U.S. foreign direct investments and military protection as a check to China's growing assertiveness in Asia.

“When Madeline Albright met with Wan Azizah in 2008, the Government was angry, but they didn't retaliate. If we go to Malaysia and don't meet with Anwar, then we will be criticized in the U.S. by human rights groups and important friends of Anwar. We have to think about American politics, too,” said the observer.

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