Monday, September 27, 2010

Branson urges Najib to halt Sodomy II trial

By Yow Hong

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has called on the Malaysian prime minister to intervene in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial, calling the issue “a thorn” in Malaysia’s otherwise good reputation.

“If you’re a bold leader, you should get rid of things like this which are damaging your reputation,” he said today at the “Dawn of the New Decade: Alternative Investments in Asia” conference here.

“This has gone on for a long, long time. It looks bad overseas.”

While Branson did not think Anwar’s Sodomy II trial was causing foreign investors to shy away from Malaysia in any major way, the mercurial entrepreneur nonetheless said more people would want to invest in Malaysia if it were more open and liberal.


He added that it was incumbent on the prime minister to address the “damaging” trial as good leaders looked after their citizens well, much like how good employers take care of their employees.

Branson was speaking at the “Dawn of the New Decade - Alternative Investments in Asia” forum in the capital hosted by the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). He went on after MIDA Director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba gave her address.

Anwar, the 62-year-old PKR de facto leader, is charged with sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, at Unit 11-5-1 of the Desa Damansara Condominium in Jalan Setiakasih, Bukit Damansara here between 3.01pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.

The former deputy prime minister has denied the charge, describing it as “evil, frivolous lies by those in power” when the charge was read out to him. He is charged under section 377B of the Penal Code and can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years’ jail and whipping upon conviction. The trial is taking place 18 months after Anwar was charged in court in August 2008.

Anwar was charged with sodomy and corruption in 1998 after he was sacked from the Cabinet and was later convicted and jailed for both offences.

He was freed in September 2004 and later resurrected his political career by winning back his Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat in a by-election in 2008, which had been held in the interim by his wife.

He had earlier led the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, to a historic sweep of five states and 82 parliamentary seats in Election 2008.

Anwar’s Sodomy II trial will resume on October 14.


The Malaysian Insider

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