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Malaysian opposition slam riot claims, Anwar makes election plea

Date: 23 Nov 1999
Time: 19:56:16


Malaysian opposition slam riot claims, Anwar makes election plea

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 (AFP) - Malaysia's opposition alliance Tuesday slammed government claims of planned riots by its supporters as alliance leader Anwar Ibrahim pleaded from jail for support in upcoming elections.

The ruling National Front adverts have focused on street disturbances sparked by the jailing and prison treatment this year of ex-deputy premier Anwar, who has become the symbol of the opposition campaign.

The advertisements featured photos of rioters with the message that the opposition alliance had "no respect for the law, no fear of the authorities (and) no regard for the safety of others."

Anwar, sacked and detained in September 1998 and now serving six years for abusing his official powers, is the Alternative Front's candidate for prime minister in the November 29 polls. He is now on trial for sodomy.

The Alternative Front (Barisan Alternatif), in a statement, said a "climate of fear" created by the ruling coalition had reached fever pitch in recent days.

"Three times in five days, Mahathir has wickedly alleged that the Barisan Alternatif will riot a few days before polling when it realises it will lose the elections," the statement said.

"This is a revolting lie," it said, urging Mahathir to end talk of rioting.

It also challenged Mahathir's National Front (Barisan Nasional) to solemnly pledge before Malaysia's King that "both sides will fully abide by the people's verdict and that neither side will engage in any violence or dirty politics."

"We give the Barisan Nasional 24 hours to respond to this public invitation. Their failure to respond will be clear proof to the nation who desires peace and who, violence," it said.

Mahathir has frequently alleged that the opposition is planning street clashes and has recalled the 1969 anti-Chinese race riots -- the most traumatic event here since independence in 1957.

Opposition parties have lodged complaints with police over the National Front's media adverts, which they say breach election and other laws.

Anwar, in an eight-page open letter from his jail cell Tuesday, accused the government of abuse of power and corruption and appealed to Malaysians to vote it out.

"The power in a democratic system is in the hands of the people," Anwar wrote. "And this is the best ever chance for us to determine our future leaders."

He thanked the Alternative Front for having confidence in him and said persistent attempts by his former mentor Mahathir to end his political carrier had not dented his confidence or that of the opposition.

Analysts say Mahathir's coalition, which has ruled the country with its predecessor since independence in 1957, is facing its toughest challenge of recent years.

The National Front, which holds 166 of 192 parliamentary seats, is certain to win but the opposition wants to deny the government its two-thirds majority.

In his letter, Anwar again said he was the victim of a political conspiracy and appealed "with all humbleness" to people to vote for the Alternative Front.

The letter was e-mailed to AFP by the National Justice Party led by Anwar's wife. A spokesman for the party said it was a personal message from Anwar but declined to say how he sent it from jail.

"We are offering a front which is for democratic rule, transparent and responsible," Anwar said in his letter written in Malay.

It traced his days in Mahathir's administration and what he said were the circumstances behind his sacking and conviction.

"I am a victim of malicious lies and wicked conspiracy," he added.

Last changed: November 23, 1999