(AA) – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim vowed Tuesday that he would continue to speak out from jail, saying imprisonment would not wind down his voice or dampen his political ideology.
In a debate address to parliament read by his daughter and lawmaker Nurul Izzah, Ibrahim reiterated that he is not guilty of the charge of sodomising former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
He said the charge was a politically motivated fiction, aimed at silencing him.
“The case was a political conspiracy to end my political carrier,” he said, offering the government’s releasing of a statement saying “the judiciary is fair” just “five minutes after verdict was given” as evidence.
“I am prepared to go to jail and will not stay out like some other cowards,” said the former deputy prime minister.
Izzah — Ibrahim’s eldest daughter and vice-president of his political party, the People’s Justice Party — stepped in Monday to give the speech after an application for Ibrahim to be allowed to attend parliament — on the grounds that he remains opposition leader — was rebuffed.
The Prisons Department had rejected the application, saying Ibrahim is not to be given special treatment, in accordance with the provision of existing laws, regulations and procedures.
Ibrahim said in his prepared speech that while the Malaysian judiciary was never free from government interference, the judges who passed the Feb. 10 verdict against him had clearly succumbed to government pressure.
He added that opposition parliamentarians would be proposing a motion to debate the unfairness of the country’s judges in the current parliament session.
“I hope that the motion can be debated for the benefit of all Malaysians,” he added.
Earlier Tuesday, around 15 People’s Alliance supporters shaved their heads in front of the parliament building, to protest the imprisonment.
The head of the party’s youth wing, Dr. Afif Bahardin, said it will be organising a signature drive, demanding a royal pardon for Ibrahim.
He said he expected the drive to gather between 100,000 to 200,00 signatures over the next two weeks.
Freshly shaved Nik Mazian said he had gone baled because of the unfairness the government showed in its jailing of Ibrahim.
“I agreed to do this in front of parliament because the nation is in a state of crisis,” he said, while raising questions as to how the parliament can function with the opposition leader in jail.
Ibrahim, 67, was jailed in a Federal Court ruling that also rules him out of standing in the 2018 general election.
The case was first heard in 2012, when he was acquitted. The prosecution appealed the decision and in March last year Ibrahim was convicted on the same charge, which he appealed and lost last month.
The Federal Court is the highest court in Malaysia and its decision cannot be appealed. However, under the federal constitution, the monarch has the power to grant pardons.
In granting pardons, the king is advised by a board that consists of the federal territories minister, the attorney general and no more than three other members.
Pardons are usually granted on the king’s birthday in June.
On Monday, People’s Alliance MP Liew Chin Tong said that although Izzah would read today’s speech, she would not take up the role of opposition leader in Ibrahim’s absence.
“We didn’t back Izzah as the new opposition leader. We only agreed that she should read out the Permatang Pauh MP’s debate speech,” he told The Star Online.
Ibrahim has been the main opponent of the ruling party, which has been in power since independence in 1957, since falling out with the government in the late 1990s. The 2013 general election saw his opposition coalition came close to unseating the government in what Ibrahim dubbed the “worst electoral fraud in our history.”
Since the election, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach, cracking down on civil liberties and arresting student and civil society leaders.