24th September 2023 – (Kuala Lumpur) In an interview with CNN, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim revealed that China has given assurances of its commitment to negotiate with Southeast Asian countries regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The statement comes after China released a map last month with a “10-dash line” that appeared to expand its claims in the disputed waters, a move rejected by Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations.
Speaking to CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, Anwar stated that Chinese Premier Li Qiang was “clear and categorical” in assuring him that China would continue negotiations and avoid actions that could escalate tensions or cause discord in the region. Anwar expressed his relief at Li’s commitment, emphasising the need for both parties to avoid unnecessary provocations that could adversely impact the region.
Addressing concerns raised about his commitment to democratic reforms, Anwar addressed recent controversial decisions made by his government, including the dropping of corruption charges against key allies, the filing of sedition charges against opposition leaders, and increased scrutiny of Malaysia’s LGBTQ community.
Prime Minister Anwar stated that he would not interfere in the decisions made by Malaysia’s attorney general, emphasizing that laws against seditious remarks involving the country’s monarchy should be respected. He reiterated that Malaysia does not accept LGBTQ rights but added that the LGBTQ community should not be harassed. Anwar expressed his disagreement with the government’s ban on Swatch watches celebrating the Pride movement, which the home ministry deemed harmful to morality and public interest. Possession or sale of the banned watches can result in up to three years in jail and a fine.
Anwar himself faced charges of sodomy in 2008 while leading the opposition. He was tried in 2010 and 2011, and in January 2012, he was acquitted. The acquittal was later overturned by the Court of Appeal in March 2014, resulting in a conviction and a five-year prison sentence. Anwar appealed to the Federal Court, which affirmed the conviction and sentence in February 2015. He served his sentence in Sungai Buloh Prison in Selangor before being pardoned on 16th May, 2018, by Malaysia’s King, Sultan Muhammad V, following discussions with the pardons board and the then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.