MARGARET WARNER: Good evening.
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well, I have many words to describe our
reaction to the utterance by Vice
President Al Gore. What he presented was outrageous and utterly disappointing. By uttering those
words, he has breached one of the ethical rules of human conduct, human behavior, that is, you do
not go out of your way to insult your host; even in private it is objectionable - but to do it in public, in
front of everybody else, a lot of people and in front of the host himself, I think it raises questions about
the wisdom and the appropriateness of such words. We
understand if it is said in private, in confidence, in private,
we can understand and perhaps take it in that
perspective, but to do it in public I think is something that
most Malaysians, except for those who are
demonstrating in the streets, utterly object.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me get the
Congressman's reaction to that. Do you think it was
ill-advised, Congressman, for him to say this in public?
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS, (D) New Jersey: I am
very proud of what Vice President Gore did. I don't think
he was rude. I think he was courageous. And I think we
should never elevate the rules of courtesy over human
rights. Mr. Anwar is in prison tonight. I believe he's in
prison because he had the courage to speak his
convictions. And I'm proud we had a Vice President who
said that yesterday.
An Asian aparheid?
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ambassador, the leaders
of many other countries right in your region have also
been critical of the arrest of Mr. Anwar, I mean, the
leaders of Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea. Did
you find that - that criticism equally offensive, or was it
coming from the United States that made it particularly
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well, we have raised our
disappointment at some of these statements made.
MARGARET WARNER: By other governments, you
HASMY BIN AGAM: By the other governments. And
they have - after seeing the whole situation in the country
and the nature of the cases have been made against the
former deputy prime minister, they have come to
appreciate the special - and I think that it has turned
down whatever presentation they might have made. I
mean, this is to be expected by our neighbors, who
understand the situation much better, but we would also
have expected the United States - presumably a friendly
country to Malaysia - to have at least tried to see things
in perspective. Here, I think the United States' mission -
had not advised Washington as to the actual real nature
of the situation and on the ground.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS:
Yes. I think it's important
Americans know the facts. In
early September of this year
Mr. Anwar, who was involved
in the government, was
arrested. He was arrested on
charges under a law that we
would find unbelievable in this
country, that he was a threat to the Malaysian state. He's
been in prison ever since then. He was beaten. When he
appeared for his trial, there was absolute evidence of
physical abuse that he was beaten when this took place.
We don't understand that, and we don't think that's a
matter of economics or diplomacy. We think that's a
matter of human rights. This reminds me of the dialogue
that took place about Nelson Mandela in South Africa a
few years ago. We were called rude and impolite and
impertinent for pointing out the fact that we thought it
was wrong that someone could be imprisoned for
speaking his political beliefs. I'm proud that our country
belatedly took a stand against apartheid, and I'm proud
that we took a stand against this violation of human rights
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ambassador, was Mr.
Anwar arrested, in part, because of his beliefs? In other
words, I think people understand perhaps why he was
fired, if he was the finance minister and the president -
the prime minister didn't support his policies and vice
versa. But why also arrest him and have him go through
what the congressman has just laid out?
HASMY BIN AGAM: Could I just take exception to
remarks by Congressman? I think it's -
MARGARET WARNER: Please do.
HASMY BIN AGAM: You shouldn't compare the
situation in Malaysia to apartheid. I mean, it's a gross,
disproportionate what you call it - comparison of
situations. Malaysia was against apartheid, was a leader
among those countries that fought for apartheid. And I
find it utterly objectionable to put the two together.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: Mr. Ambassador, what is
Mr. Anwar's crime? What has he been accused of
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well, as you know, if you have
not read the report, then I'm afraid you're ignorant of the
situation in Malaysia.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: No. I've read it. What's he
accused of doing?
HASMY BIN AGAM: He's
been accused of ten charges.
One is now appearing in court,
the initial couple of charges --
One is abuse of his power
when he was deputy prime
minister. He has tried to
tamper - to tamper the
witnesses, you know, relating to one case involving
corruption - of his private secretary. He tried to interfere
with the anti-corruption agency's investigation of that
allegation. And then the other charges led to tampering of
witnesses, trying to get two people who made testimony
or testified - made accusations against the deputy - the
former deputy prime minister. He tried to retract their
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: Mr. Ambassador, if I may,
is it common practice in Malaysia to hold someone in
prison without bail for these kind of nonviolent offenses,
or are people held without bail commonly?
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well, he was first what you call
arrested under the international security for inciting public
disorder. That is why he was detained.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: Much like Mr. Mandela in
HASMY BIN AGAM: But Mandela was fighting for
freedom of his country. Malaysia is a free country. I
invite you to come to Malaysia and see for yourself.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: I
guess -- why isn't Mr. Anwar
free pending the disposition of
his trial? Why is he in prison?
HASMY BIN AGAM:
Because he is reported to be
tampering with witnesses to the
cases involved -involving him.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: So in your country if
someone is accused of witness tampering, they're held
without bail before their trial -- is that common place?
HASMY BIN AGAM: I don't know, but the particular -
the legal arguments used by - in court - I'm afraid I
cannot answer the precise --
The reform quesiton
MARGARET WARNER: All
right, gentlemen. Let me jump
in here just for a minute. Mr.
Ambassador, we understand
your view about the place and
timing of the Vice President's
remarks, but how about the
substance? His essential point
was you can't really have
economic prosperity in a 21st century economy, a global
economy, without political freedom. Is that criticism on
point, or is that observation on point, do you think for
HASMY BIN AGAM: I think Mr. Al Gore must have
missed the point here. Malaysia enjoys political freedom.
There are political parties. We have elections every four
or five years without fail. There has been no strict - there
will be no crackdown by military coups or things like that.
This is a country of law and order.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: If I may ask a question --
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, do let him
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: Sure. Okay.
HASMY BIN AGAM: This is a country of law and
order, and for Mr. Al Gore to come there and take the
side of a couple of demonstrators, a few hundred,
perhaps a few thousand even, you are allying yourself,
the superpower, the United States is allying itself to the -
what do you call - the powers of street demonstrations,
as opposed to the rule of law and order. It is utterly
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman.
demonstrators have to get a
permit, Mr. Ambassador, to
have these kind of
demonstrations in Malaysia?
HASMY BIN AGAM: No. In Malaysia, as in many
countries, to demonstrate you have to have a permit.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: And who's in charge of
giving the permit?
HASMY BIN AGAM: The permit is given by the police.
The police is in charge of this.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: I would simply say that in
this country if a group of our citizens felt that we were
doing something wrong here, they could assemble on the
grounds of our capitol and as long as they complied with
the public safety laws, they could say whatever they
wanted to. Why can't they do that in Malaysia?
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well, I appreciate that. You're
talking about the United States. You aren't talking about
Malaysia. Malaysia has a certain - has its own laws -
which have evolved through our own experience. Ours is
a multiracial society.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: So are we.
HASMY BIN AGAM: With very tenuous kind of mix of
politics and economics.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: So are we.
HASMY BIN AGAM: So we have these laws which
Are elections the answer?
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman - I mean, Mr.
Ambassador, let me ask you in the little time we have
left, one, what impact do you think Vice President Gore's
remarks will have, and, two, do you think we're going to
see political change in Malaysia? Do you think perhaps
even that Prime Minister Mahthir - do you think he's
going to be able to stay in power?
HASMY BIN AGAM: Well,
we have, as I said just now,
elections very regularly, every
four or five years. The next
election is coming up around
the year 2000. This way
people can voice their opinion,
whether they support the
prime minister or not. As far as we are concerned, there
is overwhelming support for the prime minister. We will
see at the next election whether this support continues.
And I'm sure, as far as I'm concerned - I've just come
back from Malaysia, myself, the support is very strong.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, do you want to
hazard a prediction on where you think things are going in
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: I wouldn't give a
prediction, but I'd give a challenge. Malaysia's credibility
is on the line tonight. Why doesn't the prime minister
release Mr. Anwar from prison, let him stand for trial as
a free man, and show them all that the Malaysia
government is not afraid of free debate, as the
Ambassador just said? Why doesn't Mr. Mahathir
release Mr. Anwar from prison?
MARGARET WARNER: All right, gentlemen. I have to
leave it there. Thank you very much.
REP. ROBERT ANDREWS: Thank you.
HASMY BIN AGAM: Thank you.