KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — For months now, there has been a growing distrust in Malaysia’s relations with Turkey. Government officials have been watching with suspicion the close ties between Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Reccep Erdogan’s AKP political party.
They have been gathering intelligence on the use of Turkish strategists by Anwar in the run-up to the general election on March 8, convinced that this constituted interference in the affairs of Malaysia by foreign agents.
No official complaint was lodged with Turkey. But this is about to change. The decision by Anwar to seek refuge in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur has raised the temperature in diplomatic ties between the two members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
Anwar said that he was invited by Turkish ambassador to Malaysia Barlas Ozener to stay in the country’s mission after an aide alleged in a police report that Anwar had sodomised him on June 26 in an apartment in Bukit Damansara.
But this invitation from the Turkish ambassador has drawn the ire of Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim.
Rais said that Barlas will be summoned to Wisma Putra to explain why Anwar was allowed to seek refuge in the embassy.
“If he is evading any sort of preventive law like the ISA, then it is a different matter. But he is being sought for an investigation involving sodomy, which is a crime under the Penal Code. When you run away from the law, it is not the same as facing some political persecution. As such the embassy cannot grant him any sort of protection.
“We will ask the ambassador to reconsider as it is meddling in Malaysia’s internal affairs,” he told The Star.
Turkey is not likely to budge. Anwar and the Turkish Premier Erdogan struck up a friendship after the former was released from jail in 2004. The former deputy prime minister has visited Ankara several times and is said to be an admirer of the AKP, particularly the manner in which Erdogan managed to sandpaper the rough edges of the Islamic political party and make it more acceptable to the public.
But Malaysian government officials believe that Turkey’s assistance to Anwar and the Opposition went beyond just offering political strategy.