Anwar's opponents attempt to link him to Wolfowitz scandal
Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim has become entangled in the downfall of Paul Wolfowitz amid allegations that he wrote a letter requesting that the World Bank president's girlfriend be transferred to a high-paying job with the Foundation for the Future, which Mr Anwar chairs.
Mr Anwar's opponents have latched onto the case as evidence for their recurring allegations that he is a US partisan.
Government-linked mainstream newspapers last week reported that Mr Anwar wrote to an aide of Dr Wolfowitz requesting the transfer of Shaha Riza, Dr Wolfowitz's girlfriend, from the bank to the foundation.
She was ostensibly transferred to avoid a conflict of interest, but in the job change, she received a 36 per cent pay rise, a scandal that has cost Dr Wolfowitz his job.
Mr Anwar's longtime friendship with Dr Wolfowitz has attracted occasional criticism in Malaysia. Dr Wolfowitz actively campaigned to free the former deputy prime minister after he was jailed on corruption charges in 1999.
Their friendship goes back to the mid-1980s when Dr Wolfowitz was US ambassador in Jakarta.
Dr Wolfowitz, a key player in the US invasion of Iraq, flew to Germany to see Mr Anwar after his release in 2004.
Mr Anwar's critics also question the nature of the foundation, which reportedly has a war chest of US$35 million to 'promote democracy' in the Middle East.
'Malaysians are uncomfortable with an opposition leader who had offered himself as an alternative leader but maintained close ties with Wolfowitz, a former United States defence secretary, who was involved in the World Bank furore and was allegedly an architect of the ongoing war in Iraq,' said Khairy Jamaluddin, senior leader in the ruling Umno party and son-in-law of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.
'He owes the people an explanation,' Mr Khairy told reporters on Sunday.
In a response yesterday, Mr Anwar denied 'appointing' Ms Riza to her new job but skirted the issue of writing the letter.
'She was assigned by the World Bank through the US State Department to the foundation in late 2005 ... before I became chairman,' Mr Anwar said.
He also said the foundation is an independent body that promotes freedom and democracy and had pledges of financial assistance from the US, EU and other countries.
It will issue a full statement after a meeting in Bahrain next Tuesday, Mr Anwar said, adding the foundation will sue to protect itself from slander.