Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said his government's
decision to sharply raise fuel prices was "unconscionable."
In a move to end decades of heavy subsidies
that have kept Malaysian fuel prices among Southeast Asia's lowest,
the Malaysian government recently jacked up the pump price of
gasoline by 41 percent to 2.70 ringgit (US$0.87) a liter, or 10.23
ringgit (US$3.30) a gallon.
Diesel prices shot up 63 percent to 2.58
ringgit (US$0.80) per liter.
Speaking at a forum in Manila on Friday,
Anwar noted that Malaysia is a net exporter of petroleum, which
annually generates "huge resources and profit."
"To decide summarily, without regard to the
plight of the vast majority, particularly the poor and the
marginalized, to me, is unconscionable," he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, Domestic Trade Minister
Shahrir Samad said Friday that the government will not revise the
price increases despite opposition protests, but assured there would
not be further hikes anytime soon.
Like some other Asian countries, Malaysia
had faced a spiraling fuel subsidy bill that could have been more
than 56 billion ringgit (US$17 billion) this year due to rising
world oil prices.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and
finance minister who now leads an opposition coalition, said, "We
cannot opt for any other thing except for market economy ... but
this cannot be done without regard to the issues of good governance
Anwar was fired by then-Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad in 1998 in a power struggle. He was expelled from
the ruling party and convicted of sodomy and corruption, charges he
says were politically motivated.
He was released from prison in 2004 after
the sodomy conviction was overturned, but the corruption conviction
barred him from holding political office until April 15, 2008.
He was invited to Manila by former
Philippine President Joseph Estrada, whom he considered a loyal
friend and "part of my family."
Anwar and his wife, Wan Azizah, had dinner
late Friday at Estrada's suburban San Juan residence with former
President Corazon Aquino.
Estrada was ousted amid massive
anti-corruption protests in 2001 in what he says was a conspiracy of
the elite, some military officers and Roman Catholic church leaders.
He was convicted of plunder last year and
sentenced to life in prison but was pardoned a month later by
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.