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Anwar listed as speaker at Bloomberg forum amid ongoing controversy over casino report

The prime minister has come under pressure to clear his name over the report which has yet to be retracted.

2 minute read

Anwar Ibrahim will speak at an annual forum organised by Bloomberg, the US financial news outlet whose report last month that the prime minister had discussed plans for a second casino project in Malaysia sparked a controversy that led to a series of arrests.

The Qatar Economic Forum, powered by Bloomberg, has listed Anwar as one of the heads of government who will speak at the event in Doha, to be held  from May 14 to 16.

MalaysiaNow is trying to get confirmation of his trip from the Prime Minister's Office.

Anwar's presence at a forum linked to Bloomberg is likely to raise questions from critics who have urged him to take legal action against the financial news service to clear his name over a report last month.

According to the Bloomberg report, Anwar met with tycoons Vincent Tan of Berjaya and Lim Kok Thay of Genting, as well as representatives of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, to discuss plans to open a casino in Forest City.

"Anwar, senior government officials and the businessmen had lunch and meetings on the possibility of granting what would only be Malaysia’s second-ever casino licence," the report said, adding that the talks were "preliminary".

Anwar denied the report, calling it a lie, but stopped short of saying whether he would seek a retraction from the US-based media group.

Instead, he called on the parties named in the article to "take the necessary action".

Bloomberg has neither removed nor retracted its article so far, although it has added a line on Anwar's denial.

Last week, opposition activists Badrul Hisham Shaharin and Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris were charged with sedition for their comments quoting the Bloomberg report.

Earlier, a 45-year-old farmer in Penang was charged with sedition for comments he posted in a private WhatsApp group about the Bloomberg report.

All three were accused of insulting the Agong.

The police have also questioned Bloomberg journalist Ram Anand, who is said to have contributed to the article.

Badrul and Azri, both vocal critics of Anwar, popularly known as Chegubard and Papagomo, denied insulting the Agong, and said they had only asked Anwar to take action against Bloomberg for claiming that the Agong was involved in the alleged casino plot.

The series of arrests was condemned by rights groups.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia called on the government to stop what it called a witch-hunt against critics, while Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) warned Anwar against invoking the royal institution to justify the use of draconian laws.

"Anwar or the government have taken no steps to ask for the casino story to be retracted or to take any form of legal action against Bloomberg or other news sites regarding the claims, and the news remains available for anyone to access to online," LFL said.

"Having chosen not to do this, why instead target the Malaysian public who comment on the news or express concern or criticism in relation to it?"