KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim maintained that the charge against Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor regarding the 3R (race, religion and royalty) issue was not about cracking down on opposition figures but revolved around the need to protect the royal institution.
Speaking to CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour during an interview segment aired tonight, he noted that he, as prime minister, had been the subject of frequent abuse yet none of his critics were charged with sedition.
"I have been abused on a daily basis and none have been charged (with sedition).
"You see, (if there are) criticism against the prime minister of the government. I don't charge them with sedition.
"But if you touch on the rulers, the Sultans, that's different," he said.
Anwar added that there is a need to protect the royal institution and that he cannot be criticised for such prosecution.
"I think there is a need to protect the institution. That's what the people have decided from Independence. That's the system we inherited.
"So when a person is deemed to be abusive towards the Rulers and the charges were preferred by the Attorney-General, the law persists until we are able to amend it.
"If the issue of criticism is against the prime minister, and he took action, then (the argument of cracking down against the opposition) is valid," Anwar said.
Sanusi on July 18 was charged over two counts of uttering seditious remarks that could incite disloyalty towards the Rulers.
Sanusi, during a political rally, was accused of belittling the Sultan of Selangor's appointment of Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari.
The Selangor Royal Office subsequently issued a statement, saying that Sanusi's remark was considered an insult to the Selangor royal institution.
Amanpour also noted that Anwar came into power on a reform agenda and strong anti-corruption platform, adding that PKR Pasir Gudang member of parliament Hassan Abdul Karim had accused him of abandoning his reformist goal.
Anwar replied that the fact that the criticism came from one of his own party members reflected that the democratic process was in action.
"Look at it positively. The criticism is coming from a member of my own party. As such, it's a very democratic process," he said.