Another Trial for Malaysia by Dr Farish Noor

This is from Dr Farish Noor latest postings on his blog:

       Another Trial for Malaysia

The trials and tribulations of Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim continue, and history seems to be repeating itself time and again in the country. Ten years after the infamous trial where he was accused of sexual misconduct and abuse of power, Anwar Ibrahim is once again being investigated for charges of sexual misconduct with a man who was a member of his party, the People’s Justice Party (PKR) of Malaysia.

On 16th July Anwar was arrested just after he had given his testimony before the country’s Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), and on his way to give yet another testimony at the Police Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. A deadline had been set at 2.00 pm for him to show up at the police office, and though he was already on his way there he was apprehended near his home before the deadline had expired.

Anwar has since been arrested under the laws of section 377a of the Malaysian constitution that stipulates that ‘abnormal sex’ is a crime. Yet Malaysians have grown somewhat weary of the use of this law as the last time it was put to work was in 1998, when Anwar was also accused on ‘abnormal sex’. The trial that followed his arrest in 1998 was a shambolic affair that brought low the reputation of the Malaysian judiciary and security services; and the icing on the cake was the assault on Anwar that led to him being produced in court with bruises on his face and the infamous black eye that has been captured for posterity by the world’s media. Malaysia’s legal institutions suffered the biggest blow to their credibility as the court case that followed was scrutinised in detail by Malaysia-watchers the world over.

Today, things have changed and moved on: In 1998 Malaysia’s political crisis was sparked by Anwar’s arrest and the mobilisation of the masses by his political supporters who used tools like the internet and alternative media. Malaysia then had less than a million internet users, and Anwar’s nemesis Dr. Mahathir was at the peak of his popularity.

Malaysia today has moved on with nearly 12 million registered internet users and the creation of the most well-connected, well-informed and politically savvy electorate in its history. Furthermore the present government does not have half of the support that Dr. Mahathir enjoyed in 1998, with the ruling coalition being badly weakened after the election results of 2008. Anwar, on the other hand, is at the peak of his career and popularity; and many feel that this arrest was yet another attempt to prevent him from leading a popular movement to change the government.

On the night before his arrest, Anwar was seen on TV in a live debate about oil prices with a senior politician, Shabary Cheek. For Malaysians all over the country, this was perhaps the first time they had seen Anwar live on TV and allowed to speak his mind freely since his fall from grace in 1998. And the results of the debate were expected: Local polls suggested that the Malaysians saw Anwar as the winner of the debate and that his arguments were convincing.

Anwar’s arrest could therefore not have come at a worst time for the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The question on everyone’s lips is: How will this latest scenario play itself out in Malaysian politics, and what will be the results in the near future?

For a start it is unlikely that Anwar will be released anytime soon as there are fears that he will once again mobilise his supporters and call for massive demonstrations all over the country. But in jail Anwar is as effective an icon for the opposition and a magnet for those disaffected and disillusioned with the government of Prime Minister Badawi.

Prime Minister Badawi has in turn given assurances that the investigation into Anwar’s case will be done fairly and Anwar will be safe. Such assurances are, however, going to be held to account by a Malaysian public that is no longer prepared to accept the irregularities of the earlier trial of Anwar in 1998. This time round, every single step of the investigation will be watched by discerning Malaysians and the wider international community, and the expansion of Malaysia’s civil society and the internet means that every minute detail of the investigation will be made public.

Perhaps the only thing that can save Anwar, Badawi and Malaysia in the long run is an investigation and trial that is absolutely objective, transparent and accountable. For even the slightest hint of bias or irregularity will add credence to Anwar’s claim that the accusations against him are part of a political plot to prevent him from returning to politics; a fact that was stated in his closing remarks during his televised debate where he stated that he intended to contest at a by-election soon.

For now, the ball seems to be in Anwar’s court and it is he who stands to gain the most from his arrest. Whether in or out of jail, Anwar has resumed his status as martyr and public hero. While this may work in the favour of Anwar and other politicians in the country, other serious issues like economic and institutional reform have been sidelined once again. But this time it is not just Anwar and his reputation that is on trial, but also that of Malaysia and Malaysia’s legal and judicial systems as well.



9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charlie
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 17:14:17

    He is released now, and with the exception of a painful back (that’s to be expected of the condition in a lock-up) he seems fine. So it seems that Pak Lah kept his word. I agree that the way to solve this is by establishment independence of the investigators as much as possible, so the Police Chief could use a break maybe. So that whatever hanky-panky, perceived or real will not be linked to absolutely everyone else.


  2. monsterball
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 17:43:20

    Que sera sera.
    Whatever will be will be.
    That will be Anwar’s favourite song.
    I posted that…in his blog. Later..he he used it in his speech.
    Is that a co-incidence?
    All quiet on the Western and Eastern fronts of Malaysia.
    Let it be so.
    I think Dollah has a hand to tell the police off.
    I like to keep thinking .he is the only UMNO man…I do respect.


  3. pohwatchdog
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 20:41:12

    Stop all this political gimmick. What the rakyat want is substancial programmes to overcome our nation woes, infrastructure development, education woes, social menace, crime prevention, youth programmes, job creation and etc? The rakyat is tired and fed up with this antic. Let move on and try it again in the next democratic exercise.

    We need to be more transparent and fair in our judgement.


  4. monsterball
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 21:44:12

    Vote pohwatchdog as PM!!
    He talk so much….no balls…no action…no nothing…just talk talk talk.


  5. songsong
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 22:28:54

    WHY, the police is not even ready to show Anwar the police report lodge by that as…ole saiful, Why?? Do the police want to amend or fine tune this report after taking statements from Anwar?? Very Fishy lah!


  6. jeff
    Jul 17, 2008 @ 23:58:31

    no, i will vote him as MCA chairman!!!monsterball.
    Let him have a chance to be a “ball carrier” of umnoputra.


  7. jeff
    Jul 18, 2008 @ 00:03:46

    Foreign forensic group can remain impartial and prevent any DNA tempering or evidence planting on crime scene. Police is so eager for his DNA in police station is a very fishy request indeed.


  8. steven
    Jul 20, 2008 @ 13:06:33

    UMNOputra ‘s politic is as shameless and dirty as usual. Not surprise “crap shit’ like this will happen to an opposition party leader. it ‘s a big wonder why they did not lock him up under sedition act or ISA like Dr M usual tactic?


  9. jamesloh18
    Sep 02, 2008 @ 22:38:32

    the more we read the news it truly an irony ! each time i see these mca leaders i wonder what grade of chinese they are ! one moments they shout out loud..another moments they start praising themsleves..they are fighting for our rights! we dont need them to fight..we have that one vote…! was reading today insiders on theng book “s interview that the mca must confront themselves n open up their thinking..i wonder who is thinking and not thinking?

    how many of them stood up for anwer ? they knew it was alright total set up did they ever bother to demand an independent commission? till date they hide under the pretext of consultations? was they any ?

    this country is going down the drain >what am i going to do about it?
    boycot doing biz with mca…stop buying n selling to them what hurt them most ?

    their purse!!!!!!!!


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