Thursday, April 23, 2015

A sordid case of déjà vu: Thanks, Jibby, for making Anwar look better than ever!

Courtesy of Malaysiakini

By doggedly pursuing the ludicrous sodomy charge against Anwar Ibrahim, Najib Razak and his co-conspirators in Umno have given the Opposition Leader's public image a massive boost and made him look like the Prime Minister we all deserve after 45 years of parasitic and piratic misrule.

Indeed, Sodomy II has given Anwar unprecedented international media attention and the moral support of a huge upswelling of sympathy from Malaysians of all walks of life, even those normally apathetic about local politics. Anwar has never looked better - at least Malaysian taxpayers didn't have to fork out hundreds of millions in professional fees to a Jewish PR company named APCO Worldwide - while Najib has never looked worse.

Pic by Jack Ooi for The Malaysian Insider

Nik Aziz, late spiritual leader of PAS, arrives at the High Court in a show of support for Anwar Ibrahim as his trial commences (Pic by Jack Ooi for The Malaysian Insider)

Anwar hugs an elderly supporter who broke through the crowd to bless his hero (Pic by Jack Ooi for The Malaysian Insider)

Malaysia itself is in the dock ~ Wall Street Journal

2 FEB 2010 — More than a decade after he was beaten, tried and jailed, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will once again face a Kuala Lumpur court today on charges of sodomy. The accusations are highly dubious and raise a serious question: Is this moderate Muslim democracy becoming a nation with no real rule of law?

The circumstances surrounding Anwar’s prosecution are suspiciously familiar to most Malaysians. In 1998, he was arrested as he was mounting serious arguments against the increasingly erratic government of United Malays National Organisation chief Mahathir Mohamed. Anwar’s former aide Munawar Anees describes being tortured and forced to confess to sodomy, a criminal offense in Malaysia. Anwar was convicted of sodomy and abuse of power and served six years in jail before the sodomy ruling was overturned in 2004. He was allowed to run for political office again in 2008, which he did, in earnest.

Anwar was arrested again in July 2008, a day after participating in his first nationally televised debate in more than a decade—an event that showcased his political skills and highlighted the growing momentum behind his three-party opposition coalition. He was accused of sodomy with a 23-year-old former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan. Saiful was taken into protective police custody after he made his allegation and has since rarely been seen in public. The government denies any political motivation for the charges. Saiful himself has not been charged.

As in 1998, the evidence in this case is thin at best. The police made a show of arresting Anwar, put him in jail for a night, and forced him to undergo a humiliating medical “examination.” The government then passed a bill in parliament to give the police expanded powers to collect DNA in criminal cases. Anwar’s lawyers claim they have a hospital report that shows no sodomy occurred.

Also troubling is the public involvement of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was deputy leader at the time of Mr Anwar’s 2008 arrest—and the man most politically threatened by Anwar’s popularity. Najib acknowledged that he was photographed with and spoke to Saiful (pictured right) after he was allegedly sodomised and before he went to the hospital for tests. Najib says he didn’t influence Saiful’s decision to press charges. Saiful couldn’t be reached for comment.

This story would sound familiar in a tin-pot dictatorship. But Malaysia isn’t one. Along with Indonesia, it forms the backbone of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Its citizens today have far more access to news and information through the Internet than they did 12 years ago. They also have the power to vote.

And that may be the mechanism that keeps Malaysia free and honest. Ordinary citizens—including the majority ethnic Malays—increasingly support Anwar’s secular platform of religious tolerance, economic liberty and modernisation. The opposition won five of 13 states in national elections in 2008, and it has since won seven of nine by-elections. Anwar was re-elected to parliament in a by-election the month after his arrest in 2008. There will likely be protests in front of the courthouse to show support for him.

The trial that begins today threatens domestic political unrest and undermines confidence, at home and around the world, in Malaysia’s rule of law. ~ Wall Street Journal

"Although things remain calm on the surface, civil society is traumatized by such a naked display of power and crude perversion of justice. The trust between the government and the people is broken and the government’s respect and legitimacy bleeds away. Deep undercurrents of discontent are created which must eventually manifest in some ways. Anwar’s fight to clear his name will be a defining moment for Malaysia. This is not about one man’s fight for justice but an indicator of the path the nation is taking." ~ Bruce Tan, Harakah

[First posted 2 February 2010. Reposted 7 March 2014]