News - Wednesday, April 16, 2003 10:09 AM
“Bail for Anwar” campaign
to be launched
“Black 14”, the day commemorating
the conviction and sentencing of Anwar Ibrahim to six years jail
on four counts of corruption on 14 April 1999, has come and gone.
Anwar, however, is still in jail, currently serving his second nine-year
sentence on the sodomy conviction that commenced immediately after
he completed serving his first sentence.
Anwar is appealing this sodomy
conviction, the appeal hearing that ended on Thursday, 10 April 2003, with no
decision from the court. It is not known when the court will come
back with its decision, but even if Anwar fails in this appeal,
he can still appeal to a higher court, the Federal Court.
Anwar’s current appeal took
more than two-and-a-half years to be heard, never mind that “justice
delayed is justice denied” – a slogan only fit to don the walls
of the halls of injustice. It is not known how long the current
appeal process will take but a year or two would be a reasonable
guess taking into consideration the track record of the Malaysian
In the meantime, pending the
outcome of this appeal – and the next one at the Federal Court if
Anwar fails at the Appeal Court –
he has applied for bail. The bail application was heard on Wednesday, 9 April 2003, but the court has reserved judgment until a date not confirmed yet.
The decision on whether bail
can be granted may take another couple of weeks. Anwar is therefore
now “prematurely” serving a sentence that has not been upheld yet
by either the Appeal Court of the Federal Court. Many say Anwar’s
appeal is a foregone conclusion, in that the Malaysian Government
will never allow him out under any circumstances, even if the judicial
system needs to be rigged to achieve this.
Feedback from the security
services is that if Anwar is set free – either on bail or acquitted
of the charges against him – Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir
Mohamad would not last a week in office and his anointed successor
would be pulled down together with him. This may be so, but Anwar
is entitled for bail, the law provides for it, and no amount of
“personal interest” should stand in the way of him be granted bail.
Anwar was sent to jail on political
grounds. The conduct of the trial is testimony of this. The gross
and blatant deviation from judicial norms and the unabashed violations
Constitution only lends weight to this belief.
But there is just so much manipulating
the court can indulge in, in complying with the executive order.
Sooner or later it will need to end all its bullshit and put on
some resemblance of a court of law. And that time is now.
The opposition and Reformasi
activists have for more than four-and-a-half years “tolerated”,
to a certain extent, the injustices done to Anwar Ibrahim. They
have acknowledged that Anwar is a victim of a political conspiracy
and that he is undoubtedly innocent of all charges. But they had
given the courts the benefit of the doubt that possibly the judicial
system would right the wrong done to Anwar.
When Anwar was first convicted
of corruption, the entire world expressed outrage. But they felt
that when Anwar appeals against this conviction this injustice would
be rectified. Then, they could not believe that Anwar could be further
convicted on a second charge of sodomy with the backdrop of no evidence,
an airtight alibi, and the alleged victim himself testifying that
Anwar never sodomised him.
When Anwar lost his appeal
against his first conviction there was hardly a whimper. “This was
to be expected,” was the only possible response. What else could
they say? By then, most had become “numb” and accepted the fact
that Anwar will never be accorded justice in a Malaysian court.
They knew it was wrong, but then what could anyone do about it?
The only thing left was to
wait for Anwar to complete his first sentence. After all, he had
gone through the “legal process” and had exhausted all avenues to
get his conviction set aside. “We might as well wait four years
for the sentence to be served,” was the hopeless feeling they all
resigned themselves to.
But those four years are now
up. Anwar has “obediently” completed his first sentence. His second
sentence need not be served yet. Anwar can be allowed out on bail
while he appeals against this second conviction. But this is not
what is happening.
The feeling of acceptance and
resignation are now gone. There is, again, a feeling of outrage.
The people are no longer prepared to allow the “process” to determine
Anwar’s fate. They want the system to do the right thing, for once.
The recently retired Chief
Justice said if there is one thing he wants to be remembered for
it would be that he has reformed the judiciary. The people are going
to hold him to this. They want the reformation to reflect in the
treatment Anwar is accorded. They are going to demand Anwar be allowed
bail while he appeals against his second conviction. And they would
expect Anwar to eventually be found innocent of the sodomy charge,
even of this takes another two years.
And, to show they mean business,
a “Bail for Anwar” campaign is going to be launched. The campaign
will be taken the length and breadth of Malaysia where the people will be told why Anwar could and should be allowed
Dr Chandra Muzaffar said Anwar
is still relevant. Anwar, however, needs to be “repackaged”. In
1999, the people’s outrage against Anwar’s blackeye and the near-death
beating he received at the hands of the Chief of Police was so strong
that, in the General Elections that year, the people gave two states
to the opposition and the ruling party almost lost a couple of others
where its majority was greatly reduced.
In the 1999 General Elections,
the “Anwar blackeye” episode was very relevant and was one of the
major factors for the ruling party’s dismal performance, said Dr
Chandra. That same blackeye would no longer carry weight in the
next elections. A new “blackeye” would be required.
While Anwar is still very much
relevant, a new issue needs to be attached to Anwar to make him
“current”, and that new issue would be the present treatment he
is getting. This will be the new “blackeye”.
The opposition would need to
skilfully explain to the people that Anwar need no longer sit in
jail. The people need to be told that Anwar could today be home
with his family and that the government is manipulating the judicial
system to ensure this does not happen. If the people can be made
to see that this is the “second blackeye” Anwar is receiving at
the hands of the government, the spirit of 1999 will be rekindled.
Dr Mahathir may own the courts.
He may even be able to dictate what it does to Anwar. But while
he may win in a court of law, he still needs to face the court of
Anwar may have to be “sacrificed”
for the cause, but this sacrifice will not be in vain. The opposition
will not allow Anwar to languish in jail for nothing. If Anwar is
set free, this will be a bonus. If not, then it will be fuel for
the next elections. And the government will have to face the next
elections explaining to the people why Anwar is still not a free
man after having completed his sentence.
Anwar will have to pay dearly,
with this freedom. But the ruling party will be paying too. It will
be paying with votes.
The people will be told to
write off the Malaysian legal system. Change will not come through
the so-called “reformed” judiciary. Anwar will never be accorded
justice as long as power still lies in the hands of the ruling party.
Change can only come through changing the government. If they want
Anwar free, then they need to kick out the present government.