17 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Slate

Zaharie Ahmad Shah supported Anwar Ibrahim. That’s common sense, not zealotry.

There is an axiom in Malaysian politics: Eventually everything comes back to Anwar Ibrahim. So, the longer that the fumbling and inept investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has gone on, the more certain it became that it would somehow boomerang to the leader of the country’s democratic opposition.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Najib Razak went before the cameras to declare that officials believe the plane was deliberately diverted and flown in an unknown direction somewhere along a wide arc from Kazakhstan to deep into the Indian Ocean. Now that the search for the Boeing 777 has turned into a criminal investigation, the authorities are taking a close look at the flight’s chief pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and its first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid.

They quickly learned—as no doubt all of Shah’s friends knew—that the pilot was a strong supporter of Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party. Indeed, Shah is believed to have attended Anwar’s court hearing on March 7 that overturned his 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges, a politically motivated case that the Malaysian government typically dusts off around election time. On Sunday, the U.K. and Malaysian press treated the revelation with the shock you might reserve for damning evidence. Shah was described—by an unnamed source—as a “fanatical supporter of the country’s opposition leader.” Elsewhere, he is described (apparently by unnamed police sources) as “fervent” and “strident” in his political convictions. More than a week after the Boeing 777 disappeared, we lack a motive, a clear suspect, or even a crime scene, but we have our “Anwar Ibrahim connection.” That is Malaysian politics.

A fanatical supporter of Anwar Ibrahim does sound scary—as long as you know nothing about him.

Anwar is the 66-year old opposition leader who is the principal thorn in the side of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) that has ruled Malaysia for 56 years. Anwar heads a coalition of parties, which includes his own multiethnic party, that has made the greatest inroads against the country’s corrupt masters. In 2008, the opposition won more than a third of the seats in parliament—the first time that UMNO lost its supermajority that allowed it to change the constitution at the prime minister’s whim. Anwar, who had been a political prisoner for six years, most of it in solitary confinement, won his seat in a landslide, and the opposition won five of the country’s 13 state governments. Last year, his opposition party claimed to have won the election against the ruling party, a contest that many say was marred by widespread fraud. Anwar supported the massive protests that followed the ruling party’s supposed victory, but he never called for a toppling of the government.

Anwar is trying to defeat Malaysia’s authoritarian regime through elections—not terrorism, let alone revolution. So, to be clear, what we know is that the pilot of MH370 is a fanatical supporter of a nonviolent man who supports a pluralistic and democratic Malaysia.

Of course, we don’t know Shah’s precise state of mind, and it is true that hours before the flight, his political hero had just been dealt bad news with the court’s decision to overturn his previous acquittal. But this is not news that Anwar or his close supporters would have found shocking. On several occasions I have interviewed Anwar, most recently at his home in 2011, he was always forced to operate under the threat of these politically trumped-up charges that he viewed as nothing more than a weak effort to discredit him. Indeed, few Malaysians view the government’s accusations as anything other than evidence of crooked politics, and Anwar has only become more popular and UMNO’s rule more brittle.

But, if we are engaging in wild theories—and why not, this is Malaysian politics—then why would unnamed police sources be playing up the pilot’s political beliefs a week after we are no closer to knowing the truth about MH370? Because the Malaysian authorities’ performance during this investigation is a pretty reasonable approximation of what passes for governance in a corrupt, nepotistic regime that long ago lost any purpose besides accumulating wealth and extending its own power. Malaysia has fallen behind its Southeast Asian competitors economically in large part because of its stunted political culture. Acting transportation minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s defensive press conferences and updates, which range from opaque to contradictory, are what you’d expect from government ministers who are seldom expected to answer questions.

So, is it possible that Shah hijacked the Malaysia Airlines flight in some twisted form of protest against the government? Of course—even if it seems a less likely explanation than the half dozen other theories that are being floated. Because, whatever happened on board Flight 370, Shah’s support of Anwar Ibrahim is the one piece of evidence that suggests he had a firm grip on reality, not that he was trying to escape it.

17 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Al Jazeera

[There are] too many contradictions [in the government's official line]. This is not the way to manage a crisis. – Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysian opposition leader

Malaysians awoke last Saturday morning to distressing and unexpected news; one of the national carrier’s planes had gone missing.

As thousands took to social media to express their concern for the 239 people on board flight MH370, Malaysian activist Azrul Khalib and his friends began thinking about a more meaningful way to show their support for those affected.

The result was the Wall of Hope – a place for ordinary people to share their own handwritten messages of hope for passengers and crew.

“We are not able to contribute to the search itself, but we are hoping this small contribution can help console, heal and support the families affected,” said Azrul, who is part of a group called Malaysians for Malaysia.

The first wall was erected in a luxury shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur City Centre on Monday. The response was immediate. The 200 tags printed initially for people to leave their messages on were used up in just half an hour. The mall printed thousands more.

“We want them to know that the whole country is standing next to them and supporting them in this really terrible time. In times like this we discover that there are things bigger than ourselves. We are reminded of our humanity,” Azrul said.

Still searching

Nearly a week after the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 went missing on a night flight to Beijing, and with the search for the plane now stretching from the Indian Ocean to the coast of Vietnam, the incident has inspired widespread sympathy for those involved.

But it has also exposed the shortcomings of Malaysia’s government amid ferocious criticism of its handling of the crisis. Information has been patchy and government ministers, the airline and civil servants have sometimes contradicted each other or made comments widely deemed as inappropriate.

Despite the emergence in the country of a vibrant online press, Malaysian ministers are rarely challenged on policy because most of the mainstream media is either owned by the state or the ruling political parties.

Legislation that limits freedom of expression, such as the Sedition Act, cows many journalists and fosters a climate of self-censorship. Investigative journalism is almost unheard of in a country that’s been governed by more-or-less the same coalition since independence in 1957.

At a particularly testy press conference on Wednesday, a government press official even berated journalists over their “ethics” for trying to interview the Chinese ambassador who’d unexpectedly arrived to listen to the proceedings.

The official told the media they should be using the room only to speak to Malaysian officials.

“The government has been so comfortable with the local subservient media that when facing the free international media, they are in disarray,” opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told parliament the next day.

“[There are] too many contradictions. This is not the way to manage a crisis. Each and every statement must be verified first before being issued.”

Communications breakdown

With the plane seeming to have vanished, and just a handful of facts provided to the public, a multitude of conspiracy theories have flourished.

The aircraft, with 227 passengers and 12 crew representing 14 different nationalities, took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41am on March 9.

Climbing to its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the Boeing 777 headed out on a clear night across the South China Sea. Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid, signed off from Malaysian air traffic control at 1:30am.

It was their last communication.

The vast area of search, compounded by the possibility that the plane turned back across the Malay Peninsula, has highlighted the limitations not only in technology but also of cooperation at the national, regional and international levels.

“MH370 has revealed real gaps in the government of Malaysia’s capabilities,” said Ernie Bower, senior adviser and Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

“The incident has stress-tested Malaysia’s security systems, interagency coordination and maritime and aviation domain awareness capabilities and all three areas have been very publicly revealed as needing serious enhancement.”

Vietnam, the US and several other countries are aiding in the search and rescue operation [EPA]

As of Friday, some 13 countries were involved in looking for the plane, with 57 ships and 48 aircraft scouring the South China Sea and the north of the Strait of Malacca in what is still being referred to as a search and rescue operation. On Friday, the search was extended further towards the Indian Ocean.

“The investigation team is following all leads that may help locate the missing aircraft,” the Malaysian government said in a media statement. “We continue to work closely with the US team, whose officials have been on the ground in Kuala Lumpur to help with the investigation since Sunday.”

Each day brings new speculation about the reasons for the plane’s disappearance and where it might be, deepening the anguish for those whose friends and family were on board the flight.

Selamat Omar has been staying at a hotel near the airport with other families since the incident happened, waiting for any news on the whereabouts of his son, Mohd Khairul Amri Selamat, who was onboard the plane.

Omar is not interested in apportioning blame; he just wants the aircraft found.

“This is no one’s fault,” he told Al Jazeera. “I don’t think one human being would want to kill another. I don’t think Malaysia Airlines wants to lose money.” Mohd Khairul’s wife was also at the hotel but too distraught to speak to anyone, he said.

It is a view shared by the people adding their messages of support – in languages including English, Malay, Arabic and German – to the now more than 25 Walls of Hope that have been set up around the country.

“We are waiting for a miracle,” said 21-year-old marketing student Andrew Law after he and his friends tied their messages alongside the hundreds of others already on display in one Kuala Lumpur mall.

“We need to have faith.”

14 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

By Graeme Reid, Human Rights Watch

13th March 2014

 

On March 7, Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was sentenced to five years in prison for sodomy. This is just the latest iteration in a long and unfortunate history of using sodomy laws against political rivals.

In 1307, King Philip IV of France, deeply indebted to the Order of the Knights Templar, accused the Knights of sodomy and used this as a pretext to dissolve the order. In 1533, King Henry VIII of England promulgated the Buggery Act, accused monks of sodomy, and used that as an excuse to confiscate their monastic lands. King Henry also disposed of his opponent Lord Hungerford by executing him for sodomy in 1540. He had discovered what King Philip realized two centuries earlier: Sodomy accusations are an effective way of getting rid of pesky creditors and trouncing political opponents.

Indeed, what is most exasperating about the verdict of Malaysia’s Court of Appeal in the “sodomy” trial of the opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is precisely that: It is so politically effective.

The March 7 verdict overturns a 2012 acquittal of Anwar on sodomy charges, effectively taking him out of political life at a crucial time. He was poised to run in an important by-election for state assembly, which, if he won, would have made him eligible to take over as chief minister of Selangor, Malaysia’s most prosperous and developed state. Candidates were required to file applications to run for office on March 11, but Malaysian electoral law prohibits people convicted of a criminal offense from running for office.

Anwar has appealed to Malaysia’s highest court. However, if it upholds the conviction, he will be forced to give up his parliamentary seat and go to prison. In addition to the five-year sentence, Malaysian law would prohibit him from running for office for another five years after he serves his sentence. Anwar, now 66, would be 76 before he could resume active political life.

That may be comforting for Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled the country in various forms since its independence from Britain in 1957. Under Anwar’s leadership, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition has become a potent electoral threat. It won a majority of the popular vote in the May 2013 election, though gerrymandered districts kept it from winning a majority of seats. Anwar is the linchpin for that coalition, holding together three disparate political parties, and has become a political thorn in Najib’s side. The leader’s conviction would spell doom for the opposition party.

Sodomy laws, an antiquated relic of British colonialism, have been used to hound Anwar since 1998. He was ousted as deputy prime minister and jailed on trumped-up sodomy and corruption charges, but freed in 2004 when Malaysia’s highest court overturned the sodomy charges. According to the Women’s Candidacy Initiative, a Malaysian organization, it’s telling that the sodomy laws have only been invoked seven times since 1938 — and in four of those instances, against Anwar.

In 2008, Anwar’s male aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, accused him of rape. Police determined that the then 60-year-old Anwar, plagued with back problems, could not have sexually assaulted the healthy 23-year-old Saiful. The charges were changed to consensual sodomy, although Saiful was never charged. During the trial, Saiful admitted that on June 24, 2008, two days before the alleged rape, he had met with the then-Deputy Prime Minister Najib and his wife.

From the outset, the case against Anwar was plagued with irregularities. During the trial, the prosecution refused to turn over key evidence, in spite of requirements in the Malaysian criminal procedure code, including its witness list and witness statements, doctor’s notes, pharmacists’ worksheets and notes on DNA testing and analysis, and closed-circuit television recordings from the condominium guardhouse where the alleged sodomy took place. Meanwhile, the Kuala Lumpur hospital report, authorized by three doctors, found “no conclusive clinical findings suggestive of penetration to the anus.”

Anwar was acquitted by the High Court in 2012, based on concerns that DNA evidence brought by the prosecution was tainted. The judge ruled that without the DNA evidence, there was no corroborating evidence other than the word of the accuser and so acquitted Anwar. The government appealed, leading to the recent judgment and five-year sentence.

Yet this is not quite the end of the legal road, since Anwar is free on bail pending his appeal to Malaysia’s highest court. But the accusations and court trials have taken their political toll. The charge itself — sodomy — pejorative even in name, has the effect of discrediting and weakening the political opposition in Malaysia.

Laws that criminalize consensual sex between adults, such as Malaysia’s Criminal Code article 377, contravene broadly accepted international legal standards. The United Nations Human Rights Committee held in 1994 that sodomy laws violate rights to privacy and non-discrimination.

The use of sodomy laws as a political tactic in such a high-profile case is likely to inflict collateral damage on Malaysia’s vulnerable LGBT community. The appeals court’s ruling comes at an especially critical time: A case challenging the constitutionality of Malaysia’s cross-dressing laws (under which transgender women are regularly arrested) is to be heard before the same court this coming May. The government should show that it protects all of its citizens and promptly repeal its sodomy and cross-dressing laws.

Prime Minister Najib has now joined ranks with King Philip and King Henry in resorting to accusations of sodomy to settle political scores. The trial and conviction of Anwar should be seen for what it is: an underhanded move by the ruling party to tarnish and weaken the political opposition without regard to the harm caused to the nation’s judiciary and democratic process.

13 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

Malaysiakini

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim today demanded that the government disclose who gave permission for a bomoh to conduct rituals inside KLIA to locate the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

“This is KLIA. Who gave permission? Is it MAS, is it Department of Civil Aviation?” Anwar asked in the Dewan Rakyat today while debating the royal address.

He said the presence of the bomoh had made Malaysia a laughing stock of the international community.

“Even Barack Obama (US president) must have been amazed with our stupidity,” he said.

Anwar went on to call the bomoh “Bomoh 1Malaysia”, referring to the 1Malaysia pin the bomoh was wearing.

“He even had a 1Malaysia tag on him. This is bomoh 1Malaysia,” he said, to the laughter of the House.

In a press conference at the Parliament lobby later on, Anwar said that the use of the bomoh was an affront to Islam, and urged Islamic authorities to investigate the matter swiftly.

“Where are those NGOs who made noise about the ‘Allah’ issue? Why are they silent now?” Anwar asked.

Anwar did not mince his words in claiming that Malaysia has never embarrassed itself to this extent in the international stage in its history.

“Our biggest problem is in handling a crisis. There should be a central command,” he said.

However, Anwar was clear that current Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein should not be the central spokesperson on the matter.

“He issued a statement, and hours later, DCA gave a different version,” he said.

The bomoh is called Ibrahim Mat Zin, and also calls his own organisation as 1Malaysia Corporate Bomoh.

Meanwhile, a group of Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officers arrived at the airport at 10.30am to monitor the area, according to The Star Online today.

“This is to avoid people from becoming syirik (deviant)…

“(Anyone doing) anything that is against syariah principles and fatwa will be asked to disperse and if they refuse, we will arrest them under Section 7 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Selangor) 1995 for false doctrine,” Jais Sepang district enforcement chief Zaifullah Jaafar Shidek is quoted as saying.

12 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

By Former US Vice-President Al Gore

10th March 2014

It is extremely disturbing that the government of Malaysia — by continuing to press this case beyond the bounds of reason, let alone the bounds of justice — has used the courts to short-circuit the political process.

The entire world understands with clarity that Anwar Ibrahim was at the verge of running for an office that would have given him serious leverage for advocating greatly needed reform, had he won the election, that his election by the people was likely, and that it was the likely judgment of the electorate that inspired this action by those presently holding power over the administration of “justice.”

The court, by accelerating its calendar, reached its verdict in a rush — early enough to prevent Anwar from running in the election. The calendar of events is itself a contextual indictment of the decision.

By behaving in the manner it did, the court has, of course, invited speculation by reasonable friends of Malaysia in the rest of the world that its independence of judgment and judicial temperament have been influenced by political fear of, and intimidation by, the individuals now in control of executive power in Kuala Lumpur.

The importance of the rule of law should be deemed important for the reputation of Malaysia as a nation within the community of nations.

Moreover, the integrity of Malaysia’s parliament — a crucial asset for the future of Malaysia’s respect in the world community — would be diminished if this decision were to be accepted as “legitimate” by the elected representatives of the people of Malaysia.

In short, future prospects for accomplishing meaningful and necessary change on behalf of the people of Malaysia would be seriously depreciated if the capricious and slanderous imprisonment of an individual who has a universally respected understanding and affinity for the democratic process throughout the world is tolerated.

His pending appeal offers what could be a last chance for Malaysia to make things right. The stakes for Malaysia could hardly be higher. Please do not be deceived. The eyes of the world are focused on what will come next.

11 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

11 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

Hukuman penjara lima tahun yang dijatuhkan Mahkamah Rayuan terhadap Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim memudahkan Pakatan Rakyat (PR) menawan hati pengundi Melayu, kata calon Pilihan Raya Kecil (PRK) Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Kajang, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail.

Dr Wan Azizah dalam temubual eksklusif bersama The Malaysian Insider di Bilik Gerakan PR, di Kajang hari ini berkata, disebabkan keputusan mahkamah itu, pengundi Melayu yang sebelum ini sukar menerima PR mula menunjukkan respon positif.

“Bila mahkamah menjatuhkan hukuman, reaksinya jelas, mereka (pengundi Melayu) merasakan itu ketidakadilan terhadap Anwar,” katanya.

Pengundi di DUN Kajang terdiri daripada kawasan campuran dengan pengundi Melayu membentuk 48% daripada keseluruhan 38,965 pengundi berdaftar.

Pengundi bukan Melayu membentuk sejumlah 51%, dengan pecahan pengundi Cina sebanyak 41%, dan pengundi India 10%.

“Mereka dikejutkan dengan keputusan mahkamah terhadap Anwar. Situasi itu mengejutkan pengundi Melayu,” katanya.

Dr Wan Azizah yang juga isteri kepada Anwar berkata, reaksi yang diterimanya daripada pengundi Melayu selepas mahkamah menjatuhkan hukuman terhadap Anwar atas kesalahan meliwat Saiful Bukhari Azlan sangat berbeza.

“Selepas hukuman dijatuhkan, penerimaannya berbeza. Mereka melihat Anwar dari kacamata beliau sebagai mangsa.

“Mula-mula memang ada suatu gambaran mereka tidak terima saya. Tetapi apabila Anwar pergi tazkirah di surau dan masjid, penerimaan begitu baik,” katanya.

Dr Wan Azizah menggantikan Anwar sebagai calon PRK DUN Kajang berikutan kelayakan Anwar untuk bertanding di kerusi berkenaan terlucut setelah mahkamah menjatuhkan hukuman tersebut.

Pemimpin PR ketika Konvensyen Pakatan Rakyat ke-5 di Shah Alam mendakwa, tindakan Mahkamah Rayuan dan penetapan tarikh pilihan raya kecil di Kajang adalah konspirasi kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN) dan Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) untuk menggagalkan Anwar bertanding di Kajang.

Dr Wan Azizah berkata, beliau rela dilihat menjadi “bayangan Anwar” kerana melalui perkara itu, cabaran ketidakadilan terhadap pemimpin pembangkang itu akan dapat dirasai rakyat.

“Bila mereka lihat saya mereka akan nampak Anwar. Saya memang mahu mereka lihat itu, ketidakadilan yang berlaku,” katanya.

Presiden PKR, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail akan guna pendekatan keibuan menangani konflik antara ahli dalam parti.Dr Wan Azizah juga mengakui, pada awalnya beliau keberatan apabila mesyuarat biro politik memilihnya menggantikan Anwar untuk bertanding di kerusi yang dikosongkan bekas Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) Kajang, Lee Chin Cheh itu.

“Saya enggan menyertai politik dengan aktif kerana saya rasa apabila Anwar dibebaskan pada 2005 saya sudah buat apa yang saya perlu buat.

“Tetapi apabila ini berlaku, PR berbincang dan keluar nama saya, malah biro politik saya sendiri. Saya berfikir ini sebahagian untuk negara,” katanya.

Dr Wan Azizah berkata, keputusannya menerima cadangan PR itu adalah untuk kelangsungan generasi akan datang.

“Apa yang tinggal daripada hidup saya, saya rasa ini sumbangan untuk generasi akan datang,” katanya.

Semasa tempoh Anwar dipenjarakan atas kesalahan salah guna kuasa, Dr Wan Azizah mengetuai gerakan pembangkang dengan menubuhkan Parti Keadilan Nasional, yang kemudiannya ditukar kepada Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Beliau juga pernah memenangi kerusi Parlimen Permatang Pauh selama tiga penggal bermula pada 1999, 2004 dan 2008 sebelum melepaskan kerusi berkenaan untuk membolehkan Anwar menyertai semula arena politik sebaik sahaja dibebaskan.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail dalam temubual eksklusif dengan The Malaysian Insider. – Gambar The Malaysian Insider oleh Nazir Sufari, 11 Mac, 2014.Dr Wan Azizah juga pernah menjadi ketua pembangkang wanita pertama dalam sejarah negara pada 2008.

Ditanya keupayaan beliau untuk meredakan ketegangan dalaman PKR antara timbalan presiden parti itu Mohamed Azmin Ali dan Menteri Besar Selangor, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah berkata, beliau mempunyai “watak keibuan” untuk menyelesaikan perkara itu.

“Saya selalu menjadi individu yang mengamalkan pendekatan lembut . Saya mempunyai watak keibuan untuk menjayakan rekonsiliasi dalam PKR.

“Kami semua ibarat sekeluarga,” katanya.

Dr Wan Azizah akan bertanding satu lawan satu dengan calon BN dari MCA, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun.

SPR menetapkan 23 Mac sebagai tarikh membuang undi untuk PRK DUN Kajang.

11 March 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Ides of March[1]

The condemnation and sentencing of Anwar Ibrahim on 6th and 7th of March in the grandiose setting of Istana Kehakiman in Putrajaya were a political act disguised as legal procedure.

With a savagery that reminded one of the brutal stabbing of Julius Caesar, the prosecutor pursued his victim with further vituperation, while the condemned man and several in the audience called out, “Enough, sit down, you have got what you wanted.”

The final act of this trial fiasco displayed openly the malignancy of the forces at work.

The condemnation and sentence had been delivered abruptly and without the explanatory detail which would follow later. Time was running out and the matter must be accomplished without delay.

After delivering the verdict, and without pause, the judge proposed that he would proceed to mitigation pleas. Counsel for the defense protested that a mitigation plea required time to prepare. He was given one hour to do so and the panel of judges retired.

An hour later, Karpal Singh, the defence lawyer, explained the medical problems of his 66 year old client, back injury and heart disease. He asked for a delay of one week for a medical report which would be an essential component of the mitigation plea. However, the judge was urgent he needed to close the case. He was directly challenged and asked whether he denied the relevance of a medical report. Yes, he denied the relevance. Karpal disagreed and refused to enter further pleas. The opportunity to counter the non-existing plea passed to the prosecutor who had well prepared a summary of the most grievous aspects of the case, and of previous cases relating to Anwar. His harangue led to cries of ‘Enough’ from the convicted Anwar and the audience in the public gallery. Several persons, including lawyers in the defence team left the court.

Finally, Karpal played his last card and asked for a delay in execution of the sentence to allow consideration of aspects of the case by the Federal Court. A stay was granted and bail of 10,000 RM imposed to be paid on the following Monday. It was small respite in an act of political savagery which ended the possibility of Anwar’s intended candidacy submission for a Selangor State Assembly by-election on the following Tuesday, and possibly destroys his political career.

The Charge of Sodomy

Whatever opinion one may hold on the complex events which led to the current trial of Anwar, the use of the courts and an antiquated charge to achieve a political aim is unacceptable. The crime of sodomy has long been obsolete in democratic countries. While a forced act of sodomy would of course be an act of criminal aggression, the field of law on which Anwar was challenged was the act of sodomy itself. It is long agreed that the sexual behaviour of the individual is guarded by the right to privacy, and also that sexual orientation is the free right of each person. The criminal charge of sodomy is a survival of British colonial rule which lies dormant in several legal systems of former colonies. Unfortunately, it has found new relevance in Muslim countries[2] which, although they are nominally secular states, add a religious sanction to a crime bypassed by a tolerance which must prevail under democracy. The problem with the criminalization of homosexuality is that it involves emotional stigma and outrage which colours and perturbs legal process. A man may emerge unscathed from a failed charge of murder, but a charge of sodomy is a different matter entirely; the charge itself is an embarrassment making fragile the presumed innocence of the accused. The matter is well left to the give and take of human opinion or to the courts of sharia for those accepting their jurisdiction. The vindictive hounding of Anwar for political motives should not be tolerated on grounds of such inappropriate law.

The Appeal Court of March 6th and 7th

In theory the subject of the Appeal Court against the decision of an earlier appeal court should be limited to the precise technicalities considered suspect in the earlier hearing. But in practice no part of a trial can be excised from general consideration, but unsubstantiated criticism of earlier sections of the trial should not have been tolerated. The prosecutor, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, made capital out of the refusal of Anwar to enter the witness box in the first appeal hearing, implying guilt in exercise of the right to silence by an accused. The day for such an accusation was not the appeal court.

Technical Nature of DNA evidence

The appeal hearing of the 6th and 7th was badgered by the highly technical nature of DNA evidence. Of all those who based their submissions on technical aspects of the DNA evidence, no one, judge, prosecutor or defense attorney had the technical knowledge to do so. Comments on legal aspects of the evidence are matter of the appeal but technical reappraisal of value of the evidence is another matter. At the very least an expert on DNA evidence should have been on standby to answer technical queries on issues which questioned previous evidence. Instead the court was treated to a high speed summary of opinions by Deputy Public Prosecutor Noorin Badaruddin who quoted here and there case histories which could not be assessed by anyone in the court room. During the first trial fully accredited experts gave their assessments and submitted to questioning by prosecution and defense[3]. In the present appeal these witnesses were referred to as “armchair specialists”[4] and their testimony dismissed by name calling. The credentials of these experts had been examined and their testimony accepted in their presence at the earlier trial. Why and by what acceptable legal reasoning was their testimony rejected in their absence and without the compliance of any informed authority?

The Heart of the Matter

The central argument of the prosecution was rejection of the charge of contamination of the DNA samples as presented by the defence. There are three elements to the charge that the samples were contaminated:

  1. The pristine state claimed by the examining chemists of the DNA evidence conflicts with the likelihood of an expected deterioration. There were unexplained delays in the whole process of examining the DNA. First the witness, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who claimed to have been sodomised, waited two days before reporting the event in a government owned hospital. He avoided defecating in this period. However the moist and biologically active anal channel would not have favoured preservation of DNA. Secondly, after the extraction of swab samples from his anus on a Saturday evening, the samples were placed in individually labeled receptacles and placed in an overall plastic container. They were given into the care of a police officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police Jude Blacious Pereira, who was present during the medical examination. Pereira, appointed investigating officer for the case, was instructed to keep the samples in a freezer over the weekend. Ignoring this instruction he left them in his office filing cabinet. Further, although not instructed to do so, he opened the plastic container and relabeled some of the containers. Finally, instead of delivering the samples to a testing laboratory on the Monday morning he did so on Monday evening. The time lapse between the time of the alleged sodomy and examination by the testing laboratory was at least 96 hours. According to expert opinion severe deterioration of the samples would occur under the conditions of storage and length of delay of the sequence. Against the opinion of the expert witnesses referred to earlier the court heard reference to case histories collected by a person having no knowledge of Forensic DNA testing[5].
  2. Apart from the first re-labeling of the samples by Pereira, the examining chemist also re-labeled some samples, casting doubt on the identity of the samples which had supposedly come from different regions of the rectum.
  3. The examining chemist, besides the DNA of the complainant and of Anwar, also detected DNA of another male. Under careful checking this third DNA source was confirmed. If contamination of the samples is excluded what was the origin of this third source? This question was unanswered, putting in doubt the denial of contamination.
  4. The veracity of the two persons involved in provision and custody of the samples is suspect. If Saiful is truthful in denying that he is homosexual, what is the origin of the third DNA source? Besides, in his original testimony he claimed that the act of sodomy was consensual, while later he charged that the act was forced. Being consensual or not is irrelevant to Malaysian law so that this aspect was ignored, but it does throw suspicion on the veracity of the complainant.

Pereira, for his part, has a history of untruthfulness which led to a refusal of the Malaysian Bar Association to accept his membership.

Interpretation of Justice

While the main protagonists, prosecutor Shafee and defending lawyer Karpal, maintained the façade of learned friendship, their antagonism for each other broke through, leading to rebuke from the bench: Presiding judge Balia Yusof Wahi then sternly ordered all parties to behave. But sodomy is a not a charge suitable for legal debate, and it was to be expected that important issues at the basis of legal process would emerge.

The first attack on basic issues came from the prosecution which questioned the notion of reasonable doubt. Shafee pointed out that beyond reasonable doubt does not imply 100 per cent certainty. No human judgment can attain 100 percent certainty but this shortfall of certainty does not constitute reasonable doubt. This led the prosecution to further precisions. Does the admitted opening of the outside plastic bag in which the samples were stored constitute tampering? Not, Shafee held, if the individual bottles holding the samples were not opened. The prosecution based its case on the integrity of these individual bottles.

Next the prosecution questioned why Anwar did not submit to cross examination during his earlier trial, implying guilt to this exercise of the right to silence.

Karpal responded to the issue of reasonable doubt that while beyond reasonable doubt might be sufficient for prosecution, it had another meaning for the protection of innocence. Although no further explanation was given, the likely meaning is that a lesser doubt should be enough to invalidate a case and thus protect the presumption of innocence, than a larger doubt in the case for the prosecution.

Karpal insisted on the expectation of deterioration of a DNA sample kept without the protection of freezing for a total of 96 hours between the sodomy incident and the examining laboratory. It was also incomprehensible that no degradation at all was observed in some samples while in at least one sample some degradation was observed, although all the samples had gone through the same treatment.

To avoid the suspicion of contamination the prosecution must have some explanation of the third party contamination observed.

The defence further queried the sources of the DNA specifically tested, and proposed that separation of the semen cells from non semen cells was not properly carried out.

The prosecution quoted case histories including one which indicated that sperm had survived in a rectum for 130 hours. However without assessment by expert witness the quotation of such examples is meaningless.

Mitigation

Finally, the question of mitigation of sentence was hard fought between prosecution and defence. Karpal Singh emphasized that mitigation is an integral part of a trial. He insisted that there was no necessity to rush the trial. He recalled that sentencing is about the offender, not the offence, and that a medical report was required before sentencing. He declined to proceed with a submission on mitigation.

In his intervention regarding mitigation, the Prosecutor became vociferous on the enormity of the crime, that it had been inflicted on a subordinate by a person in authority. He referred to past convictions of Anwar, finally likening the case to the infamous Profumo case, implying that Anwar’s action was a National Security Issue, subject to a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The excesses of the prosecution’s arguments against mitigation of sentence lead to noisy protest in the court, and the threat of expulsion of protesters by police.

The judges hurriedly imposed a sentence of five years, but allowed suspension of execution in deference to a Federal Court decision.

Reflection

Several times Karpal Singh queried the rush to impose sentence. Of course everyone in the court and throughout Malaysia was aware of the issue at stake. It was necessary to impose a criminal sentence on Anwar and so invalidate his declared candidacy before the 11th March, date of registration for the by-election. The trial was politics in motion, and not a campaign to uphold morality by out of date colonial legislation.

The issue of reasonable doubt adapts badly to the emotive charge of sodomy. Courts in democratic countries have long abandoned legislation against sodomy which was notoriously the cause of blackmail, and the legislation regarding homosexuality was referred to as the blackmailer’s charter. This may well be the case in countries where such legislation is still active. But sodomy has also been a tool of political chicanery, it is a charge unused in ordinary circumstances and cases involving sodomy are most rare.

The length and complexity of the court proceeding on this case, and the persistence of unanswered questions is proof that there are indeed reasonable doubts of guilt.

Malaysia must grow democratically to meet the challenge of modern governance. The impatience of the population is palpable, as is support for Anwar Ibrahim who despite election lying and cheating already heads an opposition enjoying a 53% popular vote. It is predictable that public reaction to this trial will be shown clearly in the coming by-election.

Danthong Breen,

Union for Civil Liberty, Bangkok


[1] The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire

[2] See the recent resurgence of the criminalization of homosexuality in Nigeria, Uganda.

[3] Charade of Justice, Anwar’s Third Trial, Chapter 8, Pawancheek Maraican, Gerakbudaya Enterprise, Petaling Jaya, 2012.Sodomy II, Chapter 7, Mark Trowell, Mashall Cavendish, Singapore, 2012

[4] New Straits Times, 7th March 2014, remark of Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, spokesperson of three member bench

[5] There is a famous story in the Sherlock Holmes series of tales “The dog that did not bark” where the famous detective solves a crime by alluding to the mystery of a watchdog which did not bark, implying that the owner of the dog was guilty of the crime. In the Anwar case there is a mystery of the sample deterioration which did not take place, casting doubt on the related history of the samples.

10 March 2014

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Press Statement by The Malaysian Bar

By Christopher Leong, President, Malaysian Bar, 9 March 2014

The Malaysian Bar is deeply troubled by the conviction and sentence to five years’ imprisonment of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim by the Court of Appeal, for what was essentially consensual sex between two adults.

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim was convicted and sentenced under section 377B, read with section 377A, of the Penal Code.

Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises sodomy and oral sex (fellatio).  Section 377B provides that whosoever voluntarily commits the acts described in section 377A shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.  These provisions make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual consensual sexual acts, and are thus applicable to both.

A law is only good and just if it is consistently and equally applied and enforced.  It is extraordinary that Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been prosecuted and convicted twice, in a country that has rarely seen a prosecution and/or conviction for an offence of consensual sexual acts between adults under section 377A, read with section 377B, of the Penal Code.

This glaring anomaly and inconsistency brings the administration of justice into disrepute.  It also fuels a perception that Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim is being persecuted, and not prosecuted.

The charge against Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim is based on an archaic provision of the Penal Code, and should never have been brought.  The case has unnecessarily taken up judicial time and public funds, and has muddied the waters of our justice system.

The Malaysian Bar also has grave misgivings with respect to the manner and timing in which the appeal was handled.  In particular, we are shocked by the manner in which mitigation and sentencing proceeded.

The Malaysian Bar makes no comment at present as to the grounds for the reversal by the Court of Appeal of the acquittal by the High Court in January 2012 of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim (“Respondent/Defendant”), and his present conviction and sentence by the Court of Appeal, as no written substantive grounds have been proffered as yet, save to say that there appears to be doubt and reservations as to the integrity of the DNA evidence in the case.

However, there are several aspects of this case that raise questions or concerns:

(1) The haste with which the appeal proceeded in the Court of Appeal.  No doubt the appeal had been pending since about July last year, but time had been taken with intervening applications on several issues and appeals arising therefrom.  It appears that the Respondent/Defendant had been notified on 27 February 2014 that the substantive appeal was to be heard on 6 and 7 March, thus providing his legal counsel Karpal Singh with only seven days’ notice to prepare for a criminal appeal arising from a lengthy trial that had taken many weeks and involved about 32 witnesses, including expert evidence;

(2) This was despite counsel for the Respondent/Defendant having informed the court that he was not available on those dates, as he was scheduled for other cases in court;

(3) It appears that about two weeks before the appeal was heard a registrar from the registry of the Court of Appeal had informed the office of the Respondent/Defendant’s counsel to reserve 7 to 10 April 2014 as the proposed hearing dates for the appeal.  The Respondent/Defendant’s counsel apparently agreed to these dates;

(4) It appears that these proposed dates when the Respondent/Defendant’s counsel was available were subsequently abandoned and replaced with much earlier dates;

(5) If this is true, then questions arise in the mind of the public as to why the Court of Appeal brought forward the appeal to be heard, when the originally contemplated dates in early April had already been agreed to by the Respondent/Defendant, and would have provided the Respondent/Defendant, facing a possible sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, more time to prepare for the appeal;

(6) The appeal was heard on 6 and 7 March 2014.  It is reported that each day’s proceedings carried into the early hours of the evening, ie between 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  Although this is not unheard of, it is nevertheless rare;

(7) It is not uncommon for an appellate court to reserve judgment for a few days or months before handing down a decision, particularly where the proceedings in the trial court have been lengthy, the evidence substantial and the issues weighty;

(8) In this instance, the Court of Appeal had, at the conclusion of submissions by the parties on 7 March 2014, taken approximately 90 minutes to consider the matter, and then rendered a unanimous decision in reversing the acquittal by the High Court and finding the Respondent/Defendant guilty, at approximately 5:00 pm the same day;

(9) 5:00 pm is when the court usually adjourns for the day.  On this occasion, the Court of Appeal and the prosecution insisted on proceeding with hearing mitigation and sentencing;

(10) The Respondent/Defendant’s counsel requested an adjournment until the following week, beginning 10 March 2014, to address the court on mitigation and sentencing, and to obtain a medical report concerning the Respondent/Defendant’s medical condition, which would be relevant in considering the sentence to be imposed.  The Court of Appeal refused this request, and instead gave counsel one hour to prepare for mitigation and sentencing;

(11) Upon reconvening after about one hour’s recess, the Court of Appeal and the prosecution accepted counsel’s contention that the Respondent/Defendant suffers from medical conditions such as back pains, high blood pressure, and a heart ailment.  They accepted that these were relevant to sentencing, but refused to allow time for a medical report to be prepared and provided to the court.

(12) The Court of Appeal had thus denied itself relevant medical information pertaining to the particulars or peculiarities (if any), and extent of, the Respondent/Defendant’s medical condition before considering the appropriate sentence to be imposed; and

(13) The Court of Appeal pronounced a sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and the proceedings concluded at approximately 7:00 pm.

These matters raise many questions, cause much speculation, and lend to the perception that justice may have been hijacked. 

The questions to be answered, in the mind of the public, are thus, “Was the cause of justice best served by the manner and timing in which this appeal was handled?” and, “Was the administration of justice compromised or interfered with?”

The sanctity of the administration of justice and the independence of the Judiciary are intertwined, and essential for upholding the rule of law and instilling public confidence.  Justice and independence are not only facts to be established; it is imperative that they are seen to be so established.

It is heart-rending, for those who sacrifice and work hard in good faith to protect and defend the administration of justice, and to maintain and promote the independence of the Judiciary, when public confidence in these two precepts may be shaken or in jeopardy.

10 March 2014

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I have been receiving calls from the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the Governor of Bangkok, Mr Sukumbhan Paribatra; former President of Indonesia, Mr Jusuf Habibie and renowned Islamic Scholar, Dr Yusul al-Qaradawi since the Appeal Court judgment on the 7th of March. They have all expressed grave concerns over the manner on how the case was rushed and the subsequent ruling.

I was also visited by the American Ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Joseph Yun and his political officers at my residence on the 9th of March who have also express similar concerns. They have committed to convey these to President Obama soon.

Anwar Ibrahim

9 March 2014

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TMI

The charge against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the manner in which his appeal was handled fuels the perception that the opposition leader was persecuted and not prosecuted, the Bar Council said.

Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong (pic) said that in the first place, the archaic provision under the Penal Code which criminalises sodomy and oral sex should never have been brought against Anwar.

“The case has unnecessarily taken up judicial time and public funds, and has muddied the waters of our justice system.

“We also have grave misgivings with respect to the manner and timing in which the appeal was handled, especially over the way in which mitigation and sentencing proceeded,” Leong said.

The Court of Appeal had found Anwar guilty of sodomy on Friday, overturning the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s January 2012 decision that had found him innocent.

Leong, in a statement today, said that Anwar’s legal team was notified on February 27 that substantive appeal would be heard on March 6 and 7, and that lawyer Karpal Singh only had seven days to prepare for a criminal appeal over a case that had gone through a lengthy trial and which involved 32 witnesses, including expert evidence.

According to Leong, prior to this, the Court of Appeal registry had informed Anwar’s lawyers to reserve April 7 to 10 as the proposed hearing dates, to which the team agreed.

However, these dates were abandoned and replaced with earlier dates.

“If this is true, it raises the question as to why the Court of Appeal brought forward the appeal to be heard when the April dates had been agreed on.

“After all the defendant was facing a possible 20-year jail term and the April dates would have given the legal team more time to prepare,” he said.

Leong further said that while the hearing of the appeal which extended until past 6pm was not unheard of, it was a rare occurrence.

Further to this, after hearing submissions on March 7, the court had taken approximately 90 minutes to consider before giving a unanimous decision in reversing the acquittal by the High Court.

The panel then rejected Karpal’s request for an adjournment to the following week for the mitigation and sentencing for the purpose of obtaining a medical report on Anwar and instead gave the legal team one hour to prepare.

The Court of Appeal then sentenced Anwar to five years jail that evening with proceedings ending only at 7pm.

“These matters raise many questions, cause much speculation, and lend to the perception that justice may have been hijacked, Leong said.

He said that questions that must be answered was whether the cause of justice was best served by the manner and timing in which this appeal was handled and whether the administration of justice was compromised or interfered with.

“Justice and independence are not only facts to be established, it is imperative that they are seen to be so established,” Leong said.

9 March 2014

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TMI

The Court of Appeal’s conviction of PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy and the five-year jail sentence meted out to him just four days before the Kajang by-election campaigning kicks off will result in a public backlash against Barisan Nasional (BN), political analysts said.

Professor Ahmad Atory Hussain, a political science lecturer from Universiti Sains Malaysia said the latest development was likely to deliver Pakatan Rakyat (PR) a bigger win in the state seat this time.

He said there is every possibility political parties from both sides of the divide will play on the sentiments of the people as they campaign towards polling day on March 23.

“It depends on how they campaign. It is all about the style of presentation and PR is very good at persuading the masses.

“With about 75% of Selangor voters supporting PR for two terms now, it is logical to conclude that the state seat will return to PKR with perhaps a bigger majority… it will be miraculous if BN can win it,” he told The Malaysian Insider yesterday after the appellate court overturned the High Court’s acquittal of Anwar on a charge of sodomising his former aide six years ago.

Anwar was Pakatan Rakyat’s candidate after polls were triggered by the resignation of its assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh on January 27, but with his conviction, PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli is widely tipped to run for the state seat.

Ahmad Atory said issues BN could use against PR include the internal strife plaguing the three component parties, which may not even be relevant or strong enough to change Kajang voters’ minds.

He also said Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim will likely stay as head of government.

Khalid could possibly become PKR deputy president too, should he contest the post, he added.

“He may be more suitable for the post because he has had over a term in office as Menteri Besar to show his performance and he has delivered.

“People have seen what he can do and he has many supporters in Selangor. What has (PKR deputy president) Azmin Ali delivered so far as MP?” said Ahmad Atory.

“I foresee a tough fight involving personalities like Khalid, Azmin and party vice-president Tian Chua in the May party election,” he added.

Asked to comment on criticisms against the justice system following the Court of Appeal’s verdict, Ahmad Atory said it would be unfair to write off the entire judiciary just because people disagreed with the decision of judges.

“I admit the people will perceive the judiciary negatively now but we have no way of knowing what happened,” he said.

Penang Institute fellow and political and social analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat told The Malaysian Insider in a text message that Anwar has become a “martyr and a symbol of BN tyranny”.

He said the government will see how angry the people are, with messages of “Reformase 2.0″ overflowing on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Last night PKR deputy president Azmin Ali declared the beginning of Reformasi 2.0 to hundreds of supporters who had converged at the party’s election centre at Kampung Sungai Sekamat, Kajang, urging BN’s ouster.

“PKR’s candidate will ride on the public opinion of anger and sympathy and if the right candidate is chosen for the Kajang by-election, BN may experience a humiliating defeat and even a lose its deposit,” Wong said.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, concurred, describing Anwar’s conviction as a rallying point for PR, one that would tip the by-election in the opposition’s favour.

“The conviction will be used as a focus point by Pakatan Rakyat. You can expect the coalition to be more vocal and stronger,” he said.

Anwar was found not guilty of sodomising Saiful in January 2012 at the end of the defence case. The prosecution filed an appeal against the decision, which led to the appellate court overturning the High Court’s verdict on Friday.

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