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KQ: Justice Continued To Be Denied To Anwar
By Kim Quek

16/1/2002 1:52 pm Wed



The black hand of the Executive once again reared its ugly head when former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's final appeal against his first conviction was postponed (third postponement) for a totally unacceptable reason.

Of all the persons in this world, the newly appointed Attorney General Gani Patail was the least qualified to use 'unpreparedness' as an excuse to postpone the hearing, for he was the king pin of the infamous prosecutions against Anwar, right from the very inceptions to the conclusions, ending in 15 years of imprisonment for Anwar.

Gani should be the person most thoroughly familiar with the case, up to the most intimate details, being present in the very same police headquarters in Bukit Aman, when Anwar was beaten to near death there by the former Police Chief of Malaysia, Rahim Noor, on the very day Anwar was arrested on 20th September 1998. Gani was also the central figure in a case within a case, when Anwar's lawyers applied to have Gani removed as prosecutor for his alleged role in coercing (with a death penalty) Anwar's tennis partner Nallakarupan to fabricate evidence against Anwar. Gani's alleged criminal role was critically questioned by the Federal Court (highest court) on 28th June 2001 when it quashed a 'contempt of court' conviction on Anwar's lawyer Zainur, arising from the application to remove Gani as prosecutor. (Gani has not to date answered this accusation of fabrication of evidence against Anwar.)

Apart from Gani's personal familiarity with this case, the entire Attorney General's Chambers cannot possibly be excused for being unprepared, for this Appeal was originally scheduled for hearing in the year 2000, and was postponed again in the year 2001. Now is the year 2002, why should the prosecutors be unprepared for it? Gani's excuse that he 'was newly appointed and had very little time to prepare for the case' must be condemned with the utmost contempt.

Lest we forget, Anwar has been languishing in jail in solitary confinement for the past three and a half years, while he should have been out on bail all this while, if due process of law had been allowed to take its place. During this time, he has gone through hell and fire, right from the moment he was arrested when he was beaten to near death. He went through the agony of two long trials, which were universally condemned as manifest travesty of justice. Then the looming danger of a slow death through arsenic poisoning, stopped only when the poison was discovered in a laboratory in Australia. For the past one and a half year, he has been suffering continuous excruciating pain due to a spinal injury, due to being denied the medical treatment of his choice. He is now reduced to the wheel chair. And now, in protest against the indefinite postponement, he has begun to fast, until a new hearing date is fixed. Needless to say, his continuing fasting will cause his frail physical conditions to deteriorate rapidly.

At this moment, when almost everyone's attention is captured by the daily unfolding news on terrorism, it is pertinent to refresh our memory on the circumstances surrounding Mahathir's strike against his anointed successor almost 4 years ago.

Malaysia was then in the deepest moment of its financial and economic crisis, along with other countries in the region. Suharto had just been toppled by angry masses when Indonesia's economy crumpled in a heap of debts due to massive corruption and cronyism and reckless spending. Malaysia's position looked precarious, having been afflicted by the same ailment, albeit on a lesser scale.

The Malaysian currency had crashed. So had the stock market, amidst scandalous dealings by the powerful, most notably the siphoning of massive cash from UEM through purchase of Renong shares from certain mysterious sellers. (This resulted in Halim Saad committing the now famous RM 3.2 billion put option to UEM to pacify the panicky investing public. This put option is now cancelled by the Government, after it had acquired UEM, in another massive bail out operation to rescue Halim Saad and the Renong Group.)

Many large scale crony enterprises became insolvent, which prompted the powers that be to pour in billions of public funds to the rescue. It is in these massive bailing out of cronies that the conflict between Anwar and the Mahathir V Daim axis became intensified.

As the then Minister of Finance acting on public interests, Anwar resisted these sweeping bailouts, thus incurring the wrath of Mahathir and Daim, who saw Anwar as a major threat to the survival of their business empires. Among many instances of conflicts, a notable case that aroused Mahathir's anger was when Anwar slashed the cash payout to Mahathir's son Mirzam by State owned Petronas from RM 2.2 billion to RM 1.7 billion to acquire Mirzam's ships, which was a totally unjustified transaction, motivated purely by the desire to bail Mirzam out from his financial predicament.

Fearing that Malaysia was fast going down the drain the Indonesian way as investors' confidence had collapsed, UMNO Youth, apparently acting under the sanction of Anwar, decided to make a move to change UMNO's course by calling for a war against corruption, cronyism and nepotism in the UMNO Annual Conference in mid 1998. This battle cry sent shivers down the spine of the Mahathir V Daim axis. The final decision was made. Anwar was to be destroyed.

Immediately after being sacked from the Cabinet and UMNO on the first days of September 1998, Anwar counter-struck by exposing massive corruption and abuse of power at the top echelon in speeches attended by record crowds all over the Country. It is noteworthy that in the ensuing Reformasi movement launched by him during the few precious days of freedom that he had before being arrested on 20th September, its platform was not confined to fighting corruption, but the restoration of justice and democracy, which had been almost totally destroyed by Mahathir through creeping legislation and usurpation of other independent institutions during his long reign.

Anwar's cries of Reformasi have awakened a new generation of Malays to the folly of blindly supporting the UMNO leadership purely on racial considerations. Widespread corruptions to enrich a few Malay elites have not only failed to uplift the economic status of the vast majority of Malays, but have corroded the morals of the Malaysian society and lowered the efficiency of the public as well as the private sectors. Widespread financial failures wrought by the Asian Crisis, especially among the Malay business community, has convinced many Malays that their political struggles must not be purely a case of UMNO vs other races. From now on, Malays must struggle together with other races to eliminate corrupt leadership, restore morality and improve governance.

And so, through his downfall and sufferings, Anwar has ushered in a watershed in Malaysian politics, in that the Malays have broken free of UMNO's racial and feudal bondage. This was convincingly demonstrated by the landslide migration of Malay votes from UMNO to the Opposition in the last General Election. To this day, the hostility of the academic community and the civil service towards Mahathir and UMNO has stood in contrast to their empathy towards Anwar.

In spite of Anwar's trials, convictions and imprisonment, his impeccable record of personal honesty and his image of an untiring fighter for the have-nots have continued to endear him to the Malay masses as well as to the non-Malays who have been enlightened by his moral leadership. Equally, his outstanding leadership has stood well with leaders all over the world.

In advanced societies like Japan and the western countries, national leaders can come and go frequently without adversely affecting the well being of the people. But in a developing country (such as Malaysia), which invariably struggles hard to gain economic advancement and political maturity, the quality of its top leadership is often the pivotal factor to whether the country can succeed in its endeavours.

It is not often that a developing country is blessed with a good leader. When we have one among our midst, can we afford to let him perish with our indifference and inaction?

Anwar has sacrificed all he has to uphold his principles and defend the interests of his country, the least the people can do is to demonstrate their solidarity with him resoundingly with words and deeds at this desperate hour, when his very life may be hanging on a thread.

Kim Quek.