Kajang by-election: Unholy haste to fix Anwar Ibrahim

The dates insisted upon by the Court of Appeal are on the eve of nomination day for the Kajang by-election.

Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

Photograph: The Malaysian Insider

It is conceded that Anwar Ibrahim will definitely win the Kajang by-election with a runaway majority.

Nothing can stop or impede that inevitability. That win will be a mortal blow to the Barisan Nasional whose fortunes will crumble thereafter.

Politically the BN can do nothing to arrest this trend. And it is desperate to stop Anwar from contesting the Kajang by-election.

Will the outcome of his court case stop Anwar from his foregone victory in Kajang? Thinking Malaysians seem to think that would be the case!

YB N Surendran’s press statement disclosing some disturbing details is rather ominous. We have to fear for Anwar.
It is said, “Justice is that virtue that assigns to every man his due.” Is Anwar being given his due? That is the crucial question.

According to Surendran, “The appeal had been fixed for case management on 28 February 2014. Anwar’s lawyers then received a call from the deputy registrar of the Court of Appeal asking for free dates between 7 March and 10 March 2014. It should be noted that the dates insisted upon by the Court of Appeal are on the eve of the nomination day for the Kajang by-election. (If Anwar is convicted, he would be disqualified from contesting the by election.)”

It is very strange that the appeal had been fixed for case management on 28 Feburary and six days later the government’s appeal against Anwar’s acquittal was scheduled to proceed on 6 March 2014.

It is inexplicable that the court should insist on fixing 6-7 March as appeal dates despite Anwar’s lawyers stating that those were not free on those dates. Shouldn’t this fact be taken into account when fixing the dates? After all, shouldn’t Anwar’s lawyers be free to do justice to Anwar’s defence? Why should the court fix the dates that are not free and convenient to Anwar’s lawyers?

Why should the court be so insistent? According to Potter Stewart, “Swift justice demands more than just swiftness.”

If the business of the court is to deliver justice, shouldn’t the court be guided by mercy and compassion as well?

Anwar was acquitted on 9 January 2012, more than two years ago – almost two years after the trial started. If it had taken more than two years to come to this stage, would a delay of a few weeks or months have interfered with justice?

What were the compelling reasons for wanting the appeal to proceed specifically on 6-7 March? What was the rational for dismissing the fact that Anwar’s lawyers are not free on those dates fixed by the court?

“Justice and judgment lie often a world apart,” said Emmeline Pankhurst, British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. In Anwar’s case this seems to be so true.

It is this development that has disturbing implication. It has led many to wonder why the judiciary is so rigid in Anwar’s case. There is this public perception that the judiciary may be used by the BN to stop Anwar in his tracks.

Our courts should not be seen to be used for political vendetta; it must not even be perceived to be so.

If Anwar is disqualified from contesting the Kajang by-election on 11 March, then this perception will, unfortunately, become a fact. That would be a tragedy not only for all of us but also for the nation.

Let’s remember and be reminded by what was said by William Ewart Gladstone: “National injustice is the surest road to national downfall.”

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive committee member
5 March 2014

P Ramakrishnan

P Ramakrishan, the long-serving former president of Aliran, has been granted a respite and now happily serves as an Aliran executive committee member. He has carried the flag for human rights and democracy for Aliran since its inception in 1977, when the term ‘human rights’ was considered something of a dirty word.

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