Anwar, Altantuya, aurat, Ismail Sabri – Whither justice in 1Malaysia?

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Anwar embraces Wan Azizah after the Federal Court verdict on 10 February 2015

By proclaiming that Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan is a credible witness, in the face of the commonsense counter arguments offered by Anwar’s defence team, the judges have brought shame to our land, writes Francis Loh.

Anwar embraces Wan Azizah after the Federal Court verdict on 10 February 2015
Anwar embraces Wan Azizah after the Federal Court verdict on 10 February 2015

The guilty verdict on DSAI was not unexpected. Not for the first time, the Malaysian judiciary has revealed to the world how it can no longer be relied upon to uphold justice in our land.

By proclaiming that Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan is a credible witness, in the face of the commonsense counter arguments offered by Anwar’s defence team, the judges have brought shame to our land.

Apparently, the learned judges do not understand simple principles of justice and first-year law school textbook notions of what constitutes evidence too. On the contrary, the decision of the so-called learned judges in the so-called Palace of Justice reveals, simply, how politicised the Malaysian judiciary has become.

After being found guilty, Anwar Ibrahim lamented: “You have sold your souls to the devil, bartering your conscience for material gain and comfort and security of office….you chose to remain on the dark side and drown your morals and your scruples in a sea of falsehood and subterfuge.”

Who can blame the common people in the streets for believing that the higher one goes up the judicial system, the closer one gets to the Palace of Justice, the less one will have access to justice. Don’t take my word on how ordinary Malaysians (and non-Malaysians) view the disappointing performance of the judiciary. Check out some of these on the internet, including this one by Aliran’s P Ramakrishnan.

The so-called Sodomy II trial began on 3 February 2010. The KL High Court then acquitted Anwar of the sodomy charge on 9 January 2012 when it declared that it could not rule out the possibility that the DNA evidence presented had been compromised.

Subsequently, the Court of Appeals ruled on 7 March 2012 that the High Court judge had erred by rejecting the DNA evidence. Accordingly, Anwar’s acquittal by the High Court was reversed.

On 10 February 2015, however, the Federal Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s verdict. Putrajaya then hailed ‘the independence’ of the Malaysian judiciary! What a wide chasm exists between the people’s and Putrajaya’s notions of justice.

Altantuya

In this regard, we should not forget the recent ruling by the judiciary in the Altantuya case. The court passed the death sentence on Sirul Azahar and Azilah Hadri, the murderers of the pregnant and innocent Altantuya.

In this case, it was so obvious to all following the case that these two were merely the front men, hired killers if you will. Indeed, Sirul had said in court that he had been offered RM100,000 to commit murder. Instead of asking Sirul, “Who offered you the money”, the learned judge simply ignored this statement by Sirul. In fact, Sirul had also stated that he was only “the black sheep who has to be sacrificed to protect unnamed people”, i. e. made a scapegoat.

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But no follow-up again on the part of the judge. Only silence. So the case didn’t pursue the lead that might have led to exposing who hired the killers and the motive of those behind the killers. For the killers had no cause to kill Altantuya – no personal dealings, no personal grudge, no threat, no provocation.

As is well known, apart from Sirul and Azilah, both bodyguards, two others – Razak Baginda and Musa Safri – aides to the then DPM, had also been speculated to have been connected to this case. The names of several other people very close to the then deputy prime minister, including his wife, were also entangled in this case, at least in the first statutory declaration made by PI Bala. Yes, yes, he submitted a second SD later withdrawing the contents of the first SD, and was then, apparently, paid to leave the country.

Read P Ramakrishnan’s article to recall the many hiccups in this case, and the missed opportunities to find out who was behind these killers and the motive once and for all.

Penang state exco member hauled up

Come to think of it, it is not only the judiciary but also the police and the AG’s chambers which, for many Malaysians nowadays, cannot be relied upon to deliver justice.

As the judges were delivering their disappointing verdict, the IGP announced that Penang State Exco Member Chong Eng would be hauled up under section 298 of the Penal Code for allegedly uttering insensitive remarks about last week’s Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) Friday sermon on rape.

This sermon, which advised women to tutup aurat, had argued that “rape, illicit sex and incest could be avoided if only women covered themselves up”.

Chong Eng responded by saying this was offering “misleading information on rape, smacks of victim-blaming and showed male-bias in religious leadership”.

For the life of me, what is the problem here? Why can’t the the Penang Exco in charge of women’s affairs cum chairperson of the Penang’s Women Development Corporation criticise a silly statement made by some ill-informed men? At no point did Chong Eng question Jais’ call to tutup aurat. Rather she is saying that Jais was misinformed and offering misleading information.

Slow motion

Contrast this speedy action on the part of the IGP on a so-called ‘sensitive issue’ to the slow-motion action taken ‘to invite’ Ismail Sabri, the minister of agriculture and agro-based industries, to clarify his even more shallow and insensitive remarks on Facebook.

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His first post, now since removed, had allegedly called for Malays to boycott Chinese traders to get them to lower the prices of goods sold. “As long as Malays don’t change, the Chinese will take advantage to oppress the Malays.”

He has clarified in a second post that what he meant was that consumers were the majority and traders the minority, And that he was directing his remarks at unscrupulous Chinese traders instead of the entire Chinese community.

Significantly, in his latest statement, Ismail Sabri appears to have resumed telling Malay consumers to use their majority power to target the minority Chinese traders who hike up prices- though he also claimed that other non-Malay consumers too would stand to benefit from the boycott call.

No, he has not blamed the media for misquoting him as is so often the case with these politicians who speak before they think. Although he has withdrawn his original Facebook post, he has refused to apologise for anything he had stated; let alone step down as minister, as some groups have called. Instead, he has arrogantly called upon those criticising him to apologise instead.

While we criticise Ismail Sabri for his arrogance and racial posturing, this should not detract from the fact that prices of goods and services, no doubt, have risen. And poor families have been experiencing difficult times.

Who is responsible for higher cost of living?

With tongue-in-cheek, Steven Sim, the MP for Bukit Mertajam, supports Ismail Sabri’s call for a boycott of profiteers and those responsible for hiking the costs of living.

Except that Sim does not target ‘the Chinese traders’ as Ismail Sabri does. For Sim, they are those BN politicians and crony capitalists who monopolise the housing, transportation and communications industries.

In an excellent short piece drawing upon data from the Department of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey 2009/2010 (the latest such survey data available), he reminds us that ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ constitute the second largest item in household expenditures. And the percentage of total expenditure has fallen from 22.6 per cent in 1998/99 to 20.3 per cent in 2009/10.

On the other hand, expenditure on housing, transport and communications has risen over the same period. This set of items are what we might consider ‘essentials’ and ‘non-adjustable’, whereas food and beverages can be adjustable i.e. one can switch from eating more expensive fish to less expensive fish, or from mutton to chicken or more vegetables.

The important aspect of this distinction is that most food and beverages (leaving aside the fast food chains) are owned and serviced by small-time butchers, fishmongers, sundry shop owners, Mamak stall owners and hawkers. Lots of them. Of all races. A healthy sense of competition still prevails among them.

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On the other hand, the housing, transportation and communication industries are owned and controlled by big-time monopolists. Think of the housing developers and giants of the construction industry; Proton, Perodua, Naza, Tan Chong, Sime-Hyundai, etc, and the vehicle AP holders; the petroleum companies not forgetting our own Petronas and Petron; and the telco service providers. Very few of them. Some are GLCs. Most are connected to the BN, often they are cronies. There is little competition here.

The 2009/10 Survey warns us that 45 per cent of household debt arises from housing and another 20 per cent from transport. It is obvious that the rising costs of living and the attendant difficulties arises not so much because of rising costs and debts connected to hikes in prices of food and beverages, but from those crony-link monopoly companies involved in the housing, transportation and communication industries. Should we not target the right people if we want an effective boycott? Poor Ismail Sabri, he only understands the workings of the economy in narrow ethnic terms. And to think he is so very arrogant in is ignorance!

We could next talk about the problem of factionalism in the parties, both BN and PR. That would be terribly depressing, wouldn’t it ? Suffice to say that the mainstream media have only been focusing on the problems within the MIC and Pas as well as among the component parties of the PR. Strangely, the growing conflict within Umno and in the ruling BN coalition has not been openly discussed. Except that Shahidan Kassim has offered to mediate this gnawing problem. Let’s save this for another e-newsletter.

Some good news

Let us end then with some positive news. On 3 February 2015, the Negri Sembilan government announced that it was amending state laws governing Islam to make it compulsory for non-Muslims seeking to convert to Islam to first settle their family affairs , including divorcing their partners before embracing Islam.

This proposal has received favourable support from legal experts and people concerned with fostering inter-faith relations. Such an amendment would help to resolve the problems that have arisen over the past decade over so-called ‘body snatching’ upon death of a convert, custody and the unilateral conversion of children by the convert without the consent or knowledge of the spouse.

On an even more positive note, we want to alert you to the latest set of articles posted on our website by another group of young Malaysians who attended our Aliran Young Writers Workshop. Check them out here.

Francis Loh

Co-editor, Aliran e-Newsletter

11 February 2015

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Rita Khoo

I ditto Mariam’s comments. A well written and balanced article that we can gain insight into!! Thanks Aliran!