Archaic law held sacred by Malaysian courts

The Federal Court’s guilty verdict for Anwar Ibrahim raises many doubts and questions. There is more than meets the eye. The plaintiff, Saiful, received the benefit of every doubt while defendant Anwar was denied reasonable justice. The BN government has shown little restraint, even after sacking him from the party in 1998.

Anwar was beaten by then IGP Rahim Noor when he was first arrested on Sept 20, 1998. He was subsequently charged with corruption. On April 14, 1999, Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges for allegedly interfering with police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. On Aug 8, 2000, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for sodomy. The sentences were to be served consecutively, and Anwar was given no credit for the six months he spent in jail during the trial.

In 2000, Anwar’s corruption conviction was upheld by Malaysia’s Court of Appeal. In July 2002, Anwar lost his final appeal against the corruption conviction in the Federal Court. In September 2004, the Federal Court overturned his sodomy conviction.

In a speech during the proceedings against him, Anwar explained what he believed to be the underlying motive behind his persecution. He told the court: “I objected to the use of massive public funds to rescue the failed businesses of his (Mahathir) children and cronies.”

In July 2008, he was arrested over allegations that he had sodomised one of his male aides, but was acquitted of the charge in January 2012. The presiding judge ruled that the DNA evidence used in the case had been compromised. However, on Mar 7, 2014, the Appeal Court overruled the High Court, reinstating the conviction just before the Kajang by-election. On Tuesday, the Federal Court ruled that Saiful was a “credible witness with ample evidence” and sentenced Anwar to five years behind bars.

It is incredible that the Malaysian judiciary and executive branch of the government spent 16 years’ worth of resources on Anwar’s sodomy trial. The Sodomy Act of Malaysia’s penal code 1938 is rarely invoked. From 1938 to now, a total of 77 years, there have been just seven charges pertaining to the Act. Four out of those seven charges were ones that were against Anwar Ibrahim.

While the country faces a paralysis of numerous policies and momentous setbacks, the private matter of one individual seems to have been given disproportionate attention. The government appears to be selective on whom to prosecute using this archaic law. This is where the political motivation to remove Umno’s main threat becomes a possible rationale.

A case of this nature, especially one concerning a high-profile political figure, naturally attracts negative publicity and reaction. In an event that has done the country no favour, the vested interests of the powers that be yet again appear to have prevailed over the nation’s wellbeing.

Explore posts in the same categories: From the desk of Senator S Ramakrishnan

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