(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): In the United States, thinking Americans are worried that the painful, slow and embarrassing impeachment process of the President Clinton will not only result in diminishing the credibility of the American Presidency both at home and abroad, but also in undermining the international image of the United States.
In Malaysia, many Malaysians are also very concerned about the long-term consequences of the Anwar Ibrahim trial, over and above the issue of the future of Anwar Ibrahim himself.
Let me refer to two postings on the Internet in the past few days in response to the long-running Anwar Ibrahim trial.
The first one three days ago by a non-Malay Malaysian, who maintains a very high-profile Internet presence, confessed that he had been "discreetly silent" on the Anwar trial as "I honestly believe that this is but part of the Malay leadership struggle for which a Chinese Malaysian, although being affected by the eventual outcome, should not comment too strongly or loudly."
He went on: "But yesterday's charade of parading the mattress
and front-paged on both the NST and Star today really scrapes the bottom
of the muck-barrel.
"By so doing, they have brought shame to the country."
He ended his posting by saying that he was "weeping for Malaysia".
The second posting, also three days ago, is by a well-known Malay
journalist/writer under the title "The Politics of Contempt", where
he started with the following:
"This is shaming the Malays. This is stripping them of their dignity
and reminding them, as Mahathir Mohamad did in his book, ‘The Malay Dilemma’, that they’re a pathetic people…"
"But now it seems Mahathir would wish to be president-for-life.
He would wish to die in office, it seems. A man of his age can realistically
entertain such notions, and perhaps the party and the
country will too. What the hell, life goes on. But what has he done to us? I can hear the rebuttal: it wasn’t Mahathir who betrayed our pride & dignity, it was Anwar. I disagree. IF Anwar is guilty, he is the devil’s own scoundrel. But it wasn’t Anwar who mimed those acts on televison. Nor did Anwar write these headlines, or carry that stinking mattress to the court, or chase after it with a photojournalist’s zeal, or run the damned thing on the front page.
"Even IF Anwar is guilty, this matter could and should have been conducted in a very different manner nonetheless, to preserve dignity, to save people’s shame; above all to show that the answer to dishonourable deeds is honourable deeds; that the base are redeemed by the noble. Not by miming buggery before a live audience."
I submit that these two views, one by a non-Malay and another by a Malay, sum up the widespread concerns of many thinking Malaysians and this is why I would say that it is not merely justice which is on trial, whether in the Lim Guan Eng, Irene Fernandez, Anwar Ibrahim, Sukma, Munawar, Tommy Thomas, Param Cumaraswamy or Zainur Zakaria cases, the whole system of governance in Malaysia is on trial. In fact, we are struggling with the very soul of the Malaysian nation.
An incontrovertible fact in Malaysia is that civil and human rights in Malaysia had suffered a process of unceasing erosion - to the extent that public confidence in the system of justice and democratic governance in the country had been seriously undermined.
This was why I had told the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad during the Parliamentary meeting at the end of September that under his administration, Malaysia does not have "rule of law" but only "rule by law".
This is the result of the merciless concentration of power by the executive at the expense of other branches of government, whether the legislature or the judiciary, making a complete mockery of the doctrine of the separation of powers.
The most important first step to arrest the erosion of civil and human rights in Malaysia and restore public confidence in the system of justice and democratic governance is for Malaysians to deny the Barisan Nasional its traditional parliamentary two-thirds majority in the next general elections to uphold the principle of accountability, transparency and democratic responsibility.