(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Justice Augustine Paul should reconsider and agree to adjourn Anwar Ibrahim’s trial for half a day for the former Deputy Prime Minister to appear before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries sustained while under police custody.
The newspaper reports today must be sad breakfast reading for Malaysians - that despite an attempt by the Royal Commission of Inquiry to get a half-day adjournment of Anwar’s trial to allow Anwar to continue to give evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Justice Paul was unmoved and stuck to his decision to dispense with the need for Anwar’s presence at the trial if the former Deputy Prime Minister chose to appear before the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
The Chairman of the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, captured the dilemma faced by Anwar when he said:
"Do you realise the difficulty that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim faces? He wants to come here but he can’t leave because the case is going on. So he chose to stay there. All we need is this afternoon. Is it not possible for his request to be granted? It’s not for two or three days but just this afternoon."
When Justice Paul rejected the first application by Anwar’s defence counsel on Wednesday for a postponement to enable Anwar to attend the inquiry, the judge said that Anwar’s presence at the trial could be dispensed with under section 264 of the Criminal Procedure Code and that Anwar was amply represented by his team of lawyers.
The judge said it was up to Anwar to choose the proceedings which he would attend and that he could not allow any further delay since the case had been "delayed enough".
Who was responsible for Anwar’s case being "delayed enough"? If
there is anyone responsible, the responsibility must be borne fully and
squarely by the prosecution who led the court on a wild goose’s chase after
Anwar’s sexual misconduct for 45 days, fully armed with a paraphernalia
of mattresses, semen stains, DNA, threat of a videotape evidence, which
all fizzled out when at the last
minute, the prosecution amended the charges leading to the expungement of more than half of the evidence of the 45-day trial.
The public are entitled to ask as to why the prosecution could be allowed to waste 20-30 days on what turned out to be irrelevant evidence, expunged from the court records, but the court is not prepared to accommodate half-a-day to allow Anwar to complete his evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into his "black eye" while under police custody.
Although Anwar’s injuries while under police custody is not a subject before Justice Paul, every Malaysian, including judges, must be outraged by the lawlessness in the very inner sanctum of police high command and give every assistance possible to ensure that the fullest investigation is conducted and completed in the shortest time possible as to the culprits responsible for the dastardly crime committed against Anwar in the Bukit Aman lock-up.
If there is a public opinion poll as to which case had been "delayed enough", I do not think there could be any doubt that the overwhelming opinion would be the inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" - which stands as an international indictment on the professionalism, independence and integrity of the instruments of government in Malaysia.
Justice Datuk Augustine Paul may have the full judicial powers to decide that Anwar’s trial should proceed even if the former Deputy Prime Minister is away as a witness at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" while under police custody, but he should know that his insistence on sticking to his earlier decision and his summary dismissal of the Royal Commission of Inquiry is not giving the system of justice a good image.
Justice Paul should always be conscious that Anwar’s trial is not an ordinary trial and is the focus of national and international attention, and that outside the court of law, there is a court of public and international opinion and he should always remember what he himself said at the beginning of the Anwar trial: Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done!
I call on Justice Paul to co-operate with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" to show that judges are equally outraged by the lawlessness in the very inner sanctum of police high command instead of maintianing a "stand-offish" or even an unhelpful and unco-operative stance.