(Tanjong, Friday): Three days ago, when the DAP’s "Justice For All" campaign was launched nationally in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, I said that the imprisonment of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng for defending the honour, human rights and women’s rights of an underaged 15-year-old girl and the "black eye" of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, as a result of police assault while under police custody were the most eloquent reasons why Malaysians were crying out for justice and why it was necessary for the DAP to launch the "Justice For All" campaign.
I also stressed that the "Justice For All" campaign was not just about Guan Eng or Anwar Ibrahim, but about the rights of 21 million Malaysians to political, economic, educational, legal, social, religious and cultural justice.
The "Justice For All" campaign is an opportunity for Malaysians to wipe out the national and international stain of rampant injustices in Malaysia by exercising their democratic rights to demand for changes in our system of governance.
Today, at the launching of the "Justice For All" campaign in Penang, there is a powerful third reason why Malaysians must stand up for the objectives of this campaign to bring about justice, freedom, democracy and good governance - the latest flagrant injustice in the handling of the Anwar Ibrahim case when the prosecution amended the four corruption charges against Anwar on the 45th day of the trial at the end of the prosecution case.
As a result of the last-minute amendment of the charges by the prosecution, High Court Judge Datuk S. Augustine Paul yesterday expunged all evidence adduced in the 45-day trial to prove or rebut prosecution accusations that Anwar had engaged in homosexual acts or had an affair.
This meant the defence could not respond to this evidence in either its submission or if it has to call witnesses to answer the prosecution case, although during the 45-day trial, Anwar’s reputation as well as of others had been smeared and stained with the most lurid details about sex, sodomy and semen.
Many questions immediately come to mind, among them:
To the general Malaysian public, the fundamental issue is not whether the prosecution has the power under the Criminal Procedure Code to amend the four corruption charges against Anwar at the end of the prosecution case after a 45-day trial, but whether it is just and fair for the prosecution to do so - as the trial of Anwar is not an ordinary trial. The Malaysian public do not want to see the Anwar trial turned into a "cat-and-mouse" legal game for the prosecution and the defence to show their legal prowess - as what they want is justice, pure and unalloyed.
Unfortunately, the response of the overwhelming majority of Malaysians to the latest development in the Anwar case is that it gross and flagrant injustice to Anwar, whatever its legality.
The latest development in the Anwar case in the last two days have caused greater disillusionment among Malaysians at the chasm between law and justice under the Malaysian legal system and plunged the crisis of confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the institutions of government to a new depth.
The outrage is not just confined to Malaysia, but also in international circles among those concerned about justice in the Anwar case.
The London Times in an editorial yesterday under the heading "Outrage in Court - Prosecutors move the goalposts to keep the Anwar case alive", wrote:
"For 11 weeks, Malaysian prosecutors have called witness after witness in their attempt to prove sensational allegations of ‘sexual misconduct and sodomy’ by Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's sacked former Deputy Prime Minister. Every sordid detail, including DNA tests on a semen-stained mattress displayed, for added drama, in court, has been prominently reported in the country's normally staid press. In proceedings ostensibly concerned to establish whether the prosecution can establish its case against Mr Anwar for the ‘corrupt practice’ of attempting to suppress criminal proceedings against him, this focus on alleged sexual acts has always looked more like an effort to destroy him politically by ruining his reputation as a devout Muslim than a proper concern to see justice done.
"Now the prosecution has turned the questionable into the disgraceful. Yesterday, just as it was closing its case on the 45th day of these hearings, it successfully applied to move the goalposts by amending the four corruption charges. Mr Anwar is no longer accused of ‘directing’ police to obtain statements from key prosecution witnesses to ‘to deny sexual misconduct and sodomy committed by him’. The witnesses are now said to have made such ‘allegations’, but Mr Anwar is no longer asserted to have committed any such acts.
"After the slinging of so much defamatory mud, this may appear as a moral victory; but the effect is to rescue the prosecution's case from collapse, and to put Mr Anwar at graver risk of conviction. This is because the amendments lower the burden of proof. Even if all the allegations of illegal sexual conduct - homosexual intercourse is outlawed in Malaysia - are, as is almost certain, found to be fabricated lies, he could still be convicted of trying to get them retracted and sentenced to 14 years in jail."
The latest turn in Anwar’s case has given substance to the statement yesterday by the London-based Justice International that the prolonged bail hearing for Anwar, where the review of the bail application if still outstanding after 45 days of trial, is a "travesty of justice."
Sayyad Mohyeddeen, director of the London-based Justice International, an international network of lawyers promoting human rights, justice and fair trials worldwide, made a most pertinent point when he asked: "What possible purpose can judicial review seek to serve if the review itself takes longer then the trial?"
The continued government delay on the establishment of a Royal
Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while
under police custody, although it is coming to four months since the police
beating and the Attorney-General has publicly placed the responsibility
on the police, has not helped in addressing the unprecedented crisis of
confidence in the institutions of government in Malaysia.
DAP calls for an emergency meeting of Parliament to deal with the worsening crisis of confidence in the professionalism and integrity of institutions of government arising from the last-minute amendment of charges against Anwar at the end of prosecution as well as the procrastination in establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Anwar’s "black eye" and other injuries while under police custody as well as police lawlessness in general.
I hope Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament can support this call so that "Justice For All" is meaningful and real in Malaysia.