(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Langkawi on Sunday castigated other countries for questioning Malaysia’s judicial system, declaring:
Mahathir’s reaction is most extraordinarry, bordering both on the childish and churlish, biased, misinformed and most undiplomatic.
The Foreign Ministry had sent "strong" protest notes to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union at their statements attacking Malaysia's judiciary in its handling of the criminal cases against former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Is Mahathir going to go one step further and declare United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and European Union nations as "enemy states" now that "we know who are our friends and who are our enemies", and for a start, announce that the Malaysian Prime Minister will blacklist and boycott visits to these countries for their attack on the Malaysian judiciary over the Anwar trials and sentences?
Is it in the larger national interest for Malaysia to regard the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and European Union nations as "enemies" of the country, and may be plan a campaign to lessen if not to sever relations with them?
Mahathir must not allow personal pique to cloud his larger national responsibilities as to forget or overlook the important fact of Malaysia's economic relations with the United States and the European Union, which account for some 40 per cent of the country’s total export markets, or an even higher percentage if we focus only exports of manufactured goods which account for some 85 per cent of total Malaysian exports.
Is the Malaysian government contemplating an economic war with the countries which had criticised the Malaysian judiciary and the handling of the Anwar trial and sentence?
If not, what is the purpose of Mahathir declaring and labelling these countries as "enemies" as distinct from "friends"?
Does the Malaysian Government expect to have an influx of tourists from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union nations after the Prime Minister has openly labelled these countries as "enemies"?
Mahathir’s contention that the some of the countries which had criticised the Malaysian judiciary have no right to do so because their judicial systems could also be questioned is fallacious, erroneous and unfortunate - as this is not the defence of the righteous but the refuge of those who realised that they had done wrong but challenged the moral right of others to expose the wrongs.
Mahathir said foreign governments which attacked the nation's Judiciary should look at their own systems before making accusations as "they should not accuse our Judiciary of not being good when theirs are no better". This is like Mahathir complaining that the pot is calling the kettle black, where both are black and the pot should not have spoken up.
Mahathir's reference to the Rodney King case, "where black people were brutally beaten and yet their judges acquitted the policemen who tortured them'' does not redound to Malaysia's credit.
Firstly, Mahathir seems to be ignorant of the development of the Rodney King case.
In April 1992, a California jury in Simi Valley, a predominantly white, middle-class community 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles, comprising ten whites, one Hispanic and one Asian acquitted Los Angeles police officers for state criminal charges of assaults of King, which was videotaped by a private citizen. These verdicts resulted in rioting, with more than 50 dead and over one billion dollars in property damage.
The Federal Attorney-General intervened and the police officers were prosecuted for violation of King's constitutional rights, resulting in the conviction of two police officers who were imprisoned for two and a half years for the beating of Rodney King.
The second issue raised by Mahathir's reference to the Rodney King case is whether Malaysia has a system of justice which is superior to those of the United States.
Public outrage at the initial acquittals in the Rodney King case had resulted in justice being meted out against two police officers. Can public outrage in Malaysia work with similar effect with the system of justice in Malaysia?
Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional leaders cannot be unaware of the outrage, both national and international, at the comparative handling of the Anwar Ibrahim and Rahim Noor cases.
Anwar has already undergone two marathon public trials and is serving the first set of his six-year jail sentences, which would be followed by the recent additional jail sentence of nine years - without taking into account the seven months he was detained from September 1998 to April 1999.
Former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor who assaulted a handcuffed and blindfolded Anwar Ibrahim to within inches of his life when he was first arrested and brought to the Bukit Aman police lockup on Sept. 20, 1998, has yet to spend a day in jail or a police lockup. In fact, Rahim had been given criminal VIP treatment in never having to spend a second even in handcuffs although he had brought shame to the police force, the government and the nation by taking the law into his own hands and inflicted the infamous black eye on Anwar.
All Rahim had received is a suspended two-month jail sentence
and RM2,000 fine, and he is free on bail pending his appeal.
If there is a nation-wide opinion poll as to which of the two, Rahim Noor or Anwar Ibrahim, deserves a heavier sentence, there is no doubt about the outcome.
Public outrage in the United States ensured justice is done in Rodney King case, but can outrage in Malaysia ensure that justice is done in both the Rahim Noor and Anwar cases?
Mahathir's reference to the Rodney King case also raises a third issue. In the United States, outrage at the injustice of the acquittals in the Rodney King case was given full media coverage, whether they come from the Amercian community, opinion leaders or the political establishment. But in Malaysia, public outrage at the injustices at the handling of the Rahim Noor and Anwar Ibrahim cases were driven underground or to Internet sites as they could find no coverage in the mainstream printed and electronic media in the country. So much for democracy, freedom, justice and good governance.
The time has come for the Malaysian government to stop defending the indefensible. It must urgently pay heed to the reality it faces - out of touch with both the aspirations of the nation and a world that increasingly will not condone authoritarianism anywhere in the global village.
Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics, spoke of "the rise of democracy..... that when people look back at what happened in this century, they will find it difficult not to accord primacy to the emergence of democracy as the preeminently acceptable form of governance".
Mahathir and his cabinet should seriously ponder about the march of
history. Democracy and the rule of law are ideas whose time have
come. They have swept away all those opposed to them whether in Chile,
the former Soviet Union, and countries such as Indonesia. Against this
tide, perverse judgments of the Malaysian judiciary will not hold, despite
all the protestations of the Barisan Nasional Government.