Is Mahathir going to declare United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and European Union nations as enemy states and blacklist and boycott visits to these  countries for their attack on the Malaysian judiciary over the Anwar trial and sentences

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(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:

He said the judicial system of some of the countries which had attacked Malaysia’s judiciary could also be questioned, and referred to the Rodney King case when he said: Asked on Malaysia’s stand on the attacks and whether the statements made by these countries could affect bilateral relations, the Prime Minister said that now "we know who are our friends and who are our enemies".

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.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman