I had on Saturday welcomed news of the withdrawal of the five remaining charges against Anwar as I had hoped that it could be preparatory to bold measures to pardon Anwar and restore his political and civil rights to end the trauma on the national psyche and deep political divisions which his trials had precipitated in the past three years and portend for the coming decade.
This is because every day Anwar spends in prison is a reprimand of the system of justice in Malaysia and an affront to the sense of fair play of all decent human beings, whether in Malaysia and in the whole wide world.
Article 145(3) of the Constitution vests in the Attorney-General the prosecutorial discretion “to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence” and I had proposed that she cut the Gordian Knot to end the debilitating national trauma represented by the Anwar trials and tribulations by securing a pardon for the former Deputy Prime Minister so that the whole country can put the episode behind it and the people move forward into the 21st century to face the challenges of globalisation and information and communications technology (ICT).
The comments first by Rais and yesterday by Abdullah, however, are not conducive for such a national reconciliation as their words have the effect of turning knives in the wounds of injustice.
Rais said: "It is known publicly that Anwar had been tried and sentenced to 15 years' jail. From the view of the attorney general, she may have thought of the severity of the sentence and there was no need to continue with other accusations."
In the first place, if the new Attorney-General is of the view that Anwar’s sentences are “severe”, then she is duty-bound to make known her views to the appellate courts to remove the “severity” of the sentences imposed on Anwar in the two trials.
What is most objectionable about Rais’ supposition however is that the five remaining charges had been withdrawn against Anwar not because the former Deputy Prime Minister is innocent but that though he is guilty, there is no need to proceed with them because there is already the “severity” of the 15-year jail sentences imposed on him.
What Abdullah said is even more outrageous. About the withdrawal of the charges, he said:
"Anwar has previously been prosecuted on several charges and what happened in court, we've all heard. It is not an unusual move. It happens everywhere."
What is Abdullah trying to say. Is he implying all that the people had heard as to what happened in court, even though not allowed to be contradicted by the defence counsel, like the infamous mattress being trotted in and out of court, are to be regarded as true although they were ruled as irrelevant by the trial court?
The comments by Rais and Abdullah, implying that Anwar is guilty of all the five charges, but there is no need to proceed with the trial on them because he is already sentenced to 15 years, is most unfair to Anwar, and for this reason, the Attorney General should explain the reasons for the withdrawal of the remaining five charges against Anwar and not to allow Rais, Abdullah or any other Barisan Nasional Minister or leader to second-guess her.
Out of the five charges withdrawn, four are about sodomy and one on corruption.
The corruption charge against Anwar reads:
“That you on May 24, 1995, about 5.30 p.m. at the Finance Minister’s office, at the Finance Ministry, Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, while being a member of the administration, that is, being the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, had committed corrupt practice in relation with the Anti-Corruption Agency’s investigation against your private secretary, Encik Azmin Ali, who is suspected of receiving a bribe leading to him accumulating assets that did not commensurate with his income, that is you have:
(a) interfered in the said investigation, and
(b) influenced Datuk Shafee bin Yahya, director-general of the Anti-Corruption Afgency to close investigation of the said case in breach of the investigation procedures of the Anti-Corruption Agency without referring to the Public Prosecutor;
and with your action, Encik Mohd Azmin Ali had been protected from criminal action or proceedings and therefore you have committed an offence punishable under section 2(1) Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No. 22 1970.”
As a matter of public interest, not just about the innocence or guilt of Anwar, but the seriousness of the government to fight corruption and uphold the independence, integrity and professionalism of the Anti-Corruption Agency which never enjoyed much public confidence, this charge should either be proceeded to a full trial or the Attorney-General should publicly admit that she is convinced that there is no or inadequate evidence to justify such a charge.
Otherwise, it will hang not only over Anwar but also over the Anti-Corruption Agency as well as the former ACA director-general Datuk Shafee bin Yahya, giving them no avenue to clear their reputation after a most defamatory charge - which is another “black eye” for the system of justice in Malaysia.