One of the most watched events on the Malaysian political stage is the unfolding drama of Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial that is now twisting and turning through the maze of Malaysian courts.
While the trial is going through its motion, we cannot comment on the merit or demerit of the case, so as not to influence the judges either way, on pains of committing the offence of contempt for the court. But the political fervour connected with this controversial court case deserves nothing less than considered analysis.
If Anwar is found guilty eventually, after all the channels for his appeal have been exhausted, he will certainly be jailed yet again. That may not be all bad for his political movement, for every cause needs a martyr to fuel and sustain the passion of the martyred leader’s followers. Nelson Mandela comes to mind immediately.
There are those who may have worried that PKR would be ineffectual without the commanding personal presence of Anwar Ibrahim, as was evidenced in the declining fortune of PKR after his jailing following the tumultuous events in 1998. The rising of PKR to the role of a major national player also coincided with his release from jail before the general election last year.
But the times have changed. Many other leaders of PKR have emerged, especially after the March 8 political tsunami last year. Besides, Anwar also had the foresight of recruiting Zaid Ibrahim, the former Umno law minister, and a hugely popular new hero of the PKR support base. Articulate and eloquent, Zaid could easily be groomed to be the heir apparent to Anwar, barring jealous opposition from other competitors in his party.
Anwar himself seems more than pessimistic about his prospect of being cleared of the charges by the court. He appears to have the impression that the whole system of institutions of state are involved in a concerted conspiracy to get him behind bars.
We would like to see the law take its proper course of course.
Unfortunately for Malaysia, after the revelation of the Lingam tape incident, the controversial court decisions in the ongoing cases over the Perak constitutional imbroglio, the trial of Raja Petra Kamarudin, and the activist criticism of the former judge NH Chan, the public’s confidence in the judicial process in the administration of justice has been tainted with bitter cynicism.
Given the vibrant liberated space of the Internet, all Malaysian judges are now working under the added pressure of the public gaze. Not giving a written judgement in any controversial case is ground for much uproar in cyberspace. Any written judgement is also swiftly posted on the Internet and dissected by one expert or another into smithereens.
You could say that, in this new age of digital instant communication, the judges presiding over Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy case are themselves on trial in the virtual court of public opinions, no matter how much they resent it.
We understand and sympathise with our Malaysian judges. We also heap upon their very human shoulders our hope for them to do the right thing in all the cases that come before them and restore the dignity and integrity of the country’s judicial system. Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done.