Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim Set Free
Singapore International, September 2, 2004
Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim
has won his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Malaysia’s
Anwar who has been in jail for nearly 6 years was set to
walk free today.
The Federal Court had ruled that the High Court which
convicted Anwar, misdirected itself.
The head judge of a 3-judge bench said that Anwar should
have been acquitted and therefore allowed the sentence and conviction to be
Former opposition politician Chandra Muzafa says the
ruling asserts the Malaysian legal process.
“I’m happy that the highest court in the land has
overturned the decisions made by the lower courts. It’s a victory of
justice. My own reading of Anwar’s release is this – that the major
institutions of governance in the country are slowly beginning to operate the
way they should”
So what led to the court to approve the appeal?
Former Malaysian Member of Parliament, Mr James Wong says
that the Federal Court found the evidence for the charges inconsistent.
“Of course this is a court decision based on legal
reasoning. One of the witnesses, the key witnesses, changed his testimony.
Material evidence followed by the dates of the alleged sodomy – they changed
it 3 times. Because of that inconsistency, the benefit of the doubt was given
And how did the judges of the Federal Court come to that
Valarie Tan put that question to Karim Raslan, a lawyer
and partner with Raslan Loong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
KR: Well I think the judges based their decisions on the
law. It was a straightforward legal decision by the court. I think the point
here basically is that the courts made its decisions, they chose to allow the
appeal. And it shows that there’s no executive interference with the
legislation here in Malaysia.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has said that
the final decision on Anwar will be left to the courts. What implications
would Anwar’s release have on the administration of Abdullah Badawi?
KR: Well I think its interesting. I think it reflects the
confidence of the administration and that Abdullah Badawi and the teams chose
not to get involved in the decision.
Does Anwar’s release imply anything for the UMNO
Assembly which is slated to take place on Sept 22?
KR: Oh certainly. It complicates the political landscape
without a doubt. Politics in Malaysia and the political space is very robust
and resilient. It can certainly cope with the addition of another player.
Do you think his release will signal a revival for
Keadilan since the party did badly in the last election?
KR: I wonder frankly. I think the key forces, the 2 main
parties in Malaysia will remain, certainly in the Malay-Muslim community –
PAS and UMNO. And after Anwar has kind of spent time with his family, looked
to his health, I’m sure he’ll consider reentering politics. You must
remember the Malaysian political system like Singapore’s, is the
Parliamentary Westminister System. As such, a charismatic individual like
Anwar will have to learn to work with the political parties. And they
themselves will have to work and want him too.
Would he be able to win back the Malay-Muslim majority?
KR: Well I don’t know. The key challenge is or will be
for the future for him is how he can translate sympathy, because there’s
enormous sympathy for him, into real political power. And that will require
him to work with either UMNO or PAS.
Karim Raslan, a lawyer and partner with Raslan Loong in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, speaking to Valarie Tan.
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