It is ten years ago since the birth of reformasi on 20 September 1998. Once again, Anwar is due to appear in court – on 24 September. K George recalls the proceedings of the first trial in which the judicial system did not distinguish itself.
I am quite sure that all of you have been reading our media which has been very faithfully highlighting the second case (or is it the third?) “sodomy episode” that was supposed to have taken place in our beloved Bolehland. More news and stories are expected to be published.
While we wait for them, allow me to refresh your memory on the events of the first episode of sodomy. I hope you have noted that whenever some of the Barisan Nasional leaders speak about the “second sodomy”, they compare it with the first one, and readily admit that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the Deputy Prime Minister at that time, was treated rather unjustly.
I am 89 years old and at the frontier between life and death. My memory betrays me on and off, hence, if I happen to miss any event, please do pardon me.
Anwar was very active while he was in the university. He was a student leader and then president of Abim, committed to social justice and democracy. I have two books about Anwar. I do sympathise with him because of the suffering and victimisation he was subjected to while fighting for justice and freedom.
After Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the fourth Prime Minister, he invited Anwar to join Umno in the early 1980s. Anwar happily accepted the invitation and treated Mahathir as his “father”. He openly admitted that he loved and respected Mahathir.
What displeased Anwar, though, was the squandering of huge sums of money on ‘white elephants’: the twin towers, Putrajaya, KLIA, etc. The fourth PM improved Malaysia’s infra-structure, enriched the rich Malays and cronies, undertook non-stop privatisation even of the most revenue-generating state-owned assets with many clauses highly favourable to contractors and cronies. I have never heard of such a thing happening in other countries.
At some point, Anwar the “son” tried to advise the “father” to change his style of spending. But the fourth PM was averse to any advice from any source or person. This, it appears, disgusted Anwar, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Mahathir sensed that Anwar might contest against him for the presidency of Umno. Well, Mahathir, as we all know, neither accepts advice nor bothers about threats. He decided to get rid of his so-called “son”.
The story has it that Mahathir needed evidence to realise his goal. His private secretary, it was speculated, managed to get five Umno members for this purpose. They were told that the PM wanted to remove Anwar from the cabinet and also to expel him from Umno. They were also allegedly informed that “money is no problem”. One of the five members was one Raja Komando. I had the opportunity to interview him for nearly 90 minutes. He told me that he was asked to conjure up evidence that Anwar had committed sodomy and leaked the nation’s secrets to foreign countries but Raja Komando’s reply was that he would not commit such a crime and subsequently removed himself from the pack of five and tendered his resignation from Umno.
He also told me that he refused to do it because he did not want to falsely bring disgrace to Anwar’s family. Another story I was told by Raja Komando was that a woman named Ummi allegedly sent a letter claiming that Anwar was the father of a child born to the wife of his secretary and that Ummi was paid some money for that information. There was yet another accusation against Anwar by his wife’s driver that he was sodomised by Anwar. The driver, of course, resigned and became a director of a business concern.
Well, the trial started in the court of Judge Augustine Paul, who was newly promoted to hear this case. Anwar was charged with sexual abuse and corruption. After more than 40 days of trial, Augustine Paul expunged the so-called evidence connected to the mattress episode, without giving the defence the opportunity to present their submission to the court, which I understand, was unethical.
What do you think was the corruption charge? Anwar Ibrahim, the DPM, apparently told two police officers to investigate the writer of the letter hoping to have this letter withdrawn. There was no transaction of money or gifts involved but, the judge sentenced Anwar to six years’ imprisonment without even granting him bail. The entire nation was shocked. No one could reconcile with such a harsh sentence.
Trial in Ariffin Jaka’s court
While Anwar was undergoing his six-year sentence, he was again charged with committing sodomy. During the course of the trial, the victim contradicted himself by telling the court that he had not lodged any report to the police, that he had not given any dates to anybody and that he had not been sodomised by Anwar, which he repeated another two times. This one-time sodomy was alleged to have been committed on three differing dates! At the end of the trial, the judge told the court that, “I will make my decision after perusing the evidence adduced. I am a Muslim and I am answerable to Allah.” Then he adjourned the court.
On the day of judgment, the judge sentenced Anwar to 9 years’ jail to commence consecutively after the completion of the six years. Well, what choice did Anwar have? He appealed to the Federal Court.
Federal Court decision
As the date of judgment was approaching, there was a rumour that two out of the three judges had decided to acquit Anwar. The date of judgment was set for 2 September 2004. The night before that, something unforgivable happened. A police officer allegedly approached the two judges and requested that Anwar not be acquitted – but both the judges refused to comply. I came across this allegation in the late MGG Pillai’s website. In fairness to the police officer, I don’t wish to identify him. He is still in service. But is this the function of the police – to pervert justice?
The BN politicians have been trying to impress on us that our police force has changed for the better. May I ask how many politicians have read the 600-page report of the Royal Police Commission? Why has Abdullah not implemented the most important recommendations of the commission: the establishment of an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)? I don’t think the PM has any convincing answer except that the police force is not happy to have the IPCMC for obvious reasons.
A few months ago, in a startling statement, Tun Hanif Omar, the retired IGP drew the attention of the people that if a survey was carried out, it was bound to disclose that at least 40 per cent of the Police Force would have to be retrenched. This statement was carried by our media. If this is the view of the former IGP himself, isn’t the public justified in persisting with the negative perception of the police?
The “father’s” charade against the “son”
Having decided to get rid of Anwar, Mahathir assailed Anwar’s conduct and character in the later part of 1998. He proclaimed that Anwar was immoral and not fit to take over from him even before the court had convicted Anwar. Mahathir was on record as having said more than once that “an accused person remains innocent until proven guilty”. But in accusing Anwar of being immoral, the PM deviated from his belief. He went on attacking that Anwar was sexually immoral.
Anwar is well known, on 1 September 1998, Anwar was sacked from the Cabinet. The next day at an emergency meeting of the Umno Supreme Council, Mahathir told the meeting that his deputy was sexually immoral and hence not fit to be the PM. The Supreme Council decided to expel him from the party. Hardly anybody demanded any explanation, I was told.
Anwar’s sacking from the cabinet and Umno sparked the Reformasi movement and unleashed mammoth demonstrations in support of Anwar. Mahathir kept on harping that he had proof that Anwar was involved in immoral sex. An outraged woman sent a letter to the media that if sexual abuse was a crime in Umno, then 90 per cent of its leaders should be expelled. In my opinion, it was a bit of an exaggeration!
Coming back to Anwar
On 20 September 1998, while Anwar was having a press conference together with his supporters in his house the police draped in balaclava dramatically swooped down on Anwar’s residence at 9.30pm and arrested him. He was allowed an hour to get ready. He was taken to Bukit Aman, handcuffed and blindfolded. Then one coward of a man entered Anwar’s cell and rained brutal blows on him. A badly injured Anwar fell unconscious. A policeman pulled the cowardly attacker away and told him to stop the torture.
Crowds turned up at the court the next day – 21 September – and waited in vain. But Anwar was not produced in court. It took nine days before he was produced in court. The nation was shocked to see a brutally attacked Anwar who was badly injured. Anwar explained to the judge that he was assaulted by somebody. It took months before a Commission of Inquiry could establish that it was the IGP, Rahim Noor, who had inflicted the injuries, which according to a doctor, who gave evidence to the Commission of Inquiry, could have been lethal.
But, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was telling the world at large then that the injuries had been self-inflicted! Rahim Noor told the Commission that the PM was unaware of the assault. Are we to believe him? Did the IGP act on impulse or did someone instructed him to deliver those lethal blows on Anwar?
Had Anwar died in the cell what would have been the explanation from the Prime Minister? Would he have made that ludicrous claim in his cynical fashion that Anwar had induced it. But Mahathir who had repeatedly claimed that Anwar was guilty of the crimes he was charged did not appear in Augustine Paul’s court or Arifin Jaka’s court to give evidence.
Based on my limited acquaintance with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, I believe that he is a simple, honest and humble person, committed to social justice, equitable distribution of wealth, racial harmony and, sympathetic to the poor. During the last 10 years – yes, a decade – he has unjustly suffered a lot.
The formation of Pakatan Rakyat is a great achievement for the nation. There will be better and greater prosperity, racial harmony – yes, a better Malaysia. The police have apparently tried to fix him up but they will fail miserably in their attempt.
May God bless you, Anwar.
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