Something extraordinary happened in Malaysia on a bright Monday morning on the 9th of January 2012. An opposition leader whom practically everybody believes will be found guilty of sodomy and jailed was acquitted instead.

The ramification of this event for Malaysia is immense but before we go into this some background perspective is in order.

First of all, BN leaders have been quick to capitalize on Anwar’s acquittal as proof that the judiciary is fair and independent. This is hogwash. One swallow does not make a summer and the judiciary is about as independent as any state institution controlled by Umno. Let’s not forget how Umno made use of the so-called independent judiciary to hold on to Perak during their illegal grab with controversial judgements which treated the Constitution with cavalier disregard.

Najib and Mahathir have promptly declared that Anwar’s acquittal exonerates BN of conspiracy claims. This is again hogwash. If this is a non-politically motivated case it would never have gone to trial in the first place. No prosecutor in any sensible criminal enforcement system will proceed with a rape case without clear medical evidence of penetration. The fact that Anwar was charged with consensual sodomy while his accuser screamed publicly that force was used shows how artificial and disjointed the case was.

A Victory for the People

Now that we have laid to rest the untenable notion of an ordinary criminal prosecution under a fair judiciary the question that begs to be answered is, “Why wasn’t Anwar convicted?” Did the judge decide to rule on merit or did Umno realize that a conviction which nobody believes in will do them more harm than good?

We may never know for sure whether the judge found his courage or Umno relented but in any case it does not really matter as the positive ramification for the country is the same. Such an acquittal could never have happened under Mahathir as the prevailing political environment has much to do with it.

Mahathir created a climate of fear. Under his autocratic and iron-fisted rule no judge would have found the courage to acquit Anwar. Neither did Umno need to pander to public opinion. In 1999 Mahathir had Anwar convicted under the most transparent show trial and then went on to obtain two-thirds majority in the general election held the same year.

In a functioning democracy no ruling regime could have survived what Mahathir did in Sodomy I. It goes without saying that we did not have a functioning democracy under Mahathir. Anwar’s acquittal means that we have moved away from the Mahathirean era to a somewhat better democracy. Our democracy may still be flawed but it is a few notches better than a decade plus ago.

Whether or not Najib appeals Anwar’s acquittal, the glimmer of a new dawn is here
12 Jan 2012 – Malaysia Chronicle

(image sources: Malaysian Insider, Free Anwar 901 Facebook, etc.)










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