Free at last!
Malaysia Today: Thursday, 02-Sep-2004 6:12 PM
Free at last! Anwars 2,174 days behind the high walls of Sungai Buloh Prison
Raja Petra Kamarudin
After 2,174 days behind the high walls of the Sungai Buloh Prison, Anwar Ibrahim finally walked free well, wheeled free actually, for he is confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal injury in a landmark Federal Court decision that took if not the whole world at least the country by surprise.
Did you realise that today, 2 September, is the Anniversary of Anwars sacking from Umno and the government? Poetic justice dont you think? The day that saw the beginning of the end for Anwar is also the day of a new beginning for him.
Anyway, on Friday 13 (August 2004), a date made significant by Hollywood in their Friday 13th movies, I sort of shutdown the Free Anwar Campaign website. I say sort of because I did not actually close down the website. The website is still there. I just stopped updating it with daily news updates. Instead, I launched a new news website, Malaysia Today, to take over the function of offering daily news updates to the Malaysian public.
Some pro-Anwar diehards were perturbed. They thought I had merajuk (sulk) and had resigned as the Director of the Free Anwar Campaign. Some even phoned me and asked whether it was true that I was leaving Parti Keadilan Nasional (National Justice Party) to join Umno. I replied that the website is still there, it has not been closed down, and no, I was not leaving to join Umno. Anwar would be freed on 2 September 2004 so my services as the Director and Webmaster of the Free Anwar Campaign were no longer required and I am now moving on to start a new news portal.
Some thought I was utterly mad. Others said I was just being sarcastic. Anwar free on 2 September? No way!
One of the first news items I inserted into Malaysia Today was about two of the three judges in favour of acquitting Anwar and that there were certain forces trying to persuade these judges to change their minds.
This revelation brought negative reactions from various people. One of Anwars lawyers even phoned me and said that I should not have written this story as it may tip off the powers-that-be. Anyhow, added the lawyer, he is not confident that my prediction would come true.
I nevertheless stuck to my guns. The world must be told that two of the three judges are in favour of an acquittal so that all attempts to force them to change their mind would fail. If the judges know that the world already knows their verdict, they would be hard-pressed to change this verdict notwithstanding how much pressure they are subjected to. And the judges do go into the Internet to read what we say about them. Even the Attorney-General does, as he told Anwars lawyers whenever he took offence to what we said about him.
When Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah) realised he had lost control of the judiciary and could no longer force it to do his bidding, he quickly issued a statement saying that he will not interfere with the judiciary and would leave it to them to rule based purely on legal and not political grounds. This was a brilliant move on the part of Pak Lah. If he cannot beat them, then join them. Now that Anwar is free, credit would go to him for being a just Prime Minister.
I would have done exactly the same thing myself.
One would have had to diligently follow the appeal hearing to get a feel whether Anwar had any chance of freedom. The points raised by Anwars defence counsels were flawless. Only a totally brainless judge would disagree with Anwars lawyers that there is absolutely no case against him. I am no lawyer, least of all a judge, but even I could see that not only is there no case against Anwar, but Anwar should not have even been asked to defend himself in the first place. The trial judge should have thrown the case out without even the necessity of a trial.
But that is if you look at it from the legal angle, everyone argued. On point of law, true, Anwar should not have been put on trial let alone convicted. But this is politics we are talking about and on political considerations Anwar will die in jail.
I begged to differ. That may have been true during Dr Mahathirs time. Dr Mahathir was vicious. At the time Anwar was arrested on 20 September 1998, Dr Mahathir had been in power for about 17 years and had an iron grip on the country. He had in the past taken on the Rulers, the Judiciary, the United States, Britain, Australia, and many more and had shown he is a fighter. But Dr Mahathir is now gone. In his place is Pak Lah. And Pak Lah does not have the guts of Dr Mahathir.
We just need to study Pak Lahs track record to understand the man. He sided with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li) to take on Dr Mahathir in 1987 when he thought Ku Li was going to win. When it was apparent Ku Li was not going to be Prime Minister, in fact, not even going to be an Umno member any longer when the old Umno got deregistered and Dr Mahathir formed the New Umno (Umno Baru), Pak Lah chickened out.
In spite of all the venom Pak Lah spitted out at Dr Mahathir, he abandoned Ku Li and meekly crawled back into Umno Baru with this tail between his wobbly legs. Pak Lah is no fighter. He is a quitter. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. For Pak Lah, when the going gets tough, he begs forgiveness.
Pak Lah cannot make the Judiciary kowtow the way Dr Mahathir can. Pak Lah will not be able to control the Judiciary. The Judiciary will tell Pak Lah to go jump in the man-made Putrajaya Lake. And let us hope the pumps work and the lake is not all dried up when he does so.
Taking all that into consideration, Anwar will be free on 2 September 2004, I argued. And let us take a bet I challenged all and sundry. Only my wife dared take my bet and she lost. But please do not ask me what my bet with her was for, for she will be one very embarrassed wife if I told you.
Forget about what transpired since August, Friday 13th. That is all history now. What we need to talk about now is whereto from here?
First Anwar needs to get back into shape. No one wants an invalid as a leader. Anwar must get his spine surgery done so that not only can he walk, but he can also play badminton again.
Once he is as fit as a fiddle, he then needs to take control of Parti Keadilan Nasional. The party is in a shambles, and that is putting it mildly. It lacks leadership and direction. It does not have an identity anymore. Its marriage with PAS is on the rocks. But these are not serious ailments. With Anwar in charge, all these can be corrected in a jiffy. The plane may be nose down, but it is not spiral diving, and all it needs is a competent pilot to get it back on course.
And how will Anwars freedom affect Malaysias political landscape?
In any formula, one modification in the equation will change the end result. And Anwar is a factor that will charge the equation. Therefore, expect a change in Malaysias political landscape.
A politician is not dead till he is buried. Anwar, therefore, is far from dead. But Anwar must first focus on his health. If he cannot even stand up without the aid of crutches, how can he carry the heavy burden of leading the opposition?
Interesting days lie ahead of us. Anwar is free. Umno will be facing its first General Assembly under Pak Lah in three weeks time. Ku Li is waiting in the wings, ready to pounce on Pak Lah three years from now in 2007. The Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) will soon go through a rejuvenation exercise, maybe even a leadership change. Globalisation is going to hit us next year and will sweep this country like a tidal wave, killing off many in its wake. Pak Lahs honeymoon period will end and he will have to buck up or buck out.
Yes, 2004 to 2007 will see Malaysia go though a period of renaissance. I pray I live at least another three years to see Malaysia enter a new era of its life as an independent nation. 2007, the 50th Anniversary of Merdeka, a half-century of this nations life, is going to be a year we would not want to miss. Then, in 2008, we will face the 12th General Election with Anwar leading the charge. And that is when the party really begins.
Party time everyone!
Raja Petra Kamarudin