Anwar verdict surprises both sides
Analysis By Joceline Tan
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s court acquittal stunned both sides of the political divide and it has got the political players scrambling to reassess the impact of the verdict.
Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim is mobbed by supporters and the media after his surprise acquittal yesterday on sodomy charges.
DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim arrived at the Jalan Duta High Court yesterday morning convinced he was going to be found guilty of committing sodomy.
Two hours later, he left the court cleared of the charge of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
The judgment left both sides of the political divide stunned – the two opposing sides had been equally convinced that Anwar would be pronounced guilty.
The Pakatan Rakyat side could hardly believe their ears after years of slamming the sodomy charge as a political trial and the proceedings as a kangaroo court.
You could see from the tweets flying out after the court verdict that they were stumped.
Even the man in the dock admitted he was surprised.
None of them had seen it coming.
The Pakatan leaders were probably more shocked than their Barisan Nasional counterparts.
They expressed relief, proclaimed victory and congratulated themselves but stopped short of crediting the judiciary.
The Barisan supporters, on the other hand, had never doubted Saiful’s accusations against Anwar and the decision is unlikely to convince them otherwise.
Their reaction fluctuated between disbelief and anger as they tried to absorb the implications of the outcome.
“The outcome was not what we expected but we accept it. We believe in the rule of law, we will uphold the law and respect the decision,” said Sepang MP and Selangor Umno secretary Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed.
Love or hate him, it was Anwar’s moment in the sun.
He was lionised by the media when he emerged from the air-conditioned courthouse into the humid mid-morning heat.
The speech he had prepared in his head about condemning the judiciary, the Government and the Prime Minister was no longer valid and he had to make an impromptu speech through a loud hailer held aloft by PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution.
The court verdict was the top news in many international news networks and newspapers, which saw it as a positive move that was in line with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s reform image.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it best when he said that Anwar would remain an issue whether inside or outside of jail. The ruling coalition would have been blamed had Anwar been found guilty.
But now that he has been acquitted, Barisan will have to rethink its plans and strategies in taking on Pakatan.
What was immediately clear, said UCSI academic and political analyst Dr Ong Kian Ming, was that Anwar would no longer be bogged down and Pakatan would not be distracted by the question of who will be the Opposition Leader.
“On the other hand, the sympathy factor is gone for Pakatan. If he had been convicted, Barisan would be under pressure because he would have gone on a nationwide tour to campaign and paint his opponents as cruel and unfair.
“Pakatan has lost some steam in that respect. On a more personal level, it is good for him and his family regardless of the allegations about his sexual orientation,” Dr Ong said.
It is unclear at this point whether the prosecution will appeal against the decision.
Those critical of the outcome will certainly want to see that but some of Umno’s younger leaders are fed-up with the way national politics has been distracted by Anwar and his private life.
“I don’t think the prosecution should appeal for the simple reason that we need closure. This thing has been going on for far too long,” said Kota Belud MP Datuk Rahman Dahlan.
Rahman said it was time for Malaysians to “press the reset button” for the country.
“I know the other side is claiming that the verdict vindicates Anwar. Actually, it has also vindicated the judiciary, the police and the Prime Minister and his government.
“The middle ground will see that. This is the opportunity to press the reset button and shift our focus to nation building,” he said.
The actual impact of the verdict will become clearer in the weeks and months ahead.
“The silver lining here is that we can now put aside the dramatics.
“The two coalitions can now move on to fight on policy and delivery and this is where the Barisan has the upper hand,” said social historian Dr Neil Khor.
Anwar arrived at his Segambut house – where more supporters were waiting for him – at around noon.
The PKR leader’s shirt was crumpled and drenched with sweat.
His usual bouffant hair looked flat, the grey roots were showing and the bald spot on the back of his head was more evident than usual.
The lines on his face ran deep and he appeared tired despite the morning’s euphoria.
It looks like Anwar is getting his second wind in the politics of post-2008.
It will be tough because he will be fighting a leaner and more realistic opponent.
The next general election will not be fought based on a court case over one man but over economic policies, political and civil reforms and the strength of Najib ’s initiatives.
The last four years have seen Anwar’s reputation and credibility severely tested.
Doubts have been planted in the minds of ordinary people about his private life.
There are some who think that what happens behind closed doors is none of our business.
But there are also those who think it has everything to do with political leadership.
That will be one of his many challenges ahead.
Anwar spent the afternoon huddled with his top party officials in discussion.
By nightfall, his limousine was speeding towards KLIA from where he jetted off on another of his overseas trips, this time to India.
Anwar acquittal spices up M’sian politics
Ceritalah By Karim Raslan
What we are beginning to see is the slow reassertion of Malaysia’s public institutions, in tandem with a realisation that some form of political liberalisation is unavoidable.
MOST Malaysians have been dreading the Jan 9 Anwar Ibrahim ‘Sodomy 2’ trial decision.
The prospect of the Opposition Leader being returned to prison was deeply depressing, if not offensive, even to those such as myself who remain sceptical of the man.
Still, his surprise acquittal has major implications for the country.
Let’s start with the most important point. Over the past decade, faith in national institutions has been on a downward tailspin. As a consequence, the judiciary and the police have become increasingly distrusted.
The many instances of corruption, abuse of power as well as perceived selective persecution have eroded Malaysians’ faith in their country and in each other.
The attendant cynicism and suspicion have made moving the nation forward, be it socially or economically, all the more difficult.
Indeed, why would anyone want to sacrifice for a place where justice and fair play are fatally wounded?
What we are beginning to see, however, is the slow, piecemeal reassertion and revival of Malaysia’s public institutions, in tandem with a realisation that some form of political liberalisation is unavoidable.
This stems not only from the acquittal of Anwar but also the continued fearlessness of the Auditor-General’s Reports and the tentative reforms that the Government has embarked upon in terms of civil liberties (like the controversial Peaceful Assembly Bill) and elections.
It would seem that the people manning these institutions have crossed a Rubicon of sorts.
They have come to realise that they have a larger duty to the people and that this surpasses any political pressure that may be brought upon them.
Such sentiments are crucial if the country is to progress and survive in the future.
The courage, fair-mindedness and independence of men such as Auditor-General Ambrin Buang and Suhakam chairman Hasmy Agam ought to be lauded by all.
Of course, there will always be questions over the handling of any legal case and these will continue for the foreseeable future. But we cannot dismiss the psychological impact of the trial: it is incontrovertible proof that Malaysia’s judiciary is more independent than commonly thought and that both the ordinary and powerful can truly seek justice at our courts.
At the same time, Umno strategists must begin to acknowledge the extent to which their dominant position is actually undermining their capacity on the ground.
Ordinary Malaysians have become tired of being lectured to. They want people who’ll really work for them.
But what will Anwar’s acquittal do to Malaysia’s current political equation?
I think the most obvious answer is that Anwar and Pakatan are now a fact of life that Barisan Nasional (BN) will have to deal with.
Anwar has made his political career operating outside the establishment. He has the wiliness to function and succeed without the benefits of government privilege.
The various personal attacks on him have only made him stronger and increased public disdain for his critics and their “dirty tricks”.
BN, and indeed its Umno lynchpin, must now learn to engage Anwar and Pakatan on equal terms.
To my mind, the ruling coalition does have a strong record of achievement in Government as well as a breathtaking flexibility in terms of policy-making and implementation.
The challenge is to rise to the debate and not “close” it off.
Malaysians want greater openness and fairness in public discourse. We need to dispense with the prurience and small-mindedness that have been a hallmark of the last few years.
Race and religion also need to be dealt with in a manner that is more mature and confident. We need to turn our so-called “weaknesses” (namely our diverse multi-cultural society) into strengths.
For that to succeed we need to open the doors of our public life in a determined manner.
There should be no further distractions and the rakyat will want to know what Pakatan can do for the country if the opposition still wants their votes.
Anwar, for all his flaws, has proven that he has the patience and perseverance to go the distance politically — the task for him now is to finally convert the rhetoric into substance.
His continued freedom will make Malaysian politics all the more interesting. Still, this goes far beyond politics.
Justice has been served and broadened. The people are the ultimate winners.
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