Malaysia again in the international doghouse over the rule of law, democracy and human rights – no more terrible start for Malaysia this year as member of UN Security Council and Chairman of ASEAN

The 5-0 unanimous decision of the Federal Court yesterday rejecting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal was not only a dishonour to Anwar’s 47-year patriotic service in furtherance of justice, freedom, human dignity and Malaysian nation-building, it was also a disservice to Malaysia’s international reputation as well as Vision 2020 for Malaysia to join the ranks of developed nations in five years’ time.

Thanks to the Federal Court on Anwar’s appeal yesterday, Malaysia is again in the international doghouse over the rule of law, democracy and human rights –no more terrible start this year for Malaysia with the double responsibility as member of the United Nations Security Council and Chairman of ASEAN.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canadian and Australian governments, the European Union (EU) as well as international press and human right bodies have all raised the red flag about Malaysia’s descent to a “rogue” state.

The White House national security council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said the United States was “deeply concerned” with Anwar’s conviction and is concerned about the rule of law in Malaysia.

The United Kingdom’s foreign and commonwealth office said that apart from the integrity of the rule of law, Malaysia must embrace moderation and tolerance to succeed.

The High Commission of Canada in Kuala Lumpur notes that Anwar’s conviction has come at a time when “Canada and other countries have conveyed concerns regarding selective prosecutions, including the Sedition Act 1948”.

Even the Singapore Business Times editorialised that “public confidence in the judiciary has slipped to the point that few were shocked with yesterday’s outcome”.

In fact, the unprecdented statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, minutes after the Chief Justice Tun Ariffin Zakaria announced the court’s unanimous rejection of Anwar’s appeal, but before the sentencing had been announced, only escalated national and international doubts about whether there is true independence of the judiciary and just rule of law.

This resulted in Anwar’s bitter tirade from the dock at the judges “for selling their souls to the devil” and “bowing to the dictates of the political, master”, in the process becoming “partners in crime for the murder of judicial independence and integrity”.

This led to the unprecedented “walk out” of the Federal Court by all the five Federal Court judges – a dubious “first” in the 58-year history of Malayan/Malaysian judiciary!

No wonder, the Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong was moved to comment that the “glaring anomalies” in Anwar’s conviction for sodomy is feeding suspicions that Anwar’s case was one of political persecution rather than criminal prosecution.

For instance, why was Anwar’s accuser, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, not prosecuted despite the decision to prosecute the opposition leader for consensual anal sex as the Federal Court had held that consent was not an ingredient of the offence.

Furthermore, the rarity of prosecution using the laws that criminalise “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, which include both oral and anal sex, with Anwar prosecuted and convicted twice for an alleged offence of sexual acts between adults wherein the charge does not contain elements of coercion.

With Anwar’s five-year jail sentence, he will be 72 years before he is released and he will be disqualified from holding an elective office for another five years after release, unless the UMNO/Barisan Nasional government is toppled in the 14th General Election.

The heart-rending scenes of Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail, Nurul Izzah and her five siblings and Anwar’s grandchildren in the Federal Court when Anwar’s appeal was dismissed and the sentence passed brought back to me similar heart-breaking memories of 17 years ago in the Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur.

At that time, the victim of selective prosecution was Lim Guan Eng, then MP for Kota Melaka, who was being punished for championing the rights of a 15 year-old Malay girl in Melaka, and who lost his final appeal and was immediately sent off to Kajang Prison to serve his 18-month jail sentence.

The whole Lim family was in court but we were utterly helpless like Azizah and her family in the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya yesterday.

The battle for justice, freedom and human dignity – the causes which Anwar had dedicated his whole life – must burn stronger in the hearts and souls of all Malaysians until such injustices and abuses are nightmares of the past.

As I said at the “Rakyat Hakim Negara” dinner in Petaling Jaya on the eve of the Federal Court decision on Anwar’s case on Monday night, Pakatan Rakyat is the embodiment of Anwar’s greatest success in the national agenda for change.

Pakatan Rakyat scored unimagined victories first in the 2008 and then in the 2013 General Elections where Anwar was denied his destiny as the Seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia because of an undemocratic electoral system as Pakatan Rakyat secured 52% of the national vote.

The three component parties in Pakatan Rakyat, DAP, PKR and PAS, as well as the countless NGOs and NGIs (Non-government individuals) who had given unstinting support to PR in the past seven years, must all be prepared to walk the last mile to ensure the success of Pakatan Rakyat.

Let me repeat the pledge I made on behalf of DAP on the eve of Anwar’s third incarceration:

”We do not hide the fact that PR is afflicted with our greatest crisis since our formation seven years ago, even more challenging than the first crisis PR faced in September 2011, which nearly led to the end of PR.

“If PR had broken up over the hudud controversy in September 2011, then the historic result of the 13th General Elections on May 5. 2013 which saw PR winning 52 per cent of electoral vote and reducing the Najib federal administration into a minority government, with PR winning 89 Parliamentary seats and 229 state assembly seats (excluding Sarawak) would not have been achieved.

“If PR now breaks up before the next polls, it is anybody’s guess as to what would be the outcome in the 14th General Elections to be held in three years’ time.

“It is precisely because PR embodies the hopes of generations of Malaysians for change and Malaysia’s rendezvous with greatness, that DAP leaders are prepared to walk the last mile to make Pakatan Rakyat work – and I believe this is also the common sentiments and commitments of PKR and PAS leaders at the unprecedented promises and challenges presented by the PR experiment.

“PR can only sustain and succeed if we adhere to two fundamental principles which had been the secrets of the PR success in the past six years – strict adherence to the PR Common Policy Framework which had formed the bedrock common principles of the three component parties in the coalition, and the operational principle of consensus regarding the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council as the highest policy-making body for PR.”

The greatest tribute we can pay to Anwar starting on his third incarceration is to reaffirm these two fundamental principles which held the secrets of the PR success, for it will lead the PR from strength to strength – what our political opponents in UMNO/BN fear most and are trying their utmost to destroy PR integrity and viability by the destruction of these two fundamental PR principles.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah