A new meaning to the seven-year itch

Raja Petra Kamarudin

It is already seven years since the Anwar Ibrahim political crisis erupted in 1998. Now, after seven long years, everything that Anwar said, then, seems to bother one-time Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, today, like an itch that will not go away how much you may scratch it. I suppose this is what happens when you leave the itch alone for seven years — it finally bothers you like hell.

Dr Mahathir is perturbed that Anwar ‘slandered’ him in the recent BBC HARDtalk interview. Dr Mahathir is also of the opinion it is extremely unIslamic for a Muslim to slander another.

First of all, was it not Dr Mahathir who, on 1 September 1998, slandered Anwar by accusing of sodomy? And he did this on prime time TV news, complete with hand gestures mimicking someone masturbating. Dr Mahathir said he does not need a police investigation or a trial to convince him of Anwar’s guilt. He, said Dr Mahathir, has done his own research on the matter and he knows for a fact Anwar is guilty and has been so for many years.

However, just days before that, he reiterated that Anwar was his successor and that the allegations against Anwar are false and perpetuated by people jealous of him. So, if Anwar did slander Dr Mahathir on BBC recently, Dr Mahathir in turn slandered Anwar seven years ago on TV3. And, since the court has acquitted Anwar of the sodomy charge, then whatever Dr Mahathir said about Anwar seven years ago on TV3 would certainly be false.

Anyway, let us give Dr Mahathir the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume Anwar did slander Dr Mahathir on HARDtalk. But what Anwar said on BBC recently was merely a repetition of what he said seven years ago. And Anwar said all this during the course of his trial and in sworn testimonies. Why did Dr Mahathir not protest then and accuse Anwar of lying and of slandering him?

In fact, in 1998, Dr Mahathir claimed that he had all the evidence against Anwar and there is absolutely no doubt the man is guilty. Subsequently, Dr Mahathir was subpoenaed to court to testify but he refused to do so. Dr Mahathir had every opportunity, seven years ago, to produce this evidence in court and to rebut and deny everything Anwar had said about him. But he refused to do this. Why?

There are those who say that Anwar is only speaking out now, when he is no longer in the government. Why did he not say all these things about Dr Mahathir when he was part of the ruling elite? But he did. And he testified to this on Tuesday, 1 August 2000, in his submission to the court.

And this is what Anwar said on 1 August 2000:

I submitted to the PM and the Cabinet that Param Cumaraswamy, UN Special Representative, is entitled to immunity from legal process during the course of his omission under the UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities. The CJ disputed this in a memo to the PM which was subsequently sent to me. Obviously the CJ had prejudiced Param’s case and deplored my so-called intervention.

Admittedly, I intervened at the personal request of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan. And this was conveyed to the Cabinet on 3rd December 1997. I alerted my Cabinet colleagues that Param’s interview “Malaysian justice on trial” merit scrutiny. And by prolonging the issue, and by subjecting to the CJ, would seen untenable and an embarrassment to the Malaysian judiciary. Understandably, I was overruled by Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir. But, it’s most unbecoming of the CJ to cast aspersions and anger against me for expressing my views to the PM and the Cabinet.

In late July, 1998, Dato Seri Dr, Mahathir informed me that the CJ and the AG met him and denounced my speech in London as an attack on the AG’s Chambers and the judiciary. I was mindful and circumspect of the sensitivities but I did relate to the students my predicament having to explain the decision on the Lim Guan Eng case, the solution being legal and judicial reform. The PM further intimated to me the CJ’s extreme displeasure for what he perceived as personal attacks against him and undermining his authority.

A Cabinet minister and a lawyer met the PM and me separately to allege the CJ of the improprieties. Accordingly I advised them to report to the Anti-Corruption Agency. Incidentally, attempts by the Malaysian Bar Council to deliberate on the conduct of the CJ and recommend the setting up of a tribunal was evidently frustrated and derailed through a select judicial process providing a restrictive interpretation of Article 125 and 127 of the Constitution.

The CJ on a number of occasions found my remarks on the judiciary objectionable and abhorrent, and strongly protested to the Prime Minister. My decision to keep the rapport with the Bar Council, personalities such as Param Curnaraswamy; some of the speeches including with reference to the Lim Guan Eng case, and the access given to some senior Judges, including Judge Syed Ahmad Idid and Judge Dr. Visu Sinnadurai were regarded with contempt. My statement was seen as a personal attack on him and it angered him enormously.

In his first meeting with me as the DPM, I strongly urged him to accept the overtures from the Bar Council. Unfortunately, the CJ chose to adopt the confrontational politics inherited from Tun Hamid Omar.

Tuesday, 1 August, 2000

So, Anwar did speak out on matters of injustice while still the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and it displeased Dr Mahathir. The allegations, therefore, that Anwar ‘went with the flow’ and tolerated all the injustices is baseless. In fact, Anwar’s constant protests were one reason Dr Mahathir regarded him as too dangerous to be allowed to become Prime Minister.

And the allegations Anwar made against Dr Mahathir in the BBC HARDtalk interview were, for all intents and purposes, ‘recycled’ and had in fact already been raised on 8 August 2000 in his statement to the court. And these allegations were never rebutted or denied by Dr Mahathir at that time though he had every opportunity to do so. What Anwar had to say in court on 8 August 2000 was certainly most damaging to Dr Mahathir’s reputation and credibility, even worse than what was said in the BBC HARDtalk interview. But Dr Mahathir chose to remain silent rather than protest or rebut the allegations.

And this is Anwar Ibrahim’s statement to the court after conviction and before sentencing on 8 August 2000:

A Nobel Peace Laureate who is also a leader of a nation recently made this remark: “The Anwar Case ceased to be a legal case a long time ago!”

In the beginning, there were indeed some who maintained some confidence in the Malaysian court system. They thought there was still a chance that this court would exonerate me. But they have seen how the trial was conducted, and they have concluded that this case has nothing to do with the crime. There has been no criminal trial in this court, only political persecution.

I agree that no one is above the law. But that principle is not applied to Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir. Instead the court acquiesced to his insolence. I have steadfastly maintained that I am the victim of political conspiracy, through a web of intrigue, orchestrated by the maestro Dr. Mahathir. Despite strenuous appeals, my counsels were prevented from questioning this principal witness.

The pronouncement of your judgement today was a mere formality, according to preordained script of the conspirators. It is inconceivable that anyone can be found guilty with such clear incontrovertible evidence of fabrication. There is absolutely no cogent evidence that I have committed the offence. Azizan accused that retracted in 1997, made a statutory Declaration denying the allegations in 1998, than under oath in court in 1998, 1999, accused again then denied that he was ever sodomised, then amended not after May, yet again soon after September 1992. He lied in the Shariah Court of committing khalwat offence and later admitted both of khalwat and adultery and was convicted subsequently. And this court ruled that this is a credible and consistent witness!

Our challenge to have him examined by doctors was conveniently ignored. The dates January to March 1993 was on the suggestion of the police officer. Our alibi on the said premise at Tivoli Villa and my movements were never challenged by the prosecution. It’s a conviction based on conjectures and imagination.

I never dreaded this judgement. It has legal basis. It is unjust, disgraceful and revolting. It does not disgrace me; it disgraces you, the judiciary and this nation of ours.

I reiterate my innocence with a clear conscience. I will fight even from behind iron bars and prison walls. Truth and justice cannot but prevail. Let the plotters plot all they want, for God is still the best of schemers.

Dr. Mahathir could have used the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) to imprison me for as long as he wanted, without destroying the judiciary and without sullying the Attorney General’s chambers. But he is a coward who would not take responsibility for his own evil. So he uses the courts, and with the same stroke, he completes the destruction of the judiciary.

Nonetheless, the proceedings during the trial reveal the deplorable methods used by the police, the absurdities of our adversarial system of justice malicious prosecution and corruption involving the ruling clique. Dr. Mahathir’s lust for power is insatiable. He will lie and force others to lie to save himself. He has lied in the face of the testimony of the former Anti Corruption Agency Director-General, Dato Shafie Yahaya. Not only did he lie by denying that he ordered the investigation stopped, he went further by instructing a deputy minister to tell Parliament that the investigation was never closed. He had lied about my being assaulted as self-inflicted. He had lied that the cost of his Putrajaya Palace was only 17 million Ringgit. He lied that his children did not benefit from the government despite billions of Ringgit worth of contracts, privatisation, shares allocation and bailout.

His other colleagues would naturally echo. Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin lied to the public when he said he did not take a holiday with lawyer V. K. Lingam in New Zealand. Instead of investigating the alleged improprieties, Dr. Mahathir has extended his service beyond his retirement date “to see that everything is in place.”

During my 17 years of government service, I was loyal to the government and the Prime Minister. But mine was a loyalty based on principles. If justice, the law or public interest were threatened, I would defy Dr. Mahathir. I objected to the use of massive public funds to rescue the failed businesses of his children and cronies. Here was where respect of justice and public interest overcame loyalty to the Prime Minister. And it was precisely because I defied him and sided with public interest that I was dismissed and persecuted.

This is a small sacrifice to pay in the cause of democracy and justice. But I worry for the nation. Corruption is endemic. The pillars of democracy civil society and the rule of lay are shattered.

This nation needs reform and renewal. To Dr. Mahathir and his greedy family and cronies, I say beware the wrath of the people, for the people are rising to reclaim justice, they are rising against graft and abuse of power. And, to the champions of Reformasi, I salute you for your courage and urge that you keep your fighting spirit.

High Court, Kuala Lumpur
(in lien of mitigation)
August 8, 2000