Umno’s fear of new politics unmasked in Anwar’s trial

The most significant effect of the political tsunami of the 12th general election is not the capture of five states by the opposition or the loss of BN’s two-thirds parliamentary majority. These were important victories but a deeper and far-reaching effect is the irreversible change in the political landscape from a one-party system dominated by BN to a two-party system. There has also been a sea change in mindset. A decade ago it was unthinkable for Malaysia to be governed by any coalition other than BN but now the unthinkable has become thinkable.

By Kenny Gan (Harakah)

Umno’s response to the rise of Pakatan Rakyat is to attack it from all angles instead of competing democratically with it for the hearts and minds of the people. This include enticing defections from PR using the carrot and the stick approach, appealing to PAS with Malay unity talks, using the MACC and the police to harass opposition politicians, dragging some of them to court on frivolous charges and of course. relentless attacks in the mainstream media. 

Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial constitutes a direct assault on the opposition with all the apparatus of government at their disposal. It is nothing more than the naked expression of “might makes right.” Truth and justice matter little, only the overwhelming dogma that he must be put away for the sake of “race, religion and nation” is important in Umno’s parochial view.

A most dubious case

Let us dispense with the normal platitude of “let the court decide.” The health of our judiciary is so sick that it is no more a matter of the weight of evidences but the dictate of the powers that be in political cases. Few believe that Anwar is guilty of sodomy but fewer still believe he will be acquitted.

Neither can the ruling party hope to convince the public or the international community by playing out a chimera of justice. From the beginning there are huge gaps in the accuser’s story that destroys his credibility – his demeanour and actions before and after the alleged act, the high level people he met, his delay in making a police report and his penchant for publicity – all these do not support or mesh with a person who claims to have been sodomized and traumatized.

The charge of consensual sodomy does not match the accuser’s public stance nor does it help the government’s case when it has shown absolutely no interest in enforcing this archaic law against practicing homosexuals. Umno leaders’ lofty reply to detractors that “the victim and his family want justice” flies in the face of the consensual nature of the charge. Did the alleged victim happily consented to be sodomized and then seek justice for it?

The existence of two medical reports confirming that there was no evidence of penetration should have scuttled this case completely but not in Malaysia where it is “full speed ahead” whether the ship is broken or not. Also the conduct of the prosecution fighting tooth and nail to transfer the case to the High Court and refusing to hand over evidence beneficial to the defense as required by the criminal procedure code has reinforced the public’s view that this is no fair fight.

The use of DNA evidence to nail Anwar is totally unconvincing when all the apparatus of law enforcement is under the control of the ruling regime. The prosecution cannot prove that the DNA sample came from the accuser’s rectum and even if it can, the next question is how it got there.

A changed political landscape

It appears that the case is so weak and the evidence so flimsy that the chances of the prosecution successfully convicting Anwar and convincing the public that justice has been done is as good as zero. Why then was the case pushed forward despite many opportunities to drop it? If Anwar is acquitted the ruling party gets a black eye and if he is convicted it gets even worse.

No ruling party in any democratic country which has to face elections will do what Umno is doing over the Anwar case. The fact that it had been done before in 1998 without the ruling party being kicked out of power did not mean that justice was done but that we did not have a real democracy with free and fair elections.

It is far riskier to repeat a sham trial now compared to 1998. Politically, BN is at its weakest due to a united opposition and the weakening power of the psychological weapons it traditionally uses to garner votes by stoking racial and religious fears. BN should indeed be worried about the political backlash from heaping injustice on a popular Malay leader at a time when it faces a resurgent opposition and the loss of non-Malay support.

The infantile mind of Umno

Nevertheless what is it about Umno which makes it think it can get away with openly manipulating the law enforcement and judicial system to convict an innocent man especially when that man is the opposition leader?

The hallmark of Umno is that its thinking is infantile. This means that that immediate, direct gains are more important than future benefits. To young children, the future has no meaning and the present is all important. It is tough luck trying to persuade a small child to let go of a toy in hand for the promise of a better toy in future.

This can be seen in how Umno grabs power in Perak and holds on to it at all costs with controversial court decisions. The immediate political gain of holding on to the state is more important than the future ramifications of ignominiously trampling on the Constitution to the extent of injuring the concept of constitutional monarchy in the country.

Hence Umno can be understood for carelessly ignoring the political risks of sending Anwar to jail through using a sham trial. The next general election is 3 years away and is simply unimportant compared to the immediate political gain which it thinks it can achieve.

Yet another Umno hallmark is contempt for the intelligence of people it governs. The public is taken as gullible fools and anything no matter how outlandish can be shafted down their throats. They are expected to believe that a low ranking army sergeant together with an outsider can steal two jet engines from the military or that a submarine which cannot dive does not affect its operational capability. Nearly 53 years after Merdeka, Umno still cannot shake off the attitude that it is still dealing with simple kampong folks.

Closely related to Umno’s contempt for the public is their pre-conceived notion that the majority of the people do not care for social justice as long as the economy performs well. Such an attitude demeans the character and moral compass of the public and is the disdainful product of a ruling party insulated from its people. In any case how can the economy perform well when the rule of law is disregarded and justice trampled on for political ends? If anything, this will only create fear in foreign investors and bleed away confidence from private investments. Educated Malaysians can make the connection between a vibrant economy and a robust democracy which respects the rule of law but most Umno leaders cannot.

There is also an over-reliance on the mainstream press to spin the news and mould public opinion although that capability has been greatly diminished with the rise of the online world. People are now more connected than ever before and they have alternative sources of news with Internet penetration at least 15 times greater than in 1998.

Umno knows that it has no way to compete democratically with Pakatan Rakyat. Its structure and culture is so entrenched that it cannot change its corruption-laden ways or divest itself of racial bigotry to win over voters. Hence it must do its utmost to destroy a two-party system as Malaysian voters must not be given any choice other than the BN.

The forces of change

Hence we see that Umno leaders, in their arrogance of power after more than half a century of unbroken rule, are unable to adjust to the new reality. Their thinking is fossilized in an age which has already passed, propagated by the old guard who still believes that might makes right.

With such ossified thinking it comes as no surprise that crude and repulsive methods worthy only of rogue regimes are used to quell the opposition. Such methods strip away the veneer of democracy that Malaysia enjoys and lay bare the evil machination of all levels of government that have been corrupted by the BN regime.

But times have changed and the new politics which has taken root after the 12th general election demand better governance, accountability and transparency, an end to party sanctioned corruption and an end to racial divide and rule. It also requires social justice and the independence of the institutions of democracy, for these constitute a powerful force for change born from the collective aspirations and expectations of the people.

In Anwar’s trial is an iconic and epic clash of the old and the new; where old authoritarian methods are used to try to quell the new powerful forces of change. It is a war which Umno cannot win. They may win this battle but they will lose the war. Using despotic methods to bludgeon the forces of change will only whip up greater winds of reform and these will keep gaining in strength until the decay and the rot are blown away and Malaysia finally cleansed.