First published: Bangkok Post [editorial page] March 3, 1999; picked up by Belfast Islamic Centre website
Author’s note: Two days before Anwar took the witness stand on Feb 8, 1999 I got a call from Time magazine chief: “Take the first flight (business class) from Bangkok to KL. Stay in any hotel you fancy and send us the bill.”
This article was requested by Bangkok Post editor, written after my Time magazine assignment. Right after professor Khoo called the Post and complained that I had put him in danger. My old classmate, air force Col Teh Benley, did the same when he met me even though his name was not mentioned. Such were their fear. I felt bad but confident I did not betray them because professor Khoo had left KL and was teaching in Singapore university as I was told by his son at the time of writing.
A year later I bump into Khoo during a conference in Penang. My fear of getting a trashing from him proved unfounded as he came forward and shook my hand. “Hey you know, after your article Mahathir wrote to me,” he said proudly. I was puzzled, “What did he say?” Khoo said, “The PM wrote: ‘Thank you for comparing me to Hitler’.”
“What does he mean?” I asked. “Oh, he wants to reassure me not to worry and he is proud of being compared to Hitler.” Happily I told him he should frame the letter. The moral: All is well that ends well.
After months of hearing lurid tales of sodomy, illicit sex and political intrigues, the stuff that rival a Hollywood blockbuster, the trial of Anwar Ibrahim has yet to end. “The case is totally surreal,” commented Marie Claire, a Dutch journalist. “It reveals the true face of Mahathir, yet at the same time I wonder if all the allegations are unfounded. There must be something that is not fabricated.”
When Anwar was arrested in September 20 last year, and charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse and corruption, many people would agree with Claire including this reporter. Five of the charges are related to sexual acts, the details of which have been lubricously related in local newspapers. The other five accuse Anwar of corrupt practice-for allegedly instructing the police to pressure two people who had written to Mahathir accusing Anwar of sexual misdeeds, to retract their statements.
Initially, I agreed with Rajan Moses, Reuter Bureau Chief that surely Mahathir has concrete proof like a videotape of Anwar’s sexual exploits, which he will produce in court to nail him. After 55 days of hearing, Mahathir not only failed to prove any of the charges but all those who were convicted or confessed to have been sodomised by Anwar had recanted or been exposed to be unreliable.
Dr Munawar Ahmad Anees, 51, speech writer of Anwar, convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for being sodomised by Anwar had given an affidavit in the presence Malaysia’s Commissioner of Oaths, on Nov 7, 1998. He revealed how he was arrested, tortured by the special branch. “They degraded me and broke down my will and resistance, they threatened me and my family; they frightened me; they brainwashed me to the extent that I ended up in court on September 19, 1998 a shivering shell of a man willing to do anything to stop the destruction of my being.” he said.
“I state categorically that the details of the alleged homosexual relationship contained in my statement made to the magistrate and those given to the court by the prosecutor on September 19, 1998 were untrue and were fabricated by the police.”
Sukma Darmawan, Anwar’s adopted brother, who was jointly convicted with Munawar and sentenced to six months in jail, had his anus examined by a doctor who testified in court that medically Sukma had not been sodomised because there were no torn tissue.
Azizan Abu Bakar, (driver of Anwar’s wife) who started the poison pen letter in 1997 accusing Anwar of making him his sex slave, first testified in court denying being sodomised by Anwar and later said he was. Anwar’s lawyers had hoped the judge, Augustine Paul, would impeach or disqualify his testimony. The defence argued that Azizan had contradicted himself on the witness stand and that his testimony was therefore invalid. The judge disagreed and ruled in favour of the prosecution.
Mior Abdul Razak, fashion designer, the last sodomy victim whose case has yet to be heard, submitted a similar affidavit on Feb 8 detailing how he was arrested and treated by the Special Branch. “Here I wish to declare that my statement in writing, video recording which was made by the police, written statement given to the magistrate and the lawyer Syed Hilmi, regarding sodomy with Anwar are all cooked up by the police. They were given because of pressure, threat of torture, and through cigarettes and drinks given to me which I suspect were drugged.”
“I totally deny ever being sodomised by Anwar,” Mior recanted in the affidavit. Last week Mior sued the government seeking $60,000 for special damages as well as an unspecified amount for other damages.
“In any democratic country the judge will throw out the case. The prosecution has to prove beyond all doubts that the accusation is true,” said a lawyer (Chew Seng Kok) of Zaid Ibrahim Law Firm.
Instead the sexual charges were dropped and amended with the consent of the judge to four counts of abuse of power to cover up allegations of sodomy and illicit sex. In this way the prosecution do not have to prove Anwar’s alleged sexual crimes which they had revealed in lurid details in court. The prosecution had prevented the defence the chance to call their star witness, Shamshidar, wife of Anwar’s private secretary, after showing the court a matress allegedly stained with her virginal fluid and Anwar’s semen, as a lewd exhibit to prove that Anwar had illicit sex with her.
Shamsidar is a close friend of Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah. “If she had the chance to testify, she would have exposed the lies of the prosecution and made a mockery of the whole court proceeding,” said a defence lawyer.
“You can’t amend the charges midway like that,” said Mr Chew (Seng Kok, Zaid Ibrahim Law Firm), a lawyer in Kuala Lumpur. “The most absurd is how someone could be accused of covering up something that is not true.”
“After smearing Anwar with details of lewd sexual and other misconduct, they prevented him from defending himself,”said Rahim Karim.”This is really dirty and unfair.”
Meanwhile the world is treated to vintage Mahathir logic.”It is fair and open,” the Prime Minister said, “The defendant had nine lawyers defending him. The trial is open; it has been dragging on for days and days and there have been people observing the trial all over the world. There is nothing closed about it.”
“Yes, the charges were amended but there were reasons to amend them,” Mahathir said.
How long the court circus is going to drag on is anybody’s guess. On February 8, Anwar took the witness stand for the first time after the prosecution wrapped up and amended the charges. To the surprise of many, the Attorney General, Moktar Abdullah, announced with the consent of the court that he is taking over the prosecution. The defence protested unsuccessfully. “It is not proper as the AG is involved in the case and he is one of our potential witnesses,” said defence counsel Raja Aziz Addruse.
The judge also ruled that all political conspiracy is irrelevant. “Evidence maybe adduced to show there is conspiracy by police to change their stand and no further. Evidence of political conspiracy if any, is irrelevant,” the judge said. Further on the judge issued another order that all evidence on corruption and wrongdoing revealed by Anwar in court be embargoed to the press.
“It is very obvious the judge is bias and he is directed by the attorney general who is his boss. It is evident to us lawyers in Malaysia that Anwar is going to be convicted and the only thing left for him is to do as muchdamage as possible by exposing all the wrongdoing and corruption in the government, and he is doing just that,” said the lawyer Chew of Zaid Ibrahim Law Firm.
Anwar told the court that it was Mahathir who first showed him the poison pen letter in August 1997 accusing him of sodomy and adultery. “He told me to read it and then destroy and gave me a lecture on how to deal with it by following his example, that is just ignoring it. He said he had received several such letters including one accusing him of having a Chinese mistress in Singapore,” Anwar testified.
Later the police chief together with the AG told him that several ministers and Aziz Shamsuddin, the PM’s political secretary were behind the conspiracy, Anwar told the court. However, things began to change in 1998 when economic problems started. There was a clash of views between him and the PM on how to tackle the economic problems. Anwar went on to describe how on Sept 2, 1998, Mahathir gave him an ultimatum to resign or else be charged with a series of crimes ranging from corruption, sexual misconduct to treason, Anwar said . The judge, however, ruled all these as irrelevant.
Outraged and disgusted, Saudi Arabia, Islamic brother and staunch supporter of Malaysia, reacted strongly by denying Malaysians work visas. A retired Malaysian air force colonel (Teh Benley) recently became the first victim when he was denied a visa while his German colleagues in a security firm were welcomed. “When are the rest going to follow?,” asked a diplomat in Kuala Lumpur.
Time is not on his side. If justice and truth do not prevail, at least the economy will. The mood in Malaysia is changing fast as the trial drags on, the civil servants are all against Mahathir now, said the lawyer.
Malaysians are reading all the details of government corruption and wrongdoing from the Internet. “Ironically the Internet which he promotes, has become Mahathir’s biggest enemy,” said Chandra Muzzafar, university professor.
“Which ever way the verdict goes, Mahathir is in trouble,” said an UMNO divison leader. If Anwar is jailed, there will be worldwide reaction and internally Anwar will get more sympathy, and will bounce back stronger. If he is freed, will Mahathir have any face left? He asked.
According to confidential sources, Mahathir has finally admitted he has bungled Anwar’s case.
Malaysia has woken up to the shock that Anwar is a victim of one of the most vicious conspiracies of modern times. “The only person I can compare Mahathir to is Hitler,” said Khao Kay Kim professor of history, University of Malaya in an interview six months ago. It was a bit unfair, I thought then, since he has not committed genocide. In terms of clinging on to power and destroying rivals, I am beginning to believe the learned professor.