Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jailing Anwar could hurt Najib more than it did Dr M.

 The Edge Review

Opposiition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is waiting for the decision on his appeal against his sodomy conviction. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 14, 2014. Jail for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim if the Federal Court upholds his sodomy conviction would only serve to hurt the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, perhaps more so now than when former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad first turned him into an arch nemesis, The Edge Review said in a report today.
Jailing Anwar could cost the BN more votes as Malaysians grow tired of the government's treatment of the opposition leader after 16 years, with his latest sodomy appeal taking place against the backdrop of an on-going blitz against opposition politicians and others critical of the establishment by using the colonial-era Sedition Act.
"In the immediate term, a guilty verdict against Anwar will turn the opposition leader into a political martyr on the international stage and further dent Malaysia's image abroad, which has suffered in recent months over attacks on the government for using draconian laws to cow opposition politicians," The Edge Review said in an article, "Hounding of Anwar Ibrahim takes a toll on Malaysia".
Anwar is awaiting a Federal Court decision on his appeal to overturn the conviction of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.
The trial court acquitted him but the Court of Appeal in March this year found him guilty and sentenced him to five years' jail. In his appeal to the apex court, the prosecution had also filed a cross-appeal to enhance the length of his jail sentence.
The weekly digital magazine said it appeared "likely" that Anwar would be jailed, and said that this might boost Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's support from within Umno, the party he leads.
It would also cause new problems for the Pakatan Rakyat which the Edge Review said had been struggling to maintain a united front over religious and racial issues.
However, citing analysts, it said that having Anwar in jail "would do nothing for Najib's tattered political prestige among ordinary Malaysians and could even hurt him more than it did Dr Mahathir".
This was because Najib was also dealing with withering internal support from Umno, which meets for its annual general assembly later this month.
Najib has come under attack from party veterans, most visibly by Dr Mahathir and former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, both of whom have blamed him for Umno's decline. Dr Mahathir has also become increasingly vocal about some of the government's policies under Najib.
The Edge Review said that Umno was now in a fight for its survival, having hit its lowest point in electoral support ever in the 13th general election last year. Though it maintained a parliamentary majority, it lost the popular vote to Pakatan.
Malays first began abandoning Umno from 1998 onwards, when Dr Mahathir sacked Anwar as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and slapped him with the first sodomy charge.
Since then – almost two decades later – analysts have looked back on Anwar's persecution as a "serious and costly misadventure" for Malaysia, the Edge Review said.
"Too much damage has been inflicted on the system because of this campaign," it quoted commentator and political researcher Bridget Welsh as saying.
Even as the Umno-led BN lashes out at its critics using the Sedition Act, its focal point remains Anwar because Umno feared him as "the biggest threat to their hold on power", it added.
The Federal Court verdict will be watched closely by international investors because of the current climate of concern over governance and democracy in the Southeast Asian economies of Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, besides Malaysia. – November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The angry judge

Zaid Ibrahim

Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad has been an angry man for many months now.
First, he was angry that Islam was “under threat” in Penang because the state government (allegedly) did not provide financial allocations for Islamic activities. Then he said that the position of Islam was being threatened by other religions and that the Catholic Church was out to convert Muslims. Then he said that non-Muslims wanted the same rights as Muslims in Malaysia.
Now, he is a great defender of “Islamic law”, which he believes is being ignored and trampled upon by the Civil Court—and this is especially so in light of the recent Court of Appeal decision that transgendered people have rights under the Constitution and deserve protection.
Abdul Hamid said that the Court’s decision would “open the door to same-sex marriage” and that it was just a matter of time before adultery and sodomy would also be permitted.
I am surprised that a former Chief Justice of the Federal Court should be capable of such anger and outright alarmism. Judges ought to remain level-headed even in retirement and should not be influenced by extraneous factors, prejudices or their own wild imaginations.
As a former Chief Justice who was sworn to uphold the Federal Constitution, Abdul Hamid should have been the one lauding the courage of the current judges of the Court of Appeal for interpreting the law of the land according to the Constitution.
Unfortunately, he seems to be goading judges to ignore the Constitution altogether, and he is dramatising the effects of the recent decision by providing ridiculous examples of what “might” happen.
We should hasten to assure him that none of the Civil Court judges will approve same-sex marriage applications because it simply isn’t permitted under federal law. Likewise, sodomy is an offence and adultery is an offence for Muslims.
In the case of Muslim offences generally, I am sure that Civil Court judges will not disturb Shariah verdicts if there are sufficient witnesses to prove the offence in accordance with Islamic law.
As a lawyer, Abdul Hamid surely knows that all state laws must conform to the Federal Constitution—the areas of the law on which the state can legislate are described in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.
Of course, some “Islamist” lawyers do argue that the power of state laws are wider than what has been decided so far by the Civil Court, but it’s still up to the Civil Court judges to determine if these so-called “Islamic laws’ comply with the Constitution.
Just because a law is labelled “Islamic” does not mean it automatically passes the test of legal validity. We sometimes agree with a judge’s decision, and other times we do not. In either case, there is no reason to poke fun at the judiciary when its decisions do not find favour with us.
Let’s say that, one day, Kedah passes an “Islamic law” criminalising a Muslim woman’s failure to wear a tudung. Now, there are many Malay women who do not wear the tudung. Suppose some of them challenge the validity of the law in the civil High Court. We should be clear that they are not challenging Islam. What they are challenging is whether the law enacted in Kedah is valid under the Federal Constitution.
In this case, the Civil Court will apply the same test to see if not wearing a tudung is a matter that comes within the power of the state. The court will ask questions such as: “is wearing a tudung listed in the State List of the Federal Constitution?” If it is not listed there, does it come under the wider meaning of an Islamic precept? Or does it come under “Muslim personal law”?
If the answer is “no” in each case, then the law cannot be valid under the Federal Constitution—it’s as simple as that. So why is everyone getting excited about Islam being under siege every time a particular enactment is held to violate the Constitution?
Perhaps Abdul Hamid et al. should ask if the Constitution is “Islamic” in the first place. If it is not, then he, the Islamist lawyers, ABIM, ISMA, Perkasa and so forth should all gather next week at the Putra World Trade Centre and demand that UMNO delegates call for the abolition of the Federal Constitution (and hence this country) altogether.
That will make it easier for our judges to decide cases. But if the Constitution is already “Islamic”, then these commentators must confine their observations strictly to legal issues and should not attempt to coerce the judiciary.
There should be no intimidation of judges, whether by a former Chief Justice or politicians and other lobbyists, to force them to act or decide in a manner that is outside the law of the country—lest we forget, it is an offence in common law to pervert the course of justice.
Judges, if they are Muslim, must not be made to feel fearful or “less Islamic” if they come to decisions in accordance with their understanding of the law. Even judges who are not Muslim cannot be said to be interfering with or challenging Islam when they are merely applying the law.
Is this too difficult to understand and too much to ask from our self-appointed “defenders of the faith”?

Monday, July 21, 2014

MH17- We shall prevail

The cold war ended with the fall of Soviet Empire, but the aftermath of the dismembering and collapse of Warsaw Pact countries, is still haunting the civilized world. Malaysia has become the latest victim of the geo political rivalry of Russians and Americans. We are like a little mouse between two mighty beasts.