By Kim Quek | TMI
The judge walked into the court room, read the judgment in one minute, and disappeared into his chamber.
By the time the flabbergasted people in the court room recovered from their shock and realised what it all meant, they jumped in uncontrollable jubilation with shouts of joy, burst of tears, hugging, back-slapping, utterances of congratulations and thanks.
Within minutes, the same ecstatic outburst also came over the thousands of supporters gathered outside the court building. In fact, the sense of joy and emotional relief has quickly reverberated right across the nation, transcending race and religion.
Such was the high drama that greeted the totally unexpected acquittal of Anwar Ibrahim from the sodomy charge by Justice Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on January 9.
And such was the impact of this sensational Anwar story that it travels instantly around the globe with international TV channels like Al-Jazeera and BBC stopping their programmes to break the news, which no doubt has also brought relief and satisfaction to overseas pro-democracy and human rights bodies and well-wishers who had been anxiously awaiting the outcome of this sodomy trial.
No doubt the heightened sensation derived partly from the shock element of the verdict as no one had expected an acquittal. This is due to the fact that the trial had been so outrageously unjust and vindictive right from the start that everyone recognised it as political persecution and had anticipated a conviction and possibly instant jail on D-day, January 9. And so, imagine the joy of learning the opposite in such a dramatic fashion at the end of this long drawn ordeal.
It is common human experience that it is only when one is on the verge of losing a dear person that he discovers how much he loves that person.
And so it is with Anwar Ibrahim. The nationwide anxieties (expecting the worst scenario) that were steadily building up in the run up to judgment day, and the irrepressible smiling faces that appeared everywhere upon learning Anwar’s acquittal is the best testimony of the hitherto not so obvious truth that the nation has in fact all along treasured his leadership.
Such spontaneous response is also indication that Anwar’s indefatigable struggle to bring an end to the long antiquated and corrupt autocracy in this country, against unparalleled cruelty inflicted on him, has not gone unnoticed and unappreciated by the people, despite the regime’s high-handed media black-out on him all this time.
This wholly unanticipated finale to the three-and-a-half-year-long Anwar Sodomy II saga has far- reaching ramifications, and in fact transformed the political landscape and altered the balance of power between the challenger and the incumbent.
Anwar’s vindication of his innocence and his return to full political life from the precipice of a potentially lengthy prison term has brought the following consequences:
• It has spared Pakatan Rakyat the potential crisis of a leadership vacuum.
• On a personal level, it has revitalised Anwar and strengthened his position as the undisputed leader of the opposition group.
• It has enhanced his public image as prime minister-in-waiting who will lead Pakatan Rakyat to rid the country from the current quagmire of racial and religious dissension and economic malaise perpetrated by Barisan Nasional (BN).
• Having averted near catastrophe, Anwar’s new lease of political life will re-energise the Pakatan alliance and bring the component parties closer together as a compact fighting force.
• It has caused BN a disastrous set-back, for not only bringing a political plot that it has laboured for three-and-a-half years for naught, but also for damaging BN’s public image and credibility.
• It has demoralised BN and increased the risk of its fringe component parties deserting the mother ship.
• For whatever reason that precipitated this unexpected verdict — whether the last stage reversal was decided by the judge himself or by the political masters to avoid greater net loss of electoral support — such a disastrous finale has apparently deepened the conflict between the hardliners and reform-inclined faction within Umno.
The last point is important as it has the potential to cause an implosion in Umno — a thoroughly corrupted political party, void of political idealism, and characterized by its world famous brand of “money politics” and perennial in-fighting.
That there has been a last moment reversal is suggested by the following occurrences:
First, more than a week before D-day (January 9), blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK), long time Anwar loyalist, launched a vicious attack on Anwar, branding him a sodomite who was guilty as charged.
These attacks, which were widely publicised in Umno-control newspapers and TV channels, were recognised as a signal that Umno was still on-course to convict Anwar, and the RPK’s attack was a tactical move to pre-empt the potential backlash of an Anwar conviction.
Second, a few days before January 9, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein hinted a softening of stance against the proposed “free Anwar” mass rally on January 9, when he suggested to Anwar’s party PKR to seek permission for the rally from the police, which had up to that point vowed to crack down harshly on it.
And to the surprise of everyone, the police promptly gave their consent upon its first meeting with PKR, despite having vehemently opposed it previously. In hindsight, that could be the point in time when the decision to convict Anwar was reversed, as it makes sense not to clash with Anwar’s supporters when Anwar was already destined to be acquitted.
Third, it is odd that the judge should give only a one-minute verdict at the final judgment, while it took him one hour and fifty minutes to deliver his lengthy judgment at the interim stage to establish the prima facie case.
A palpable explanation is that the one-minute verdict was a last moment decision. Alternatively, it could be the honest but sketchy script of a judge who finally could not bring himself to pass a judgment that would condemn him and his descendents to eternal infamy.
That Umno’s hardline faction has been rattled by the Anwar acquittal is seen in the uncharacteristically belated response of faction leaders deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
As expected, both hypocritically claimed that the Anwar verdict was proof that the Executive had never interfered with the judiciary. Such manifestly untrue claims only re-confirm that these hardliners are still living in the past, grossly out of tune with the tempo of the Internet age.
These political dinosaurs belong to history. They don’t deserve to rule Malaysia.
Kim Quek is the author of the book, “The March to Putrajaya”.