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The Anwar Trial: Captor N Captive - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu

22/2/2000 9:58 am Tue

The Anwar Trial: Captor And Captive Exchange Roles

These days more attention and respect devolves on He Who Must Be Destroyed At All Cost than the High Court in Kuala Lumpur which tries him on s###my charges. It is possibly the only court in the world where the whole court rises, without prompting, for the prisoner as he is brought in. Yesterday, the packed court, buttressed by foreign journalists who rushed in from their bases at the prospect of the Prime Minister in court, pleased the confident, thinner Dato' Seri Anwar, who quipped at this interest in the Prime Minister's appearance. The trial was not due to resume for another ten minutes. Mr Justice Ariffin Jaka was having a hurried discussion with Mr Justice Augustine Paul in the inner courtyard. Years of prison awaits the former deputy prime minister, still supremely confident of his eventual victor, with a tormentor, the Prime minister whose protege he once was, grasping at every loophole to not face him in court. Dato' Seri Anwar gains a moral victory if the Prime Minister comes, and the Prime Minister loses if he does not. No matter what happens, Dato' Seri Anwar has won this round. He exudes a belief that what ever battles he may lose the war, he is on his way to ultimate victory.

The legal arguments continue today (Friday, 18 Feb 00) after tedious arguments whether Dr Mahathir Mohamed should be called as a defence witness. Mr Justice Ariffin will decide today and if the defence should submit on the relevance of the Prime Minister's evidence. This should not have been. The Prime Minister was called as a defence witness after the prosecution offered him, amongst others it did not call, to the defence. If the prosecution had him on its list of witnesses, did not call him, and offered the list, as the rules require, then it is fair to a#sume that the defence can call him if it thought his testimony is relevant. It does not matter which co-accused subpoenaed him. The prosecution believes the wrong accuser did. The prime minister's testimony, it is argued, has no relevance to Sukma Dermawan's defence; therefore he need not come. But a subpoena was issued last October, and the Prime Minister did not see it fit to have it thrown out. He still has not. The Attorney-General's chambers, in this instance, does not represent him. In any case, Dato' Seri Anwar's lawyers yesterday filed a subpoena to force the Prime Minister to come to court as his witness.

Amidst these legal arguments, a significant development in the trial is missed. The prosecution did not attempt to destroy the alibi evidence of the two men. If unrebutted, the alibi stands. It was not. The prosecution could well later, but the public ground is already lost. If the alibi stands, the case fails. But it need not. In the earlier corruption trial, when the evidence of the principal prosecution witnesses turned out to be severely flawed, the prosecution, at its close, amended the charges which ensured certain conviction. That would be difficult now, since the prosecution has closed its case. But the public ground shifted between that and this trial solidly towards the accused. The larger credibility of the Attorney-General's Chambers is at stake, raising doubts about the impartiality of the Public Prosecutor, indeed the manner in which the A-G's Chambers conducts itself when the Prime Minister is interested in the outcome of an issue, be it his desire to excoriate a political rival or has a point of view different from the collective view of the Conference of Rulers.

So what happens to Dato' Seri Anwar is irrelevant. He may be jailed or acquitted; his appeal to the Court of Appeal on 28 February against his earlier corruption convictions rejected or allowed. Either way, it is the Prime Minister, not Dato' Seri Anwar, who is damaged: a conviction enhances the view, however wrong, that the Prime Minister gets what he wants, however controversial or confidence-threatening, from the institutions of state; an acquittal that despite this, he cannot have his way. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, each day in court burnishes the reputation of his nemesis and damages his. Dato' Seri Anwar has, willy nilly, written himself into Malaysian history and mystically on the verge to be Malaysia's Nelson Mandela, a mythical Sang Kancil victorious in defeat. Conviction on the s###my charges would enhance that reputation. The trial indeed is a side-show to the larger political battle for the Malay cultural heartland. Whatever happens today, and in the days ahead, Dato' Seri Anwar will go back to his prison cell in Sungei Buloh prison. The Prime Minister's position, on the other hand, becomes even more detrimental than ever. The captor is now captive and the captive the captor.

M.G.G. Pillai