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Anwar,s Appeal Rejected:Is there Hope in The Judiciary ?

Oleh P Ramakrishnan
        Aliran Executive Committee 

There is no surprise - only shock - over the Court of Appeal's decision to reject Anwar's appeal against his sodomy conviction. There is no surprise because nobody expected the decision to be otherwise. But there is definitely shock because many people find it difficult to accept the fact that the court could ignore so much overwhelming evidence adduced so forcefully to demolish the flimsy, concocted and controversial evidence that convicted Anwar. 

It is a great pity indeed that the judiciary has failed to rise to the occasion to redeem itself. The judiciary as universally understood - and perceived by all of us - is the portal of justice. But in Anwar's case, it is a shame that throughout the entire judicial process of his case the judiciary had lost its sheen so irrevocably. 

This latest decision has destroyed what could have been a golden moment of redemption for the judiciary in line with that momentous occasion when it stood up so judiciously for justice. In one brief moment of sanity in May of 2001, the judiciary had very objectively focused on the principles of justice when it upheld Zainur Zakaria's appeal against his conviction for contempt of court.

Very judiciously and courageously, the Federal Court delivered an indictment against the High Court's decision in convicting Zainur for contempt of court and exposed the lower court's travesty in ignoring its role as an adjudicator of justice. Contrary to the judiciary's traditional role as dispenser of justice, the High Court judge became a combatant in this case. In the words of Justice Abdul Malek Ahmad, "he gave the picture that he was acting as counsel for the two prosecutors in the motion." Justice Steve Shim concluded, "The learned High Court Judge had apparently failed to consider this material particular and, as a result, had arrived at a conclusion which, in my view, was quite unsustainable in all circumstances." 

The conduct of the judge was not only confined to Zainur's case but was a trademark throughout the entire judicial process, denying Anwar all the avenues that would have helped his case and strengthened his position. 

It is against this background that Anwar's appeal was heard. Overwhelming evidence of unfairness and bias was adduced to support this appeal; how the charges were amended mid-way; how weeks of evidence was expunged when the case did not go as expected; how no specific date could be determined as to when the so-called sodomy took place; how the star witness stumbled and fumbled while contradicting himself, etc. 

It is beyond the comprehension of fair-minded people that this kind of damning evidence could be completely ignored by the Court of Appeal in rejecting Anwar's appeal. It is this kind of injustice - so glaringly associated with Anwar's case at various stages of the judicial process - that has had such a devastating negative impact on the judiciary itself. 

Having descended once again into the quagmire of 1988 when the former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas, became such a pitiable victim of the judiciary, it is with horror that we have to raise the question: s there hope in our judiciary?