Maybe Anwar Ibrahim is guilty, maybe he isn’t. Maybe, the cases against him were politically motivated, maybe they weren’t. Whatever, the esteemed judges of the top Federal Court have made their decisions and the verdict can’t be changed.
It is plain sad that we watched this man — and his family — be dragged through the mud not for a crime, but on a personal matter under an outdated law on sodomy, and we could do nothing about it. Well, nothing, for the moment. His “crime” may have been his sexual peccadilloes or predilections or his dare to defy the political status quo. But, Anwar had already gone to prison on a similar charge in 1999 and was released in 2004. This is his second conviction. Hasn’t he and his family gone through enough?
Unfortunately for him, sodomy is illegal in Malaysia. That was the charge brought against him by his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who, as the other adult partner, it is now said escaped conviction because he turned state witness against Anwar. In many developed nations, such a law has been thrown out as homosexual behaviour is not considered a crime nor a “sin” by many sub-cultures there.
Whatever the reason, the law was used against him and he has been convicted. Anwar will go to jail for five years and will be unable to hold public office for another five years. It is very unlikely that his influence will wane behind bars. He will continue to exert his influence through the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR — the People’s Justice Party) he founded, and the Pakatan Rakyat, the alliance comprising PKR, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the ultra-conservative Islamic party of Malaysia (PAS) that have galvanised around him.
Because of this one man and his reformation movement, the political landscape in Malaysia has changed — for the good. We now have a credible alternative to the Barisan Nasional that has ruled this country since Merdeka (Independence). But at what personal cost to Anwar?
His contributions to nationhood have been overshadowed by a charge which, at best, is a personal issue. The full weight of the law was brought on him and he suffered — while we watched. Was there no compassion or mercy or forgiveness to be extended to an old man and his family in recognition of all the good that he brought?
There are two verses in the Bible which temper my sense of justice: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2: 12, 13).”
A society that can not show mercy is, simply, a cruel society. We may not totally agree with Anwar or whoever who want to put him away and demonized him in the way he has been. As a society, we still can do something to show mercy. We can vote out a cruel system.
If PR wins the next general elections in 2018 by a landslide, the new powers to be can change the law and set Anwar free. That is what the DAP’s founding patriarch, Lim Kit Siang, hopes for, and, surely, there will be a redoubling of efforts to achieve this goal.
The current wave of sympathy for Anwar as a result of his conviction, however, may ebb by the year 2018 comes. But, I have a great deal of faith in ordinary Malaysians. We watch, quietly, but when we vote, we will speak clearly and loudly. People are tired of this drawn-out public dirty linen washing. People just want to move on — to good governance. Leave the personalities out; give us good government.
If in the next three years before the 2018 general election PR leads the current states it now has to a happy, and prosperous future, I believe there would be a huge swing of Malay votes to PR, which will give it the landslide it so now wants. And, Anwar may finally be vindicated — thanks to the people who showed him mercy.