Law and Justice
March 16th, 1999
"Justice without law is impotent. Law without justice is
tyranny - Pascal from PenseÚs
"Why are you here?" Parti Rakyat Malaysia Secretary General Dr Sanusi Osman asked the
packed audience at the DAP Forum on Law and Justice last night. "We are here because we
love justice. We know our country has laws - but we also know these laws do not guarantee
It was a pertinent point to make that particular night. After 72 tortuous days, the Anwar
Ibrahim trial finally sputtered to its closing days when the defence rested its case the day
before. It was now a good time for Malaysians to look at the events over those 72 days - and
to see just how much our laws and our legal system did guarantee justice.
Our Prime Minister most certainly feels that justice has been done. Dr Sanusi commented on
Dr Mahathirs recent television interview where he expressed surprise at accusations that
Anwar did not receive a fair trial. "Our Prime Minister expressed `shock' that the trial lasted
up to 72 days. Kalau dah selalu-selalu terkejut macam itu, maknanya tak lama lagi lah
"Is it any wonder that the trial took so long, when everyone had to wait for that stained
mattress had to be brought in and out, in and out, day after day?! And what happened at the
end? More than halfway into the trial, the mattress is made irrelevant!"
Dr Sanusi lamented the fact that, instead of protecting justice and freedom, our laws were now
being used to stifle justice and freedom .. "like hantu that are just waiting to frighten and seize
those who speak out against Mahathir."
"Mahathir bela hantu!" cried someone from the audience, to peals of laughter from the
He gave as an example the Internal Security Act or ISA, which he said now stood for "Ikut
Suka Aku"! "Where it was first created just to detain communists, it is now used against just
about anyone they wished."
Dr Sanusi also noted how the ISA now had acquired new, creative uses. "Anwar was
arrested under ordinary criminal laws, which meant that he would have needed to be brought
before a magistrate soon. But because of his beating and his famous black-eye, they slapped
the ISA on him so he did not have to be brought before a court of law until his wounds had
healed. ISA sekarang digunakan untuk hilangkan lebam!"
Dr Sanusi gave as another example the Police Act, which considers a grouping of more than
four people to be an illegal assembly. "Hundreds of young people who were just exercising
their right under the highest law of the land, the Constitution, to assemble peacefully were
dragged off the streets, beaten, arrested and are now under trial."
"The authorities say that these assemblies disrupted businesses on the streets and were not
peaceful. They say they have no problems against peaceful demonstrations. If that is true, then
I challenge them: Give us Dataran Merdeka! Give us Bukit Jalil Stadium!" The packed
banquet hall roared in approval.
Dr Sanusi complained that despite the willingness of opposition parties and NGOs to hire
Bukit Jalil Stadium for mass rallies, they had always been refused permission because the
stadium was being repaired! "It's really surprising that one of the most expensive, advanced,
modern international stadiums in the world always breaks down and is need of repair each
time we want to hold a rally there!"
It was also surprising that such facilities were miraculously in good working order just days
later when the MCA wanted to hold Mahathir-worshipping events!
Tuan Haji Subky Latif from PAS lamented the fact that, despite the country having seven to
eight law faculties in its universities, and having trained thousands of lawyers and judges,
despite all the advances in education and development, we find ourselves crippled in a crisis in
the rule of law. "How low are the standards and the dignity of our judiciary, how low they are
in the eyes of the people."
Dr Chandra Muzaffar focused on the recent Sabah elections and how the principles of law
and justice had been abused there. "People forget that the Barisan Nasional must contest as a
political party - nothing else. But it used all the machinery of a ruling government to ensure its
"Barisan politicians used government helicopters to campaign all over the state. Government
departments just became tools to be used by Barisan Nasional parties. Government funds -
the people's money - were being committed so politicians could make election promises of
He contrasted this with the court case in 1975, when Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was
sentenced by the High Court and removed from her parliamentary seat for asking a
low-ranking government official to provide her with a microphone and stage for a political
rally. "Even though she was the country's Prime Minister, the law stated that, as a politician,
she did not have any right to use the government machinery for her own political ends."
Dr Chandra also cited an incident following the 1959 State Elections in newly-independent
Malaya. "The Alliance had lost Kelantan and Terengganu in those elections. Tunku Abdul
Rahman temporarily resigned as Prime Minister and appointed Tun Abdul Razak as Prime
Minister, so that he could strengthen and campaign for his party in Kelantan and Terengganu
for the coming parliamentary elections. He did not want to abuse government facilities and his
position as Prime Minister for his party. Whatever his weaknesses, the Tunku was a gentleman
and acted on principle."
Dr Chandra remarked that, in contrast, the cheap publicity and gimmicks sought by current
Barisan Nasional politicians sometimes reached ridiculous heights during election campaigns.
"Projects that had been officiated before were officiated for a second time! Buildings which
had already been officially opened were given a new paint job and officially opened again!
There is the famous case in Penang where a Barisan politician even resorted to officiating
He also touched on the role of the media. "The local media is shamelessly used as just another
party tool. The media coverage is humiliating and it humiliates our country. They apparently
have no shame at all in being so blatantly one-sided."
Dr Chandra wondered if Barisan politicians simply did not understand democratic principles
or were just power-mad. "Gila kuasa!" shouted the audience in response, to an amused Dr
Chandra. He then coined a new term for the phenomenon - 'Viagra politics'. "Once they're up,
they refuse to come down!"
This feudal system of politics, he said, has resulted in our leaders being appointed not because
of their abilities, but because of their blind loyalty to Mahathir. "Mereka tak ada nilai, atau
mutu atau standard - tetapi dilantik hanya kerana pandai mengampu, pandai
memuja, pandai membodek."
DAP's Karpal Singh agreed, citing a famous example - Ibrahim Ali, the Minister in the Prime
Minister's Department in charge of legal affairs. "This is a man who doesn't understand the law
at all!" said Karpal.
Karpal said that he had submitted ten questions for the Parliamentary sitting that will begin on
April 5th. "Many of these questions are related to the law. And who will respond to these
questions on behalf of the government? Ibrahim Ali!" he said, to roars of laughter and derision
from the audience.
He added that if Ibrahim Ali were to indeed respond to his questions, he would formally
request to the House Speaker that his questions be withdrawn. "On the grounds that Ibrahim
Ali is not qualified to answer them!"
Mr Karpal then touched on what has perhaps been the most dramatic abuse of the law and
justice to date over the past few months - the beating of Anwar Ibrahim while in police
custody. He questioned Rahim Noor's insistence that he was provoked by Anwar. "How
could Anwar know it was him? Anwar was blindfolded. The IGP did not speak. If Anwar
could not see or hear the IGP, there is only one other way Anwar could have known for
certain it was a Bapak Anjing - from his smell!"
He appealed to the Royal Commission investigating the beating to recommend that Rahim
Noor be charged - for attempted murder. "Because if those two officers had not pushed and
dragged Rahim Noor out of that cell, Anwar Ibrahim would not be in this world today."
Fortunately, Anwar Ibrahim is still in this world today. And while his corruption trial is nearly
over and his conviction is almost certain, many other trials loom in the near future. Not just the
sodomy trial, not just Anwar's suits against the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the
former IGP, and many others in the government. A higher Court continues to try them, the
highest 'court' of law and justice in the land - the Court of public opinion, the People's Court.
For it is Mahathir and those who continue to blindly defend him who are really on trial - not
Anwar Ibrahim. And judgement will be delivered swiftly on the ballot box. I, personally,
would vote 'guilty as charged'.