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Anwar and Altantuya, Twin Miscarriages of Justice

How can we stand by and let either case play out under a rigged judicial system and malfunctioning police force? The evidence is clear: there is no real case against Anwar, and no real attempt to look beyond the surface in Altantuya's death. Why should we ignore this?

Written by johnleemk on 12:37:01 pm Aug 13, 2008.

Both sides have come out swinging for the "rule of law" in the second Anwar Ibrahim sodomy case. But how are we governed by the rule of law when the authorities can so blatantly fabricate evidence in a much-ado-about-nothing allegation of consensual sodomy, while they drag their feet and refuse to look into a case of murder where all the circumstantial evidence points to one of the most powerful men in the country?

I still remember one pro-government blogger’s take on this whole fiasco a couple of weeks back, lambasting the police for refusing to arrest Anwar and calling it a clear case of special treatment contrary to the rule of law. Apparently letting Anwar keep his liberty constitutes unequal treatment because in anyone else’s case, the cops would have arrested the accused without question. The lack of evidence against Anwar doesn’t seem to be an issue in the eyes of the establishment, in spite of the established legal principle that all men are innocent until proven guilty — and you do not strip innocent men of their dignity or liberty.

It is likewise the pro-establishment line that Anwar has been at fault throughout the case for failing to cooperate with the authorities and demanding to see the police report against him. But who is being suspicious here, the man who wants to know the specifics of the allegations against him, or the authorities who refuse to let the accused know the details of those claims? It is a legal axiom that the accused should know the details of the charges laid against him, so he can lay out his defence, but the police have been completely uncooperative in this regard.

Then, in the latest twist to the case, the first doctor who examined Anwar’s alleged partner in sodomy made a statutory declaration affirming not only that he found no signs of sodomy after a rectal examination, but that the police tampered with his official police report! The doctor is now in hiding, of course. This whole pattern of events sounds suspiciously familiar for some reason...

Oh, that’s right — because a private investigator previously filed a statutory declaration claiming, among other things, that the Deputy Prime Minister not only had sexual relations with Altantuya Shariibuu, but was involved in the cover-up of her murder. He too conveniently disappeared afterwards, although not before revoking his previous statutory declaration — which does make me wonder if the good doctor in Anwar’s case might not have been pressured to do the same. His claims of police pressure in amending his report certainly resemble those of the private investigator’s, who also alleged police complicity in altering portions of his statements.

Yet the press has conveniently ignored this angle; they have conveniently ignored the Altantuya imbroglio altogether! In spite of this, the evidence of a massive scandal in the Altantuya affair immensely outweighs any possible proof of wrongdoing on Anwar’s part. So far, the only proof of any crime in the Anwar case is stacked against the authorities, for perverting the course of justice.

Simply look at the cases side by side: in Anwar’s case, there is literally nothing but the word of one man. The first doctor who examined his anus found nothing out of the ordinary, but his statement to the police was tampered with and Anwar’s name inserted several times even though he made no mention of Anwar in his police report. The police have refused to let Anwar know the specifics of the allegations against him, even after charging him with the crime. The pathetic plea of the Prime Minister for justice on the part of the "victim" seems completely invalid considering that Anwar has not even been charged for non-consensual sodomy. Unless the police and public prosecutor can unveil something truly convincing, the weight of the evidence only suggests that the authorities are looking for a crime where none exists. At best, all they are guilty of is utter incompetence and buffoonery; at worst, they are part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

After all, these ridiculously trumped-up charges have completely shunted the Altantuya case out of the headlines — this in spite of strong evidence of wrongdoing. The crime here is not some consensual buggery; it is the coldblooded murder of a woman, combined with a clumsy cover-up involving military grade C4. At the very best, some fellow in an armory was complacent enough to let someone grab a few sticks of C4 without looking into the matter — we still do not seem to know where on earth this military grade C4 came from, even though it clearly has to have come from a military installation somewhere. The men standing accused of Altantuya’s murder include a consultant closely connected to the Deputy Prime Minister and two special counter-terrorism police officers assigned to the Deputy Prime Minister’s office. A private investigator attached to the main suspect claimed that in spite of all his denials, the Deputy Prime Minister knew Altantuya and was complicit in the cover-up of the whole affair — and further said that the police expunged his statements about this from his police report. Within hours, he suspiciously and quietly withdrew his statement and fled the country. All the evidence in this case points towards massive wrongdoing, if not on the part of the Deputy Prime Minister, certainly on the part of those close to him and his office.

In virtually any other country, this sort of scandal would be certain to wreck the chances of the Deputy Prime Minister ascending to the highest job in the land. Even if you did not personally have anything to do with the case, it is certainly extremely bad judgement on your part if one of your best friends can simply have two of your police officers murder a woman and blow her body up with military-grade explosives. A case like Anwar’s would be widely derided as a clear abuse of power — you either have clear evidence against the accused, or you don’t, and the preponderance of evidence points to you not having anything at all.

Of course, we could just sit back and let both the Anwar and Altantuya cases play themselves out. But that would validate the legal and judicial system which openly mocks the spirit of justice everyday. While policemen harass one of the most prominent politicians in the country, the murderers of Altantuya go ignored. There is no serious investigation into the possibility of the Deputy Prime Minister’s complicity in spite of all the circumstantial evidence pointing to him; there is no serious attempt to uncover the source of the military-grade explosives used to blow Altantuya’s corpse to pieces. How can we pretend the rule of law exists when it plainly does not?

Our laws are not that bad — carried out properly, neither the Anwar nor Altantuya fiascoes would have taken the path they have followed — but the way our legal system is run prevents the law from taking its true course. Instead, we have ridiculous charges laid against one political figure, while another political figure escapes examination in a murder case, and all because the people meant to enforce the law have perverted it.

The only possible solution lies in completely reforming our legal system and holding accountable those who have perverted the course of justice. But we already knew that; the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police and Royal Commission of Inquiry into the V.K. Lingam Video Clip told us as much. It is now incumbent upon the powers that be to enforce these recommendations, and restore justice to the laws of our country.

But this raises that old question, first raised by the Romans two millennia ago: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? In a democracy, dear reader, the answer is: you and me. The authorities continue to traipse about with their little farce, acting as if their abuse of the power we entrusted them with is perfectly fine and innocent. If the government is not willing to uphold the laws and principles we elected it to uphold, the job is ours to continue holding them accountable — to voice our grievances, and to vote accordingly.