A brief note on Anwar’s prosecutor and the Tiger of Jelutong


by Shern Ren

I hesitate to make any sweeping claims about the death of justice in Malaysia.

It seems to me as much as to any other objective observer that the (very short-term) political mileage gained by Barisan Nasional from this outcome is more than enough to justify charges of foul play.

But consider the possibility, however remote, that the prosecution team genuinely believed that a criminal offence had occurred. Just as it is not fair to prosecute a man merely because he is a thorn in the ruling party’s side, so it would not be fair to not prosecute him on those grounds either.

As such, I will let others press the charge that the courts are no longer free. I don’t like making sweeping statements. But I will say one thing about one detail which stood out to me, namely a very curious quote from the post-trial statement of the lead prosecutor Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah:

Consider how this matter first arose. As Hansard (dated 22 October 1997, 18 December 1997) recalls, the very first time an MP stood up in parliament holding a statutory declaration that accused Anwar Ibrahim of sexual – homosexual – assault, Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy Prime Minister and his accuser was not a member of the government, but in fact an opposition MP from the DAP. And who was his original accuser? The late Karpal Singh MP, a brilliant lawyer. Any account of the criminal and then political downfall of Anwar Ibrahim should recall who threw the first stone.


This statement, if it were true, would certainly cast great doubt on theories of government conspiracy.

But it is not true, and thus it demonstrates bad memory at best and bad faith at worst.

Does our prosecutor not remember that the late Karpal Singh MP, brilliant lawyer and more eminent than the Malaysian Parliament ever deserved, served on Anwar’s defense team at the first round of sodomy trials at the end of the 90s?

Indeed, Karpal Singh was the first lawyer in Commonwealth history to ever be charged for sedition while speaking on behalf of his client (in 1999, while alleging that the high arsenic levels in Anwar’s urine pointed to a possible assassination attempt from on high).

To even suggest that a great man like Karpal Singh would defend a client he knew to be guilty is slander of the highest order. Would such a statement have been made even a year ago? The Tiger of Jelutong would have had you for breakfast!

Furthermore, our prosecutor has the cheek to cite specifically dated Hansards. Check the quotes, he implies. Well, I did here, and found this:

22 October 1997 (pp 41-42)

Tuan R. Karpal Singh [Jelutong]:

… Saya ada bertanya satu soalan baru-baru ini pada 6 Oktober, 1997, soalan No. 29, ringkasnya soalan itu adalah mengenai satu laporan yang ada dibuat oleh pegawai daripada Yang Amat Berhormat Timbalan Perdana Menteri ke atas tuduhan yang ada dibuat ke atasnya dan adakah apa-apa tindakan diambil oleh polis? Jawapan adalah ini: ”Adalah disahkan bahawa satu laporan polis telah dibuat dan siasatan dijalankan. Kertas siasatan telah dikemukakan kepada pihak Peguam Negara untuk tindakan selanjutnya. ” Tidak boleh ada kelewatan dalam perkara ini. Saya merayu kepada Peguam Negara, jika tidak berasas tuduhan itu, untuk membersihkan nama Yang Amat Berhormat Timbalan Perdana Menteri kerana itu satu keperluan khasnya dalam keadaan sekarang.

… Jika kedua-dua [orang yang mengeluarkan statutory declaration] ini ada diperalatkan oleh pihak yang ketiga, lebih serius untuk mendapat tahu siapa pihak yang ketiga ini. Adakah orang ini orang politik, menteri barangkali, puak-puak dalam UMNO yang hendak menjatuhkan Yang Amat Berhormat Timbalan Perdana Menteri? Jika ada orang atas yang terlibat lebih serius untuk menangkap orang-orang ini, tak payah orang yang ada diperalatkan.

…  apa yang saya nyatakan tadi Yang Amat Berhormat Timbalan Perdana Menteri adalah orang tempatan Pulau Pinang. Allahyarham P. Ramlee dan sebagainya adalah semua orang Pulau Pinang di mana saya dilahirkan.

(betul betul Pinang lang! *sniffs*)

18 December 1997 (pp 49-50)

Tuan R. Karpal Singh [Jelutong]:

Khasnya, Tuan Speaker, ini adalah satu perkara yang saya ada bangkitkan dalam Dewan yang mulia ini pada 22 Oktober tahun ini. Ini adalah mengenai dua surat yang ada ditulis, dua aduan yang dibuat kepada Yang Amat Berhormat Perdana Menteri. Satu adalah ini, Tuan Speaker, jika saya boleh baca, ‘Pengakuan Bersumpah oleh seorang, Azizan bin Abu Bakar ‘. Pada 22 Oktober, saya tidak memberi butir-butir surat sumpah ini dan saya ada merayu kepada Timbalan Perdana Menteri untuk mengambil tindakan. Apa yang beliau ada menjawab ialah bahawa perkara ini ada dalam tangan Peguam Negara. Oleh itu, beliau tidak terjejas dengan apa yang ada dibuat oleh Peguam Negara dan menunggu keputusan Peguam Negara.

Tuan Speaker, hari ini adalah hari yang akhir persidangan Dewan ini. Sampai sekarang tidak ada mendapat apa-apa daripada Peguam Negara mengenai perkara ini. Tohmahan yang ada dibuat ke atas Timbalan Perdana Menteri adalah serius …

Putting the picture together from these two quotes, the late Karpal Singh MP, brilliant lawyer, was hardly eager to have these charges pressed upon Anwar – indeed he was anxious that Anwar’s good name be exonerated and leery that the Attorney General was sitting on a possible case of damning political defamation.

Remember also that this is before Anwar had been sacked, and thus in the capacity of the Parliament these two were in name enemies – however, such was Karpal Singh’s thirst for justice that he was willing to defend the (then) second-in-command of the coalition that opposed him.

So no, dear prosecutor, the late Karpal Singh did not accuse Anwar of the crimes that you did. You should be ashamed at dirtying the memory of someone who was twice the man you are and you should not for one moment imagine that you can share his company.

You should be ashamed both of twisting the facts in your statement and of doing so baldly and boldly. I hope you enjoy the success you have had in court yesterday – it is more than you deserve.

And Karpal Singh, we miss you.

* Note: Karpal Singh’s own version of events can be found in his letter to the New Straits Times dated 16th November 2011. It can be seen from his own words that, as soon as the political motivations behind the charges were apparent, he dropped any thought of gaining political capital from attacking Anwar with false charges, and joined Anwar’s defense team without any hesitation.

The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the columnist. 

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