Perilous times in Malaysia

From The Nation (Thailand)

JULY 5 — Allegations of a sexual nature made against opposition politician Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim are kindling in Malaysia’s charged atmosphere. He would be finished off politically should sodomy charges, if laid, be prosecuted successfully.

What is frightful to contemplate is what this might lead to if the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance, which he leads, and sceptical Malaysians press their case on the streets and in cybersphere that he has been the victim of a fresh plot to neuter him.

He calls the allegations a conspiracy. The government has denied charges that it is out to discredit him. The Pakatan has talked that it is within touch of capturing the government by arranging defections of ruling Barisan Nasional MPs. This could be tactical bravado. It could be real. No one can be sure in a scenario of vaulting ambitions.

Under these circumstances, the risk of an upheaval is magnified even if a prosecution was shown to be well founded. Either way, Malaysia is facing peril.

Anwar has made his own kindling-like allegations against the attorney-general and the inspector-general of police of fabricating a case against him 10 years ago that also concerned sodomy. This was before the two men attained their current ranks. (A conviction was secured but was overturned on appeal.)

If an independent investigation is ordered and the matter reaches the courts, a judgment that goes against the nation’s chief prosecutor and top law-enforcement officer would have profound implications for the rule of law. Few Malaysians would expect the matter to be taken that far, however. The negative implication that this could carry is itself a measure of dwindling public trust in state institutions.

Besides the law-enforcement agencies being criticised by citizens fearful for their safety in the face of violent crime, the criminal justice system and the courts are facing a crisis of credibility. An inquiry into improper judicial appointments and a High Court judge’s stunning accusations of judicial interference by ex-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have reinforced a deepening sense that there is much to be put right.

These are difficult times. For Malaysia’s sake, it is to be hoped the latest Anwar cycle is got through without rancour. Malaysians would welcome a period of governing stability and renewed hope to cope with the many adversities, not all of which are of their own making.

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