|Wong Choon Mei|
PUTRAJAYA, Feb 9: Two enormous cases – both widely followed locally and overseas – shared center stage on Tuesday, and both reflected the sorry state that Malaysia has degenerated into following the ascension of Prime Minister Najib Razak into the country's top job last April.
One involves Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and the other the deposed Mentri Besar of Perak Nizar Jamaluddin. Pushed to the brink by the roughshod tactics of Najib’s Umno-BN coalition, both leaders had turned to the courts for 'justice'.
In the administrative capital of Putrajaya, the Federal Court shamed itself and the country with a decision that Malaysians had expected, but had still dared to hope against hope that their judiciary was not so bad after all. Surely when the crunch came, their judges would stand up for them. But it was not to be.
“It is a black day for justice in Malaysia,” DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang twittered back, announcing a 5-0 decision against the popular Nizar.
“We were already told, ‘don’t even dream Nizar can win this case, look at the people involved’. But although they may have won Perak, they have lost Malaysia,” Hanipa Maidin, PAS’s legal advisor, told Harakahdaily.
If this can happen to Nizar, what hopes for Anwar
Tens of thousands had watched the nail-biting proceedings at the Federal Court live on the Internet, where a five-man bench unanimously upheld a much challenged Appellate Court decision and declared Umno leader Zambry Kadir the rightful chief minister of Perak.
On the same morning, in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, a once-bitten-twice-shy Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was taking no chances. Justice had been hijacked by trial judges during his first sodomy case in 1998, and now in 2010, he wants to pre-empt the same sort of kangaroo court and bias by disqualifying the presiding judge.
According to a member of his legal team, the sodomy trial has been adjourned to Wednesday because the prosecution objected to Anwar’s request. "Because of this, we need to file an affidavit to support our application,” the lawyer told Harakahdaily.
"Frankly, by now the people are demoralised by all the judicial shenanigans. There will be a big backlash against Umno and Najib in particular," Dr Syed Azman, head of PAS's international bureau, told Harakahdaily.
"In their minds, people are thinking if the Federal Court can do this to Nizar in full view of the whole country and the world, what more Anwar as he is the No. 1 threat to Najib. For Umno-BN to maintain their political hegemony, Anwar must be taken down one way or another. This is what has become of Malaysia and how far we have fallen."
Najib's diabolical plot
But while Anwar can still soldier on, the curtains may have come down on Nizar, his Pakatan Rakyat compatriort who had sued Zambry for illegally usurping his position following an effort by Najib and the Sultan of Perak that culminated in his ouster.
A year ago, Najib's diabolical plot toppled Nizar’s state government, allowing the PM to install Zambry, the Pangkor MP, as the new Mentri Besar.
Nizar's team led by Philip Koh had argued that both the country and the state’s constitution do not allow a Ruler to sack the chief minister, without the backing of a no-confidence vote taken by other lawmakers in the state assembly.
“The implication from the Federal Court’s decision is that Rulers can sack an MB without reference to the House and forces outside the House can influence the Ruler to decide who should be the MB or even the Prime Minister’s job itself,” said lawyer Edmund Bon.
“How can this be right if it means one day a leader can wake up and find himself no longer the MB or PM after his rival meets up with the Ruler in the Palace?”
Nizar urges supporters to stay calm
But Malaysia’s apex court is unfazed by the hail of public criticism. Even Nizar knew he was facing an uphill battle and had requested for the maximum 11-man bench.
But despite the importance of the case to Perak, the country’s second largest state with a population of more than 2 million, his request was flatly rejected in what observers had warned was a harbinger of the bad news to come.
Indeed, a poll conducted last week to size up the feelings of Perakians a year after the unpopular coup d’etat showed that 74 percent of the people have not forgiven Najib and still want fresh polls.
Meanwhile, Nizar and other Perak Pakatan leaders have has called for calm. They have the same number of 28 seats as the Umno-BN in the 59-seat state assembly. However, three Independents – whose statuses are still being questioned in the courts – have pledged allegiance to Umno-BN.
More than 2,000 supporters, who thronged the court, this morning took the news of Nizar's defeat badly. Shouting “Zambry pengecut” (Zambry coward), “Tipu” (cheating) and “Rasuah” (Corruption), they urged Umno to do the right thing and allow the people of Perak to choose their own leaders.
“We now challenge Zambry to dissolve the state assembly,” said Hanipa. “He should not hide behind Najib. If he is as popular as he insists, if the people want his government to stay in power as he claims, then call for snap elections. Let the people decide.”