18 December 2011

Sodomy 2 - Brace for far-reaching aftershocks...

NONEThe verdict on Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial next month has become a paradox for Pakatan Rakyat as many opposition leaders believe that his conviction and imprisonment will massively strengthen Pakatan Rakyat's chances of capturing Putrajaya in the next general election.

On the flip side, should Anwar unexpectedly be acquitted, it may turn out to be good news for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as it will enhance his reformist image which he has been working hard to portray.

The PKR de facto leader will know his fate on Jan 9 when the Kuala Lumpur High Court delivers its verdict on his second sodomy charge.

If Anwar is found guilty, PKR vice-president N Surendran (right) pointed out that bail should be extended pending appeal according to normal legal procedures and principles of justice.

"But in Anwar's case, everything is not normal. He was denied bail in 1999 (after convicted for corruption). It is not impossible for a similar scenario to happen again... they are capable of doing so," the human rights lawyer told Malaysiakini yesterday.

In 1999, when the Reformasi movement against the BN government reached its peak, Anwar was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and subsequently slapped with another nine-year jail term for sodomy in 2000.

He was put behind bars during his appeal, although the Federal Court overturned his sodomy conviction in 2004.

Surendran predicted that people will be outraged should Anwar be convicted and jailed again.

"Anwar is the opposition leader, not just an ordinary person. Nowadays people are aware. They realise the role of the opposition leader. If the opposition leader cannot play his role, eventually the people will suffer," he said.

Boost for Pakatan

Another PKR vice-president, Tian Chua, shared this view, believing that the conviction followed by imprisonment will give Pakatan a boost in the general election.

"It will create another political tsunami... Every party member, supporters and most of the fence-sitter will vote for the opposition because they will know that the only way to free Anwar is to change the government," he explained.

Both agreed that Anwar will be the single largest issue during the election should the history of 1999 repeat.

When it was pointed out that the attention and responses to the second sodomy trial were relatively less compared with the first, which saw continual demonstrations during the trial, the duo argued that the political scenario has changed significantly in the past decade.

ops scorpene dinner 220711 tian chua"Because now the people are clear on what they want to do. This time they see clearly what they can do through the ballot box. They will express their protest through the ballot," said Surendran.

This was echoed by Tian (left) who said that back in 1998, Malaysians did not believe that change could be done through votes, but the perception had completely changed after the 2008 general polls.

In addition, many of those who led the demonstrations then are now occupied with their duties as state government officials or lawmakers, the Batu MP added.

Tian was one of the activists leading the Reformasi movement in 1998 and a founder of Parti Keadilan Nasional, later known as PKR.

Surendran expected the support to Anwar will be greater than it was in the late 1990s because the Reformasi movement then only involved the Malays, but now the struggle of PKR and Pakatan has cut across all ethnic groups.

However, Tian, who was once PKR strategy director, was of the view that Umno and BN president Najib Abdul Razak would prefer Anwar to be freed by the court.

"Since the Bersih 2.0 demonstration, Najib has been trying to portray himself as a reformist through the issues of electoral reform, implementation of indelible ink and reforming assembly rights.

"But he will have to risk the backlash from Umno conservatives and (former prime minister Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad)," he said.

Najib could strike a balance, Tian observed, if the court convicts Anwar but allows him out on bail until after the general election.

"If BN obtains a marginal victory in the general election, jailing Anwar will hamstring the opposition's influence; if BN wins big, acquitting him will not harm BN," he said.

Sympathy votes

Some political pundits held the same view that it is better for Najib to fight Pakatan in the 13th general election without the factor of sympathy votes resulting from Anwar's conviction.

NONE"Without sympathy votes, the opposition is only left with the issue of corruption, but Najib can easily counter that by dropping or charging several leaders such as (Umno Wanita chief) Shahrizat (Abdul Jalil) (left) and announcing more cosmetic reforms.

"By doing that, he can regain a few percent of the voters in the middle ground," said an observer.

On whether Najib or Umno think that having Anwar in jail will handicap the leadership or administration of Pakatan such as the ongoing seat negotiations, both Surendran and Tian disagreed.

According to them, the impact of Anwar's imprisonment to the opposition coalition will be minimal as the preparation for the general election is almost complete.

"Of course there will be some problems but they are not major... Pakatan is functioning better than it was before 2008. The structure of an alternative government is clearly in place," said Surendran.



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