National and international crisis and turmoils like the Iraq war, the post-Saddam world and the SARS outbreak should be a powerful reminder to Malaysians of the importance of national unity and the need for the process of national healing of divisions in the country, starting with the release of Anwar Ibrahim and the reformasi activists
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The national and international crisis and turmoils, like the Iraq war, the post-Saddam world and the SARS outbreak should be a powerful reminder to Malaysians of the importance of national unity to face a perilous new international order and the need for the process of national healing of divisions in the country, starting with the release of former deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the reformasi activists from detention.
Tomorrow, the Court of Appeal will deliver judgment on Anwar’s appeals against his second conviction and nine-year jail sentence on sodomy, having completed serving the six-year jail sentence of his first conviction on corruption on Monday, 14th April 2003.
Under the second conviction and sentence, Anwar will be in jail until 2012 or with the customary one-third remission for good behaviour, until April 14, 2009, followed by a five-year disenfranchisement of his civil and political rights – i.e. until April 14, 2014, when Anwar would be 67.
Nothing could do the nation a greater good than a historic decision by the Court of Appeal tomorrow with Anwar walking out of court as a free man, to be followed not by a more fractious and divisive chapter in Malaysian history but a deliberate and statesmanlike process of national healing involving all political forces in the country, based on the principles of justice, equity, freedom, democracy and good governance.
The time has also come for the unconditional release of the reformasi activists, Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor, Tian Chua, Saari Sungib, Lokman Noor Adam, Dr Badrul Amin and Hishamuddin Rais as it is not just the overwhelming majority of Malaysians, but even the Suhakam and the Internal Security Act (ISA) Advisory Board, both appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, who do not believe that they are threats to national security and should be detained under the ISA.
When the reformasi activists were first arrested under the ISA two years ago, Suhakam issued a statement after a special meeting on 11th April 2001 calling for their immediate release, declaring: “If they have committed any offence, they should be charged and tried in an open court”.
On 17th September 2002, after the Federal Court decided in the habeas corpus application of the reformasi activists that the police had acted mala fide in detaining them under the ISA, Suhakam issued a statement calling on the Home Minister to review their ISA detentions.
Last Thursday, Suhakam issued its report on the "Review of the Internal Security Act 1960", calling for the repeal of ISA, and endorsed the two fundamental objections to the ISA, viz:
The ISA Advisory Board, on its part, had recommended last December for the release of the reformasi activists.
The claim by Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin in the Dewan Rakyat that the government was not bound by the recommendations made either by the Advisory Board or Suhakam on ISA detentions, without giving any reasons for overriding these recommendations, are symptomatic of both arrogance of power and a governance which is uninformed either by the principles of accountability or a commitment to the rule of law.
Anwar and the reformasi activists should be restored their personal liberties and be permitted to fully participate in a process of national reconciliation to strengthen the national unity and resilience of a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia to better face the perils of an unstable and dangerous post-Saddam world.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman