I WROTE THIS ON THE 4TH OF SEPTEMBER 2004 – THE STAR ONLINE
THERE is never a wrong time to stand up for the right thing. I wish to express my admiration for the learned judges who preferred to err on the side of caution and to free Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
I have taught legal philosophy to many students over the last 20 years. In recent years it has become a purely academic exercise for me. It is when practice meets principle that the legal system begins to come alive and be real to the man in the street. Since Anwar’s conviction, it became impossible to defend some of these principles – the most cardinal of which is the “presumption of innocence.” Many reconciled the position and earlier decisions on the basis of political reality and expediency – I could not.
I have always been of the belief that the law provides an independent test of guilt or innocence – it is not based on truth (since often, the truth is pliable), it is based on evidence. This is the principle upheld by the Federal Court in Anwar’s case. When I read of Anwar’s acquittal yesterday, I found myself believing in the legal system once again.
The rule of law requires the subjection of every individual within the legal system to the same rules of evidence, the same burden of proof – the drug pusher, the murderer, the snatch thief, the sodomist and anyone else accused of a crime. I do not know whether Anwar committed the crime of which he stood accused, but in my mind the allegations were not proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is the standard we set in a court of law, or else, anyone can be imprisoned purely on belief, speculation and conjecture.
The legal system is not judged on the hundreds and thousands of cases justly and fairly tried but on those occasions when it falters. It is okay to falter, provided we have the courage to pick ourselves up and put it right.
The great American judge Learned Hand said half a century ago in Central Park, New York: “Liberty … lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.”
Another great English judge, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, said: “It is so easy to destroy the ancient trees of liberty; so difficult to replace them once they have been cut down.”
Today, we have shown the world that liberty is alive and well in Malaysia. God bless Malaysia.
I AM AFRAID THESE SENTIMENTS ARE IN SERIOUS DANGER OF BECOMING OBSOLETE GIVEN THE CURRENT REVISITATION OF THE SAME INJUSTICE AGAINST ANWAR.