Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Anwar flip-flop?

An Anwar flip-flop?

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim gave conflicting signals about his planned move to topple the government as he appeared in court for a hearing on a sodomy case.

He was initially quoted as saying that his self-declared Sept 16 deadline could be postponed but then changed tack after appearing in court, telling reporters it was -very much- on track.

The hearing itself turned into an anti-climax, with proceedings adjourned to Sept 24 to allow the defence to argue against the prosecution's move to transfer the case from the Sessions Court to the High Court where, according to Anwar's supporters, it would be easier to manipulate.

Anwar was charged last month after one of his former aides, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, 23, lodged a police report, alleging that he had been sexually assaulted by the opposition leader in an upscale condominium in Kuala Lumpur. Anwar has denounced the charge as a conspiracy to thwart his plans to take over the government.

The transfer order was signed by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, whom Anwar claims fabricated evidence in a previous sodomy trial in 1998 shortly after he was sacked as deputy prime minister. Anwar was convicted on the charge but this was later overturned on appeal.

The defence yesterday argued that Abdul Gani should not be involved in the current case because Anwar had filed a police report against him and police chief Tan Sri Musa Hassan in July for allegedly tampering with evidence in connection with the previous trial.

Anwar's lawyers also argued that the Prime Minister had decided that both the Attorney-General and the police chief should take not part in the latest case.

-This is a trial by ambush. How could they allow a person who has a personal bias, enmity and hatred towards me to make a decision at my expense?- Anwar told reporters after the hearing.

Sessions Court judge Komathy Suppiah made the rare decision of adjourning the hearing for two weeks to allow the defence time to research its case against the transfer order.

Instructions from the Attorney-General are not usually disputed, and government prosecutor Yusof Zainal Abidin objected, saying it was -a public interest case-.

Defence counsel Sulaiman Abdullah argued there was no need to move the case, pointing out that judge Komathy, with 26 years of experience on the Bench, was capable of presiding over the trial.

Talk about Anwar's bail being revoked yesterday also proved unfounded. The issue was not raised in court, which means he will remain free on the personal bond granted when he was charged on Aug 7.

Security measures for the hearing were almost unprecedented, with dozens of police and water cannons on standby at the court complex. Journalists had to register at three different places and go through a metal detection scan before being allowed to enter the courtroom.

Anwar was greeted by 100 opposition supporters when he arrived at the Jalan Duta court complex, accompanied by his wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and two daughters.

The opposition leader later told reporters that he was on target for the Sept 16 takeover of the federal government through the defections of 30 Barisan Nasional backbenchers. This is despite the BN sending the bulk of its backbenchers on an overseas junket to Taiwan until next week.

Anwar acknowledged there were -technical problems- but said he would deal with it.

-If need be, I'll fly to Taiwan,- he said.

-Hopefully in this blessed month, Malaysians will achieve freedom and fuel prices will go down,' he said, referring to Ramadan and his pledge to lower fuel prices if he comes into power.

Anwar was speaking after The Star yesterday quoted him as saying that the deadline may not be met.

-We definitely have sufficient numbers (of MPs), but we would have to wait first as they are currently "enjoying Ramadan" in Taiwan... the date can be postponed even though our target was Sept 16 previously.-

The deadline is turning out to be a high-stakes game, in more ways than one.

Social science lecturer Sivamurugan Pandian from Universiti Sains Malaysia said: -Personally, I don't think he has the numbers. Is it a bluff? People will question his credibility if Sept 16 comes and goes. Is it just a tactic to weaken Umno? Or his personal agenda?

-Even if he has the numbers, it might not be a strong and stable government; it might be fragile. There will be political instability, as BN will never allow them to simply take over,- he told The Straits Times. Straits Times Singapore

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