Reporting from Kuala Lumpur
The “malicious prosecution” that was visited upon him and his family should serve as a reminder to Malaysia’s leaders to guard against the abuse of power, said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim at the launch of a new book on his life over the past two decades.
“This book should be a lesson, in history, in law, but more so… that we should not allow ever, ever the courts or authorities to abuse their position and continue in any manner or form, oppression, selective prosecutions and selective denial of basic rights to any man or woman in this country,” he said on Sunday (26 August) during the official release of “Anwar Returns: The Final Twist”.
“I’m not ever going to compromise when it comes to the issue of freedom and justice,” added the 71-year-old, who was released from prison in May after receiving a royal pardon for his sodomy conviction and now heads the leading party in the nation’s ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
Anwar, who is set to eventually succeed Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister, also called for immediate “remedial action” in order to protect those charged under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), a controversial anti-terrorism law.
He added that he knew of people in Sungai Buloh Prison, where he was once detained, who have embarked on a fast to protest the treatment of prisoners held under SOSMA.
“The new law is far worse in terms of treating prisoners than the Internal Security Act… Those who are protesting… must be given adequate safeguard of their rights,” he said, while addressing over 300 guests attending the book’s launch event the Hilton Kuala Lumpur.
Penned by Australian Queen’s Counsel Mark Trowell, the book details the twists and turns in Anwar’s prosecution from when he was first charged with sodomy in September 1998 to his royal pardon 20 years later.
“Anwar Ibrahim is innocent of the charge of which he was convicted. That’s not a statement based on emotion. It’s based on the evidence,” said Trowell, who has now written three books on Anwar. The criminal lawyer was an independent observer during Anwar’s second sodomy trial in 2010.
Trowell called his latest book “an ode to (Anwar’s) 20 year struggle for justice”.
The father of six was imprisoned for a total of 10 and a half years over three stints in prison from 1999. He also endured beatings, solitary confinement and was not allowed to run for office for several years.
Those present at the book’s launch included Anwar’s wife Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah, Members of Parliament and foreign dignitaries.
Also speaking at the event was Sangeet Kaur Deo, daughter of the late opposition politician and lawyer Karpal Singh. Her father had acted for Anwar during the latter’s second sodomy trial.
Kaur, who was also on Anwar’s defence team, charged that he had been imprisoned at the hands of a “puppet-like judiciary” and the “shameless Barisan Nasional government”.
“The current administration must really must set things right. Respecting the rule of law is far more than lip service,” she said.
“(This book) documents the journey of a nation through this man who fought against all odds in the name of justice and freedom,” added Kaur.