KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — Former US vice-president Al Gore has once more rallied to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s defence, accusing Putrajaya of influencing judges to reverse the Malaysian opposition leader’s sodomy acquittal in a move to kill the latter’s political career.
Gore, who had 15 years ago made a similar claim when Anwar was first charged with sodomy, linked the latest court ruling to the March 23 Kajang by-election.
The American emphatically said the PKR adviser would have easily won and provided him “serious leverage” to push for reform in Malaysia were he not preempted from running by the Court of Appeal’s five-year jail conviction.
“It is extremely disturbing that the government of Malaysia—by continuing to press this case beyond the bounds of reason, let alone the bounds of justice - has used the courts to short-circuit the political process,” Gore said in a statement published earlier this week on his website, Al’s Journal.
“The court, by accelerating its calendar, reached its verdict in a rush - early enough to prevent Anwar from running in the election. The calendar of events is itself a contextual indictment of the decision,” he added.
Gore, who was US vice-president from January 1993 to January 2001, has long been critical of the Malaysian government, particularly over its treatment of Anwar in the courts.
He had nearly caused a diplomatic row with in 1998 when he bluntly accused the government of suppressing freedom of speech during Anwar’s first sodomy trial, while in the country for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, which Malaysia hosted.
In his speech at the start of the economic meeting of Pacific Rim nations, Gore alluded to a lack of legitimacy in Malaysian democracy that lead to the Reformasi movement in support of Anwar.
Gore was roundly slammed by Malaysian officials, with the then-Foreign Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi calling the US leader’s speech a “gross interference in the internal affairs of the country and a brazen violation of the basic tenets of relations between sovereign states.”
His speech was also largely blamed for getting that year’s APEC meeting - held at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis - off the wrong foot, with no concrete deals struck between the participating nations after two days of intense negotiations.
On Anwar’s Sodomy II trial, Gore said it would be expected that the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the former deputy prime minister’s acquittal would draw speculation by “reasonable friends of Malaysia” that the judiciary is “influenced by the political fear of, and intimidation by, the individuals now in control of executive power”.
Gore stressed that the ruling would also cause a huge dent in the integrity of Malaysia’s Parliament, should its members accept the court’s decision as legitimate.
“In short, future prospects for accomplishing meaningful and necessary change on behalf of the people of Malaysia would be seriously depreciated if the capricious and slanderous imprisonment of an individual who has a universally respected understanding and affinity for the democratic process throughout the world is tolerated.
“His pending appeal offers what could be a last chance for Malaysia to make things right. The stakes for Malaysia could hardly be higher. Please do not be deceived. The eyes of the world are focused on what will come next,” Gore said.