The Malaysia Insider broke a news by The Wall Street Journal in the Opinion Piece section urging Anwar to plead guilty to civil disobedience to show his disagreement with Najib’s legal reforms. This is one of those times when we wonder what goes on in the heads of such opinion writers who are ill advised and does not know how ridiculous it sounds.
We are not defending Anwar nor justifying his actions but there are fundamental rights he has when facing such charges in court.
First, the WSJ article reads as follows:
But this case is different. Mr. Anwar was practicing civil disobedience, and now he is paying the price. The real verdict will come at the ballot box in the next general election, expected later this year, when voters will get to decide whether Prime Minister Najib Razak’s political reforms are proceeding at an appropriate pace, or Mr. Anwar is right to press for faster change.
A more straightforward way to convince the public that the Peaceful Assembly Act is an unjust law would be to plead guilty and pay the fine ahead of the election. Both sides have to learn to put their faith in the electorate rather than the courts. (read here)
Now, let us point out some flaws in the author’s opinions.
1. Anwar was practicing civil disobedience
This was the prosecution’s charges against him and two others. This is not a matter of fact. The WSJ writer assumed wrongly. Bersih 3.0 attended by over 200,000 is not a civil disobedience. On the contrary, the Home Minister approved it except for the location. He said that Bersih will have no traction with the people and is not a security concern. So where is the civil disobedience element coming from? People were armed with patriotic spirit, songs, water and salt and demanded for a clean and fair election. Where is the civil disobedience?
2. Plead guilty
This is the most ridiculous advice the WSJ writer can suggest. The WSJ coming from the US should uphold civil liberties and know full well one is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Just because Anwar disagrees with Najib’s reforms doesn’t make it right to just plead guilty when one is innocent. The case has yet to be heard so why does the WSJ writer even have the audacity to suggest a guilty plea now? Will he plead guilty to a crime if he is charged just because he disagrees with the prosecutor? There is no logic.
3. Pay the fine
Assuming if Anwar stupidly pleads guilty, did the WSJ writer know that the fine of over RM2,000 will bar him from ever standing for election again? That singular act of stupidity suggested by the WSJ writer cancels out his other suggestion of get over the court case and go for election and fight there. In Malaysia, it will be game over for Anwar before the election. And with the guessing game of When GE13 is happening, Najib is yet to feel very comfortable to calling for it.
The only conclusion we can draw from such an article posited by the WSJ writer is that he is misled to write it and ill informed of the conditions to stand for election in the event of a conviction. This is Malaysia. This is not USA.
We hope that in the future the WSJ will ensure the opinions written are based largely on facts and not myths so that it will not tarnish the credibility of the WSJ.