Friday, July 18, 2008

Alas, truth no longer matters in Anwar case

It doesn't require the skills of a master political scientist to predict how the Anwar Ibrahim scandal is going to develop. For those who've been living in remote caves, that's the Malaysian opposition supremo and ex-deputy premier who's been arrested (and released on bail) in connection with a sodomy investigation, and who alleges that the whole business is a conspiracy to short-circuit his drive to power.

Chances are, lurid details will surface. We are going out on a limb and predicting that there might even be video footage of some sort - grainy and indistinct, to be sure - along with DNA evidence and depositions by supposed witnesses. Anwar's ex-aide, 23-year-old Saiful Bukhari Azlan, claims that he was sexually assaulted by his 60-year-old boss in a luxury condominium. On the one hand, we're happy that our Sonny is far too young to get caught up in the descent to indecency that is imminent. On the other hand, he's missing out on one heck of a comedy.

Comedy, you say? Isn't all this deadly serious - since Anwar is heading up a clutch of parties that did so well in recent elections, the defection of a few parliamentarians might lead to a changeover in top management? Well, it's just that - whatever happens next - most people's view of what actually transpired in that condominium (if anything did) isn't going to change.

The problem, of course, is that we've been through all this before. A decade ago, Anwar was put on trial for sodomy and - to cut a very long story short -ultimately freed. Anyway, there was testimony then too by alleged victims and confessions later recanted, yuckily-stained mattresses and supposed assignations in buildings that mysteriously weren't even up yet. The upshot of all this is that a large segment of the Malaysan population has a built-up belief that tarring Anwar with sodomy is all part of a cutthroat political game.

And now that it's happening again? Well, so what if DNA evidence comes out, or X-rated footage? Whatever the details, it can all be said to be a set-up. Faked or planted or tweaked or re-enacted. We all know that digital magic is possible. It has already emerged that Anwar's accuser met up with the Deputy Premier before the whole farce began. It's all about appearances, folks. Whether high-level conspiracy is actually going on is totally immaterial. The possibility has been burned so deeply into the Malaysian (and international) psyche that the credibility of any case against Anwar will never match up.

What's to do, then? Well, with Sonny blisfully unaware, we are going to enjoy the whole drama. A lot of honest and hardworking police officers are going to be involved in the case. Plenty of upright and honest citizens from all political persuasions will marshal their arguments (along with, no doubt, more dubious characters peddling chicanery of some sort or another). We'll laugh and gasp and express shock. Perhaps, ultimately, Anwar will be packed off to jail. Or maybe he'll magick up a victory and finally enter Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya in triumph.

Whichever is the scenario that finally comes true, the truth or otherwise of the sodomy claims will not make a jot of difference.