"Anwar: The Will of Man Is Stronger Than Iron Bars"

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If I shall be condemn'd/Upon surmises, all proofs sleeping else/But what your jealousies awake, I tell you/'Tis rigor and not law.
--The Winter's Tale
Like Hermione of Shakespearean fame, I was tried on trumped-up charges. Behind the mask of the law, apparatus of state were deployed to fabricate evidence. Individuals were bribed and coerced to bear false witness.Hermione had recourse to Apollo's oracle, but we are too far removed from Delphos in time and religious context. In any case, truth had no meaning in my trial. So what good would spiritual counsel have done? Even if Apollo himself were to speak for my innocence, our judge would have declared him irrelevant. Thus, while Hermione's accuser must blush in shame, my accusers are now filled with shameless glee.

I was tried in a court which, from the very beginning, had its scales of justice tilted to favor my persecutor. There was no trial, only the commitment to punish me.

Still I believe the dedicated and spirited efforts of my counsel have not been futile. Seven months of heroism have not been a waste. I knew that the show would proceed to its predictable end, with injustice finally handed down. But in the process, the prosecution case was exposed as a sham and the conspiracy became the object of scorn and ridicule. As I said in the courtroom after the verdict was announced, the judgment stinks to high heaven, and the sentence shows, to a degree greater than even I had imagined, that the ruling clique indeed has nothing but utter contempt for justice and even common sense.

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But tyrants are always the last to know that the world around them has changed. The courthouse was barricaded against citizens eager to hear the final judgment, to prevent the people from coming close--allowing the media to pronounce the presence of only 200 supporters. Yet, from the courtroom I could hear the reverberating chants of reformasi.

My trial has opened the public's eyes to the venality of the ruling clique and has given a clear illustration of its method against political enemies. I was accused of corruption, but the Attorney General did not bring an iota of evidence that I used my position to enrich myself or my family. Meanwhile, there is a real and rampant corruption across the land, infecting the nation and eating up its very vitals: the institutions that are supposed to be sacrosanct. It is galvanizing all the reform forces in Malaysia. And the political landscape is set to change.
For decades, Malaysia seemed to be a paragon of common sense among developing nations. There were weaknesses, but the country was economically and politically progressing. The people were responding to the changing global environment and there was a commitment to change and to reform. But the Asian economic crisis came as a shocking reminder that reform, by its very nature, cannot be implemented at leisure. Corrupt practices must be stamped out with drive and vigor. Transparency must replace shady dealings, such as when family and friends form an incestuous business network to hijack opportunities. And, most important of all, the body social and politic must be open and democratic. A modern nation cannot prosper under the iron thumb of an authoritarian ruler abetted by servile courtiers. Instead of a strong leader, we need a strong society, an active citizenry jealously guarding justice and freedom from all forms of encroachment and aggression, from the will of politicians and the greed of corporations. A nation cannot reach its full adulthood without a functioning democracy, a vibrant press being one of its crucial components. Otherwise the will of the people will not be translated into policies.

What we have in Malaysia today is a truncated democracy, like a body cut off from the sap of life. The interest of a few billionaires has supplanted the interest of the majority. They are the albatross hung around the nation's neck. They are the iron balls chained to the economy, impeding reform and speedy recovery.

My enemies think my incarceration will demoralize the movement toward a living democracy, but they live in a delusion of their own manufacture. Malaysia is at a strategic inflection point, with the forces of reform and the forces reacting against them hanging in the balance. The forces of reaction have arrayed, illegitimately, the apparatus of the state in order to perpetuate business as usual. But like the old imperialists, they will be overwhelmed by the courage swelling in the people.

In the final analysis, mine is not a winter's tale of woe. I believe the will of man is stronger than the iron bars of prison. Its spirit, winged, shall rise high to fly freely across space and time. It shall meet and converse with the great minds and noble souls of the past, to lay down the golden path for the future.

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia' former Deputy Prime Minister, wrote this from prison shortly after receiving a six-year sentence for corruption

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