Irene Fernandez: The Best or Worst of Malaysia?

I got in touch recently with Suzette Martinez Standring, the author of the Art of Column Writing. The book is amazing, and you should get it.

Anywa, during our correspondence, I introduced her to the Irene Fernandez court case. You can read her excellent column in full here.

Here’s an excerpt:

Statements from five key prosecution witnesses and all of the 21 defense witnesses have gone missing. A computer virus wiped out hearing notes.

Over 1,700 pages of trial records were missing. A massive re-typing of notes was undertaken, and content was still awaiting transcription as of August 2008. Currently 3,648 pages are divided into eight volumes. Judge Apandi has ordered the appeal to move forward despite any illegible or incomplete notes. The Criminal High Court should dismiss this case due to an inaccurate trial transcript and reconstituted court records. But when a case is high profile, politics can come into play, and not just in Malaysia. (Sometime look into the case of People of California v. Caryl Chessman, a criminal who was a controversial critic of the justice system. His execution for kidnapping was based on a law that was later repealed and an incomplete trial transcript.)

But Fernandez is no criminal. She is the teller of uncomfortable truths, with a long activist history in protesting abuses and enacting reforms. In 2005, she earned the Right Livelihood Award, often called the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for “… for her outstanding and courageous work to stop violence against women and abuses of migrant and poor workers.”…

Now that is a recognition of which Malaysia should be proud. Conversely, the country should publicly decry those who practice or support abuse and corruption through the manipulation of its laws.

Suzette Martinez Standring is syndicated with GateHouse News Service. She is the author of The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists. She writes humor, religion and lifestyle columns. She is a past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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