KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should plead guilty to the charge of taking part in an unlawful street protest if the opposition leader believes his archrival Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reforms are inadequate, says the Wall Street Journal.
The international financial daily wrote in an opinion piece last night that “if Mr. Anwar wants to practise civil disobedience, he can’t pretend to be innocent at the same time.”
“While Mr. Najib deserves credit for his reforms, the opposition also has good reasons to criticise them as inadequate,” it wrote in its Review & Outlook Asia section. “Both sides have to learn to put their faith in the electorate rather than the courts.”
“A more straightforward way to convince the public that the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) is an unjust law would be to plead guilty and pay the fine ahead of the election,” the influential newspaper said.
The PKR de facto leader, his deputy president Azmin Ali and Rembau division chief Badrul Hisham Shaharin were charged on Tuesday with taking part in the April 28 Bersih 3.0 rally under section 4(2)(c) of the PAA which bars street protests.
Prime Minister Najib had said when tabling the law in Parliament last year that it would be “revolutionary” and allow Malaysians to participate in public gatherings “in accordance with international norms.”
They are also charged under the Penal Code with conspiring to disobey the court order and face up to six months’ jail and/or a fine of up to RM2,000.
Anwar and his colleagues pleaded not guilty to both offences, with the charge under the Peaceful Assembly Act carrying a maximum fine of RM10,000.
If Anwar is fined by RM2,000 or more, he will be ineligible to contest elections for five years. Najib must call an election within the year.