The father of the political aide who claimed he had been sodomized by Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has confessed that his son was used by officials close to Prime Minister Najib Razak to defame Anwar.
“I deeply regret all the slander hurled against Anwar which involved my son, Saiful Bukhari. Anwar is innocent and a victim of this slander. I apologise to Anwar and his family. He and his family have suffered a lot as a result of this slander,” Azlan Mohd Lazim told a press conference on Friday.
A sign from God to go for change?
Azlan was a staunch Umno member who had stood by his son, frequently chiding Anwar for having abused Saiful and demanding justice from the authorities. It is not clear if Azlan is still an Umno member.
However, it must be noted that Anwar has already been acquitted by the High Court of the sodomy charges that he said were manifestly fabricated to stop him from advancing in his political career.
Sodomy is punishable under Malaysian law with imprisonment of up to 20 years and homosexuality is banned by Islam. The charges, if they had stuck, would have destroyed Anwar's career and bring to a halt the gains made by his Pakatan Rakyat coalition of PKR, PAS and DAP parties.
In 1998, former premier Mahathir Mohmad too had used the sodomy card to jail Anwar for 6 years before the Federal Court - the highest court in the country - overturned the charges and freed Anwar.
Whatever his motivation, Azlan's confession is a great boost for Anwar as the country hurtles headlong into its 13th general election.
"To me, this is a sign from God, a blessing for the change that must take place for Malaysia to heal itself and pull back from the brink of evil. This may sound dramatic but it is clear that the Umno-BN government has lost track of the right path. Their top leaders can no longer separate good from evil. They think nothing of launching conspiracies like Sodomy I and II just to cling to power, and some say even the Lahad Datu intrusion is a conspiracy," Tan Kee Kwong, a senior PKR leader and the head of its disciplinary committee, told Malaysia Chronicle.
"Even though the courts have found Anwar innocent - not just once but twice - the taint and whispers still weigh on the conservative in our society, especially among the Muslims and the women community. Hopefully, they will accept the truth and no longer be diverted by ruthless political tactics, where religion and the fear of homosexuality are used to tarnish a person's integrity."
PM is involved: Who helped him?
According to the 60-year-old Azlan, all of his media statements as well as Saiful's were prepared by a lawyer and an official from the PM's office.
“They are the masterminds behind all the sodomy slander against Anwar, which involved my son. I have never been contacted by any quarters to obtain my statement as his father from the beginning to the end of the trial,” said Azlan.
He also said Saiful never told him of the sodomy and that he had learned about it from the government-controlled mass media. Neither has the government - the police or the Attorney-General Chambers - met him or asked for his opinion about the sodomy case.
All eyes are now on the identities of the lawyer and the official in the PM's office who had directed the Sodomy II script.
Despite the infamy the case has brought to Malaysia, with even international tycoons like Richard Branson condemning the government's persecution of Anwar, the Attorney-General had appealed the acquittal, arguing that Saiful was entitled to justice.The case is due to be heard on July 22.
Saiful was not present at the press conference. Azlan said he does not plan to urge his son to withdraw the appeal or to drop any charges.
“It is up to my son to evaluate the situation and decide for himself. I do not want to comment on the court case (Court of Appeal) which is still ongoing... but what I revealed today is on voluntary basis,” said Azlan.
Too many lies: Umno has lost the trust of the Malays
Azlan admitted he was now a supporter of the Pakatan Rakyat, saying he had decided to unveil the truth after having collected information during the course of the trial.
“Actually I don't believe the allegations made against Anwar...everything was so carefully planned and executed (by the official)," said Azlan.
“As a Malay and a Muslim, I started to realize the evil of this plan. I don't want to continue to conspire with this malicious slander. I want the people who love this country to know their malicious intention. If this malicious intention continues, not only the Malays and Muslims would be destroyed, but the nation would be destroyed as well. I do not want to see this happen."
Azlan's final words reflected a surprisingly sharp U-turn in his political outlook, a further indication that perhaps the era of the Umno-BN's authoritarian and bullying regime was nearing an end after 55 years.
“Let us pray to Allah to win the struggle of Anwar and Pakatan to take over the government in the 13th general election,” Azlan said in concluding his statement.