Why national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan escaped for committing statutory rape

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By Jeswan Kaur

When the Court of Appeal decided it was “right” to allow national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan to walk free from his five-year jail term for committing statutory rape three years ago, the court did what the women’s groups have always feared – the court’s chauvinistic attitude resulted in the demise of justice for the rape survivor concerned.Many a times, rape survivors who manage to muster the courage and drag their perpetrators to court are left disappointed after their cases are thrown out due to lack of evidence or worst still, because the presiding judge has a sexist mindset or he or she failed to understand the issue of rape.

In the present case, the court’s failure to execute justice has proved that the judiciary needs to be cleared of such minds who manipulate justice for the sake of personal convictions.

A real shame that the judges allowed a rapist to roam free all because they think the perpetrator, Noor Afzal, has a bright future as a bowler. So appeal judges decided to entertain Noor Afzal’s appeal on the basis that public interest would not be served if the bowler was jailed as the latter had a bright future as a bowler.

Noor Afizal conveniently had his jail term replaced with an order which bound him over for good behaviour for five years. Should he breach the order, his bailor would have to pay RM25,000.

This Aug 7, 2012 “happy ending” for Noor Afzal is not welcomed by the public. What precedent is the court hoping to set by overturning the Malacca High Court’s decision to jail the bowler for a crime he had confessed to?

On the issue of his bright future as a bowler, both the three-judge appeal panel should have worried about it before the crime was committed.

Noor Afzal was 18 when he raped the girl, then 13, at a hotel in Ayer Keroh, Malacca, on June 5, 2009.

Noor Afizal, now 21, represented Negeri Sembilan between 2004 and 2010 and later the nation in the National Youth Category for five years between 2004 and 2008. He is expected to represent Kedah in several upcoming tournaments.

Noor Afzal’s “escape” from the law has DAP legal chief Gobind Singh Deo fuming. Gobind, a lawyer and Puchong MP, wants Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail to call for a review on the Court of Appeal’s judgment with regard to the national bowler.

“The decision must be reviewed preferably by a full bench of the Court of Appeal to determine its correctness, regularity and legality,” said Gobind.

Gobind is wondering whether the AG’s office had agreed to bind Noor Afizal and whether plea bargaining was involved.

“Did her or his office agree to an order to bind [Noor Afzal] over in the Sessions Court, to begin with?” asked Gobind.

Like all concerned parties, Gobind is unhappy as the verdict has sent out the wrong message to potential criminals, making the deterrent ineffective.

“This is further compounded by the remarks allegedly made by the court that a custodial sentence would have a negative impact upon the ‘bright future’ of the accused involved,” Gobind lamented.

Respect women, stop the politics

Gobind wants the Court of Appeal to make public the reasons that paved the way for the bowler’s appeal. Rightfully so, the rakyat deserves to know what made the court agree to let a rapist off the hook.

Be it rape or sexual harassment, it should not be downplayed because of the politics involved. The court should not use “consensual sex” as an excuse to set the perpetrator free.

Does the country’s leadership have no respect for women that it continues to treat issues of sexual violations against women lightly, as evident too in the case of the Penan women and girls?

If former Israeli president Moshe Katsav was convicted of two accounts of rape, sexual harassment and indecent acts on Dec 30, 2010, what is stopping the so-called big-wigs of this country from paying for sexually assaulting women?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when commenting on the sentencing of Katsav, said the conviction marked a “sad day for the state of Israel and its residents”.

The premier added that the conviction sent out two clear-cut messages, “that all are equal before the law and every woman has exclusive rights to her body. – KL-Today