by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Petaling Jaya
on Tuesday, 14 January 1997

Call on Attorney-General to declare whether the Government will uphold the legal immunity of Param Cumaraswamy as UN Special Rapporteur

The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, should declare whether the Government respects and upholds the legal immunities and privileges enjoyed by Datuk Param Cumaraswamy as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

It is most unfortunate that the Government has kept silent on this issue although the Director and Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General Office of the Legal Counsel Ralph Zacklin and the Geneva-based Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers had called on the Government to take all necessary action to ensure Param, who is facing a RM60 million defamation suit, is extended all privileges and immunities entitled to him.

As United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Param is mandated by the UN Commission on Human Rights to monitor and investigate violations of legal and judicial independence and to identify the structural defects responsible for them, and is protected under the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

As Malaysia had acceded to this Convention on Oct. 28, 1957, the Government through the Attorney-General should make clear the government position on this issue, so that it would not be an additional item to embarrass Malaysia’s international position and reputation.

Param has been sued by two companies, MBf Capital Bhd., a public-listed company, and MBf Northern Securities Sdn. Bhd. over an article in the International Commercial Litigiation magazine, alleging that Param had defamed them when speaking as UN Special Rapporteur.

The Attorney-General should not allow this issue to drag on indefinitely, with more questions raised in national and international circles as to whether Malaysia respects and upholds the privileges and immunities accorded to a UN Special Rapporteur, which will only intensify new queries and doubts as to the status of the independence, integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary - when many recent queries on this issue had not been satisfactorily disposed of yet.