Letter to the Editor

by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday):

Datuk A. Kadir Jasin,
9th May 1997
New Straits Times


Issue is misuse of AG’s discretionary powers of prosecution and not about independence of judiciary or government interference with the courts

I refer to your column "Other Thots" in the New Sunday Times of May 4, 1997 pertaining to the conviction and sentencing of DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng for offences under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act and the RM15,000 fine entailing his disqualification as a Member of Parliament.

You referred to my speech in Parliament questioning the "AG’s bias and malice in the pattern of selective prosecutions and victimisation of critics of the Government, whether from the DAP like Guan Eng or Irene Fernandez of Tenaganita".

You said this tactic could backfire "because even the Government and political parties affiliated to it had been repeatedly taken to court and found guilty". To back up your argument, you also referred to the case where the court declared UMNO an unlawful organisation.

Your column has been most misleading as the issue I had raised was about the AG’s misuse of his discretionary powers on prosecution and not about the independence of the judiciary or government interference with the courts.

Let me clarify that I had at no time questioned or challenged the decision of the Malacca High Court finding Guan Eng guilty of the offences of sedition and publishing false news. I may not agree with the judgement of the Court but I fully accept that any challenge of its decision must be made at the Court of Appeal, which Guan Eng has done.

Furthermore, I had not questioned or challenged the Prime Minister, the Cabinet or the Barisan Nasional Government for the decision to prosecute Lim Guan Eng for sedition and publishing false news under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, for under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution, the decision to "initiate, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence" is at the sole discretion of the Attorney-General, which cannot be influenced by anyone, whether the Prime Minister or the Yang di Pertuan Agong.

I will adhere to the letter of the law in the Constitution unless there is evidence that the series of highly controversial decisions of the Attorney-General, Datuk Mohtar Abdullah involving abuse of his prosecutorial discretionary powers were the result of the influence of the political masters.

To sum up, following the judgment on Guan Eng’s case, I had not, whether inside or outside Parliament, questioned the independence of the judiciary or the interference with the discretionary powers of the Attorney-General by the Prime Minister or the Barisan Nasional Government. I had directed solely at the Attorney-General, Datuk Mohtar Abdullah’s series of highly controversial decisions when exercising his discretionary powers of prosecution.

I had referred to several of these highly controversial decisions in Parliament last week,when I questioned the Attorney-General in the exercise of his discretionary powers such as the withdrawal of corruption charges against Jeffrey Kitingan after he defected from the Opposition to Barisan Nasional; the withdrawal of the Police Act charge of unlawful assembly against Yong Teck Lee which, on conviction, would have entailed his automatic disqualification as Sabah State Assemblyman and denial of his opportunity to become Sabah Chief Minister to a charge under the Penal Code; the failure to charge former Malacca Chief Minister, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Cik although 14 others were charged on the uncorroborated evidence of the underaged girl for statutory rape; the provision of a very light alternative charge under the Penal Code for the four UMNO Youth leaders who rioted and broke up the APCET II Conference in Kuala Lumpur last November, as the original charge under the Police Act would have disqualified one UMNO Assemblyman in Perak and ended the political careers of three UMNO Youth leaders.

The defence of the Constitution to uphold the integrity of the office of the Attorney-General to ensure that there is no misuse of the discretionary powers under Article 145(3) to "initiate, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence" leading to selective prosecution against the Opposition and NGOs and to hold the Attorney-General to public accountability for the exercise of his discretionary powers of prosecution is a matter of great public interest and should be discussed by the mass media in a fair, balanced and responsible manner without introducing of misleading, irrelevant or extraneous issues, like the independence of the judiciary or whether the government had interfered with the judicial process in Guan Eng’s case.

I hope you could be so kind as to publish the above clarification as your column is extremely misleading and it is only fair that the record be put straight.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Lim Kit Siang
Ketua Pembangkang/
DAP Secretary-General


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong