(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): On April 1, 1998, I was shocked beyond belief when the Court of Appeal judge Gopal Sri Ram announced the fate of Lim Guan Eng, declaring that "It is time that the court sends a clear message that it cannot tolerate any attack on the judiciary", dismissed Guan Eng’s appeals against conviction and sentence on the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act charges and allowed the Attorney-General’s cross-appeals by enhancing the sentences to 36 months jail.
This was because Guan Eng never attacked the judiciary. All he did was to respond to the pleas for help of a Malay grandmother, Pendek Ahmad, who had nowhere to turn to fight for the human rights and women’s rights of her underaged granddaughter against the powerful and mightly Malacca Chief Minister at the time, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik.
Four days later I was again shocked beyond belief when I read in the press of a claim that Court of Appeal judge Gopal Sri Ram had been misquoted with reference to the remark that "it will not tolerate any attack on the judiciary", as I was in the packed court on April 1 and distinctly heard Sri Ram’s statement when he announced the Court of Appeal’s decision.
The 36-months’ sentence handed down on Guan Eng has created a nation-wide shockwave of disbelief and outrage for there is something wrong in a system where a Member of Parliament who went to the defence of the weak and helpless against the strong, mighty and powerful have to go to jail for 36 months, the underaged girl herself had to undergo detention while the real accused completely free.
The Guan Eng case has brought to the fore fundamental public interest issues such as:
This is the 10th anniversary of the worst judicial crisis in Malaysian history in 1988 and Malaysia has not recovered from the worst assault on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in the past decade. On the contrary, the Malaysia judiciary had been tottering from one crisis of confidence to another, and there is now a new crisis of confidence in the judiciary.
There is public disbelief, shock and outrage at the 36-month sentence on Guan Eng because there is such a vast disparity between what the ordinary Malaysians perceive as justice in the battle in the defence for the human rights and women rights of the Malay underaged girl versus Rahim Tamby Chik and the justice administered by the courts.
We are gathered here not just for Lim Guan Eng, but also for justice, truth, freedom and our beloved Malaysian nation.
Let the public outrage over Lim Guan Eng’s 36-month jail sentence become a national force for justice and freedom in Malaysia. Yes, we want to save Lim Guan Eng from prison if we can, but we also want to save democracy and to save Malaysia.