DAPís strongest possible protest against Mahathirís most shocking statement which can only be construed as his endorsement of the conviction and 36-month jail sentence for Lim Guan Eng and his opposition to Guan Engís appeal to quash the conviction and sentence


Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): DAP wishes the lodge the strongest possible protest against the most shocking statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday about the Court of Appealís 36 monthsí jail sentence for DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, for Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act charges.

Mahathirís statement can only be construed as his endorsement of the conviction and 36-month jail sentence for Lim Guan Eng and his opposition to Guan Engís appeal to quash the conviction and sentence at the Federal Court, and considering his position as Prime Minister who had not brooked an independent judiciary in the country in the worst judicial crisis in the nationís history in 1988, a clear signal to the Federal Court.

Denying that Guan Engís case would erode the freedom of speech in the country, Mahathir said: "There is no erosion of freedom of speech. When you make a baseless allegation, the law must take its course."

If Mahathir is serious in his statement that "When you make a baseless allegation, the law must take its course", then even before Guan Eng was charged with the offence of "false news" under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, Mahathir himself should have been charged under the same offence.

This was because during the April 1995 general elections, Mahathir had publicly, both through electronic and printed media, published the "false news" that I had challenged the Police to arrest me during the start of the DAP general elections campaign in Penang - with top police and government officers echoing the Prime Ministerís threat to arrest me during the general elections for provoking the police.

Three Penang DAP leaders lodged police reports against Mahathir for maliciously publishing "false news" under the Printing Presses and Publications Act for repeatedly and falsely claiming that I had challenged the police to arrest me, but the Attorney-General had not deigned it important to demonstrate that his office does not operate double standards and adhere to the principle "When you make a baseless allegation, the law must take its course".

Why is it that when the Prime Minister made a baseless allegation, the law did not take its course?

This is one reason why Guan Engís prosecution is clearly politically-motivated. The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, has yet to account for a series of highly controversial decisions showing gross abuse of his discretionary powers involving selective prosecution where the law was allowed to take its course as far as the Opposition and the NGOs are concerned, while the law did not take its course as far as Barisan Nasional leaders were concerned, as illustrated in the following cases:

  1. the withdrawal of corruption charges against Jeffrey Kitingan after he defected from the Opposition to Barisan Nasional;
  2. 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 Assemblymen and denial of his opportunity to become Sabah Chief Minister to a charge under the Penal Code;
  3. 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;
  4. 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 in November 1996, 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.

From his statement yesterday, Mahathir has become the strongest defender of the Court of Appealís 36-month jail sentence for Guan Eng. When the Prime Minister has taken a position that Guan Eng deserve 36 monthsí jail sentence, has he made it difficult or even impossible for the Federal Court to fairly and independently exercise its judicial jurisdiction in Guan Engís appeal against both conviction and sentence?

In fact, his further statements have raised even more questions whether the Federal Court could fairly and independently consider Guan Engís appeal without incurring the displeasure of the Prime Minister.

Mahathir, for instance, claimed that there had been cases in the past where courts in Malaysia purposely meted out lenient sentences or did not sentence accused from Opposition parties in efforts to avoid allegations that they were not free.

He said: "On the other hand, they meted out heavy sentences in cases against government members as if to prove that the courts were free."

I am totally at a loss for words at the implications of these remarks by Mahathir. Clearly, I am one of the cases of opposition leaders who had been given "lenient sentences", and Mahathir thinks I should have been jailed and disqualified when I was charged and convicted under the Official Secrets Act in 1977.

Now that Mahathir has made it very clear his position that Guan Eng should be convicted, jailed and disqualified as MP, does Guan Eng stand any chance in his appeal to the Federal Court?

In this connection, Mahathir should cite the cases involving Barisan Nasional leaders where "the courts meted out heavy sentences in cases against government members as if to prove that the courts were free." I cannot for one think of anyone such single case, and if Mahathir cannot cite the actual cases, then it could have only one effect - an undue influence on the Federal Court because of the Prime Ministerís strong position in wanting to see Guan Eng convicted, jailed and disqualified as MP.

Never before in the 40 year history of the nation has a Prime Minister so openly declared his position as to whether an Opposition leader should be convicted, jailed and disqualified - in the midst of the appeal process.

Maybe Mahathir should explain why he is so personally committed to see Guan Eng convicted, jailed and disqualified.

After the Court of Appealís enhancement of Guan Engís sentence from RM15,000 fine to 36 monthsí jail, I do not place any hopes in his appeal to the Federal Court against conviction and sentence.

After Mahathirís shocking statement yesterday declaring the stand of the Prime Minister on the Lim Guan Eng case, that he should be convicted, jailed and disqualified, even the hopes of those who had thought that there might be an outside chance for Guan Eng at the Federal Court would have been quashed.

Be that as it may, it is not only Guan Eng who is on trial, but the whole Malaysian nation is on trial - whether it is a crime for a dedicated and committed Member of Parliament conscientiously and diligently discharging his duties as an elected MP to protect the weak and defenceless and champion the rights of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or gender - in this case to respond to the pleas for help of a Malay grandmother to defend the human rights and women rights of her underaged granddaughter against the then powerful and mighty Chief Minister of Malacca, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Cik?

The 36-month jail sentence for Guan Eng for helping the weak and defenceless against the mighty and powerful has created a crisis of confidence in the system of justice in Malaysia.

In the past few days, many Malaysians have conveyed their sorrow, concern and anguish and asked how they could help.

They could show their sympathy, support and solidarity with Guan Eng in the most trying time of his life. They should also assert their rights to shape the destiny of Malaysia to ensure that the values and concepts of justice, of simple right and wrong, as understood by common Malaysians are also the values and concepts of justice upheld by the system of justice in the country.

To enable Malaysians to show their support, sympathy and solidarity with Guan Eng, a series of "Support, Sympathy and Solidarity" public meetings would be held.

The first one was held in Malacca on Sunday, the the next ones will be:

The various DAP States would convene Special State Membersí meetings on Guan Engís case, starting with Johore on 12th April, Federal Territory on 18th April, Perak on 19th April, Penang on 26th April and Pahang on 3rd May. A national signature campaign of support, sympathy and solidarity with Guan Eng would also be launched.

(7/4/98)


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