Motion of definite public inportance on the new crisis of confidence in the judiciary arising from the Prime Minister’s contempt of court in interfering with the Federal Court appeal in the case of YB MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng

by Lim Kit Siang 

(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): A  motion of definite public importance was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat regarding the  new crisis of confidence in the judiciary arising from the Prime Minister’s contempt of court in interfering with the Federal Court appeal in the case of YB MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng. The motion reads:

'1.  On Tuesday, 6th April  1998, the Prime Minister, YAB Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s made statements about the case of MP for Kota Melaka, which was extensively reported in the loca mass media, both printed and electronic, as for example, the Berita Harian of 7th April 1998 reported:

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

'The Prime Minister’s position is singularly unique because of his pivotal relationship with the judiciary being the most important  person to decide on all judicial  appointments, whether the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judges of the High Courts and other judges of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal and of the High Courts.

'Being the most important person to decide on all judicial appointments and promotions, the Prime Minister’s public position on pending cases would place all judges in the invidious position of going against the Prime Minister and incurring his displeasure - with all the consequences on future appointments and promotions - if they should decide against the expressed wishes of the Prime Minister.

'By making a statement which virtually endorsed the 36-month jail sentence handed down by the Court of Appeal on Guan Eng, and suggesting any other decision would be to show “weakness”, what chance is there for Guan Eng in getting a fair and independent appeal hearing at the Federal Court?

'Would all the Federal Court judges excuse themselves from hearing Guan Eng’s case so as not to be seen to be unduly influenced by the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday, as they had owed their judicial appointments to the Prime Minister?

'It is true that constitutionally, all judicial appointments are made by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, but this is only a constitutional fiction, as the Yang di Pertuan is bound by the Constitution, in particular Article 40(1A)  to act on the advice of the Prime Minister on all judicial appointments and promotions.

'Mahathir’s statement endorsing the 36-month jail sentence, reflecting his stand that Guan Eng should be convicted, jailed and disqualified as Member of Parliament is the most unthinkable and extraordinary interference with the independence of the judiciary, because of the Prime Minister’s powers on judicial appointments and promotions - something which no Prime Minister had ever done in 40 years to intervene in a case in the midst of the appeal process - which constitutes clear contempt of court for a Prime Minister to so openly and blatantly bring undue influence to bear on the Federal Court.'

The motion was rejected by the Deputy Speaker Datuk Juhar Mahiruddin on the ground that 'although the issue was specific, of interest to the people, it was not necessary to expedite a debate on the matter because it was a question of perception if one looked at the issue'.


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