(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): The International Parliamentary Union (IPU) at its 162nd Council meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, on Saturday, 11th April 1998, has decided to send a mission to Malaysia on the Lim Guan Eng case "in view of the important issues involved in the case".
In a lengthy resolution on the Lim Guan Eng case, the International Parliamentary Council expressed deep concern at the public statement made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad defending the 36-month jail term handed down by the Court of Appeal on Guan Eng making it difficult for the Federal Court to fairly and independently exercise its judicial jurisdiction in Guan Eng’s appeal against both the conviction and the sentence on Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act charges given that the Yang di Pertuan Agong has to act on the Prime Minister’s advice on all judicial appointments.
On the sedition charge against Guan Eng, the International Parliamentary Council recalled that Guan Eng’s statement "reflected widespread public disquiet" over the handling of the alleged statutory rape case involving the underaged girl and the then Malacca Chief Minister, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik and "that in November 1994 the daughter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed published an article under the title ‘Whither Justice?’ In which she described the authorities’ treatment of the girl as a ‘gross mockery of justice’."
The International Parliamentary Council resolution, among other things, said it
"is appalled at the decision handed down by the Appeals Court setting aside the fine and imposing the three-year prison term sought by the prosecution;
"Expresses deep concern at the public statement made by the Prime Minister…and fears, particularly in view of his role with regard to judicial appointments including that of the judges of the Federal Court, that this may denote a clear bias and impede the independent and impartial functioning of the judiciary in the case of Mr. Lim Guan Eng;
"Finds the Prime Minister’s public statement all the more disturbing since Mr. Lim Guan Eng seems to have been singled out in this case as the following facts tend to indicate: the police asked the statutory rape victim to lodge a police report against 14 men but not against Mr. Rahim Tamby Chik, despite her having admitted having had sexual intercourse with him; that, among the many critics of the Attorney-General’s handling of the case in question, only a police report on Mr. Lim Guan Eng was filed, which led to his prosecution;
"Can but firmly reiterate its previous concerns and considerations as expressed in the resolution on the case adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 161st session in September 1997;
"Reaffirms that even if Mr. Lim Guan Eng had made the alleged offending statements, which he denies, he would merely have been fulfilling the mandate entrusted to him by his constituents and carrying out his parliamentary oversight function, which includes inquiring into the administration of justice;
"Notes that Mr. Lim Guan Eng is free on bail and is to lodge a final appeal with the Federal Court;
"Earnestly hopes that Mr. Lim Guan Eng will finally not be singled out and convicted for a critical statement that was not considered to constitute an offence when made - in similar and even harsher terms - by others;
"Deems it necessary, in view of the important issues involved in this case, to gather further information directly from the authorities, the parliamentarian concerned and his lawyers, and consequently entrusts the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians with carrying out an on-site mission for this purpose;
"Notes with satisfaction that the Malaysian delegation has stated its intention to relay the Committee’s concerns and intentions to the competent Malaysian authorities;
"Requests the Secretary-General also to convey these considerations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, inviting him to ensure that the mission of the Committee can be received in Malaysia in the very near future;
"Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining the case and report to it at its next session (September 1998)."
The role of MPs, whether Malaysia should have effective and articulate MPs or deaf and dumb MPs, is one of the many public policy issues raised by the Lim Guan Eng case.
A RoundTable Conference of Support, Sympathy and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng would be held at the Federal Hotel, (Banquet Hall), Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 16th April 1998 at 7.30 p.m.
Panellists would be leading opinion makers in Malaysia. Confirmed panellists are:
On April Fools’ Day, 1st April 1998, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals against conviction and sentence by DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, on Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act charges and allowed the cross-appeals by the Public Prosecutor and the enhancement of the sentences from RM15,000 fine to three years' jail.
In announcing the decision, the Court of Appeal judge, Justice Datuk Gopal Sri Ram said in open court that "It is time that the court sends a clear message that it cannot tolerate any attack on the judiciary";
The 36 months’ jail sentence on Guan Eng is doubly tragic, for Guan Eng as well as for the nation. Tragic for Guan Eng, as he never attacked the judiciary. All he did was to respond to the pleas for help of a Malay grandmother who had nowhere to turn to in the fight to defend the human rights and women rights of her underaged grand-daughter against the mighty and powerful Malacca Chief Minister at the time, Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Cik. Guan Eng went to the help of the Malay grandmother and her underaged grand-daughter because of the manifest injustice where the victim of statutory rape was in detention while Rahim was free. Now, this saga has been further compounded where, added on the previous episode of the underaged girl in detention, Rahim free, the latest sequel is Guan Eng to go to prison!
Tragic for the nation because it has far-reaching implications for the country, such as:
In a sense, it is not just Guan Eng who is on trial, the Malaysia nation is on trial. This year is the tenth anniversary of the greatest judicial crisis in Malaysian history in 1988. The country has never recovered from the judicial crisis ten years ago, but had been tottering from one crisis of confidence in the judiciary to another in the past decade.
There is now a new crisis of confidence in the system of justice, when the judiciary’s interpretation of justice is completely at variance with the society’s understanding of justice, as in the case of the 36-month jail sentence for Guan Eng for defending the human rights and women rights of the underaged Malay girl.
This is why the Court of Appeal decision on April 1 had been met with a shockwave of disbelief and outrage in the country and this may be one of the defining events as to the nature of the civil society Malaysia is building in the new millennium to begin in 20 months’ time.
The RoundTable Conference of Support, Sympathy and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng will address these public policy concerns and implications and is open to the public by invitation. Those interested can contact 03-7578022, 03-7578127; 03-7547426; 016-2255003; 012-2929859 for further details.