(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Malaysian Parliament should hold a full debate on the grave public policy issues arising from the Lim Guan Eng case, especially as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) had adopted a strong resolution on the Lim Guan Eng case from the aspect of the violation of human rights of parliamentarians.
The Geneva-based IPU is the world organization of Parliaments of sovereign states. It was established in 1889 and has among its membership over a hundred national parliaments and three international parliamentary assemblies.
The IPU is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. To that end, IPU has a four-fold mission, to:
At its 162nd session of the Inter-Parliamentary Council which was held at Windhoek, Nambibia, and attended by a Malaysian delegation headed by the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, YB Dr. Ibrahim Saad, a lengthy resolution was adopted on the case of YB Lim Guan Eng as a case of violation of human rights of parliamentarians.
The Inter-Parliamentary Council passed the resolution after ‘taking into account of the information and observations supplied by the Malaysian delegation at the hearing held on the occasion of the 99th Inter-Parliamentary Conference (April 1998)’.
The Inter-Parliamentary Council recalled
(i) ‘that, on 28th February 1995, Mr.Lim Guan Eng was accused under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act of prompting ‘dissatisfaction with the administration of justice in Malaysia" for having stated that ‘double-standards’ were being applied by the Attorney-General in a statutory rape case against the former Chief Minister of Malacca, Mr. Rahim Tamby Chik, because Attorney-General Mohtar Abdullah had decided not to prosecute the latter, while the underaged alleged victim, a fifteen-year-old Muslim schoolgirl, was placed in ‘protective custody’ for ten days allegedly without parental consent.’;
(ii) ‘that, in addition, on 17 March 1995, Mr. Lim Guan Eng was charged under Section 8A(1) of the Printing and Publications Act with maliciously printing a pamphlet containing allegedly ‘false information’, specifically because he had used the term ‘imprisoned victim’ in reference to the rape victim’;
(iii) ‘that Guan Eng’s statement ‘reflected widespread public disquiet" over the handling of the alleged statutory rape case, 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 Resolution also took into consideration the politically-motivated nature of the selective prosecution of Guan Eng, as well as the recent statement by the Prime Minister publicly defending the 36-month jail term handed down on Guan Eng by the Court of Appeal which "makes it difficult for the Federal Court to independent exercise its judicial jurisdiction in Guan Eng’s appeal against both conviction and sentence in view of the Prime Minister’s unique position as the person chiefly responsible for all judicial appointments and promotions.
The Resolution then came out with a 12-point conclusion which states, among others, that 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)."
This will be the second time that the Inter-Parliamentary Union will be sending a mission to investigate into the violation of human rights of Parliamentarians in Malaysia.
The first time was in 1988 when seven DAP MPs were detained under the Internal Security Act during Operation Lalang. One of the seven DAP MPs in detention at the time was Guan Eng himself, who would therefore be the subject of both IPU Missions to Malaysia in the past 11 years in connection with violation of human rights of Parliamentarians in Malaysia.
On 24th November 1998, while I was still in detention at the Kamunting Detention Centre, I represented the five DAP MPs who were still in detention and made a submission to the IPU Mission, comprising Senator Joan Neiman of Canada and Senator Hipolito Solari Yrigoyen fo Argentina relating to the violation of our human rights as Parliamentarians. The five DAP MPs who were still in detention at the time were Karpal Singh, P. Patto, Lau Dak Kee, Lim Guan Eng and myself.
As the Inter-Parliamentary Union has shown great concern in the case of Lim Guan Eng, the Malaysian Parliament should not be seen to be indifferent to the human rights of Malaysian MPs and should have an urgent debate to express full support for the IPU resolution and mission as well as to debate the public policy concerns arising from the case, such as freedom of expression in Malaysia; the role of MPs to conscientiously and diligently discharge their duties to speak up for the weak and the defenceless against the strong, wealthy, powerful and influential; how to ensure accountability and transparency in the office of the Attorney-General and check against selective prosecution as the politically-motivated prosecution of Guan Eng; public confidence in the Judiciary; the ability to restore confidence in the worst economic crisis facing the nation by mobilising the government, society and people as one unit to effect a national economic recovery and turnaround in the shortest time possible; the international image of Malaysia; the nature of a civil society we want to build in Malaysia; and the future of democracy and good governance in Malaysia, two essential weapons in the fight for human freedom and the battle against corruption.