The Government must be more sensitive to the demands of Malaysians for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance


Speech
-  "Return of The Legal Eagles" forum
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Kuala Lumpur, Monday):  I commend the police for a more open and tolerant attitude to public meetings and gatherings as in the issue of a police permit for the holding of "The Return of The Legal Eagles"  forum on justice, freedom, democracy and good governance   tonight.

Yesterday, I had issued a statement calling on the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Rahim Noor to withdraw unreasonable and unconstitutional conditions imposed in the police permit.

"The Return of The Legal Eagles" is a sequel to the "Gathering of Legal Eagles"  in sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng  and which was organised as a forum for lawyers and Malaysians concerned about public policy issues which have been brought to the fore by the Lim Guan Eng case, such as:
 

In granting a police permit for "The Return of The Legal Eagles", the  Federal Territory Chief Police Officer, Datuk Kamaruddin Md. Ali, had attached conditions which are unreasonable and even unconstitutional, which include the following:
 

I had asked the police to seek the advice of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, as to whether it is proper, reasonable and constitutional for the police to impose all the conditions attached in the permit for the "The Return of the Legal Eagles" forum, and I had expressed the  hope that the police would withdraw those conditions which are manifestly unreasonable and unconstitutional.

I am sure that the Police is aware of my call as during the meeting between DAP leaders and the Inspector-General of Police and senior police officers last Thursday, I found that the Police is  one of the most regular visitors to my Internet website, downloading my statements which they have special interest, as the IGP knew everything I have said about the Police. Unfortunately, there has been no response from the Police to my call.

From a position  where Malaysians can eat but cannot talk, reflecting a fear of the government to hear the people’s voice, we have made some progress where Malaysians can now  talk but they cannot talk about the Lim Guan Eng case, showing that what the government is really afraid is the people’s views on the Lim Guan Eng case - as it is a clear-cut case of injustice!

Two weeks ago, I was shocked when  the Federal Police Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Yaacob Md Amin in a statement suggested that any discussion of the Lim Guan Eng case is contempt of court and a sedition offence. The distinguished lawyers both on the panel and who have come to make a success of "The Return of the Legal Eagles" know that this is not the law.

The police have not only trespassed into the powers of the courts in deciding what is contempt of court and sedition, but have invented their own laws of contempt and sedition.  I have been in Parliament for 29 years and I do not remember passing any such law of sedition. Have we indeed become a full-fledged police state where the police can even  make its own laws?

It will be a sad day for Malaysia if people who are shocked by the 36-month jail sentence passed on Guan Eng, not for any crime of robbery, arson or murder but for diligently and conscientiously discharging his duties as Member of Parliament to go to the aid of the weak and defenceless, and feel that this is unjust and that something is wrong with the system of justice, are regarded as having committed the offence of sedition.

Does the Police want Malaysia to score another "first" in the world, creating a situation where the majority of Malaysians are regarded as criminals in having committed the offence of sedition because they are outraged at the way Lim Guan Eng had been treated in defending the honour, human rights and women rights of a 15-year-old girl against the mighty and powerful UMNO Chief Minister of Malacca at the time - Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik?

Is the Police taking the position that it is an offence of sedition for anyone to show sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng over his prosecution, conviction and sentence?

Datuk Yaacob is making a baseless statement when he said that the issues discussed at the Support, Sympathy and Solidarity ceramahs, dinners, conferences and forums "also insult the integrity of judges" for these gatherings are not about the integrity of judges, but about the injustice meted out to a Member of Parliament when he stood up for the honour, human rights and women rights of an underaged girl.

The issues discussed were the policy implications of the Lim Guan Eng case,  freedom of expression, the duties of Members of Parliament, crisis of confidence in the independence and impartiality of judiciary, the future of democracy and nature of civil society in Malaysia.

How can the discussion of these policy implications of the Lim Guan Eng case be construed as  "insult the integrity of judges"?

If any discussion of the Lim Guan Eng case is prima facie an offence of sedition, then Malaysia is not only a nation of sedition criminals as I believe that the majority of right-thinking Malaysians hold that the Lim Guan Eng case is a case of gross injustice, but we have also a sedition criminal in the person of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

This is a Bernama report, which under the heading REFORM MAY BE NECESSARY, SAYS ANWAR OF  "EXPOSE LAW", bylined Wan A. Hulaimi, which reads:
 

Is the Police going to arrest and charge Anwar under the Sedition Act?

I have told the IGP in our meeting last Thursday that if the Police really believes that any discussion of the Lim Guan Eng case is an offence of sedition, they should arrest and charge us under the Sedition Act and let the courts decide whether the new-fangled interpretation of the law by the police has any basis, and not to assume the powers of the judiciary by imposing unreasonable and unconstitutional conditions for a legal public meeting.

If the police conditions are strictly adhered to, not only "The Return of the Legal Eagles" forum on justice, freedom, democracy and good governance cannot be held, no forum can ever be held in Malaysia.

For instance, one of the conditions prohibit any matter which "membangkitkan perasaan tidak kepuasan hati terhadap mana-mana kerajaan". Does this  mean that it has become the new law of the land that it is an offence of sedition to criticise the government, whether for mismanagement resulting in the prolonged water crisis affecting two million people in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley or to express dissatisfaction at the government's handling of the worst economic crisis in the nation's history.

It is to be noticed that when Anwar spoke at the UMNO Youth and Wanita Assemblies, the stock market recovered and the Malaysian ringgit strengthened, but when Mahathir spoke the next day at the UMNO General Assembly, the stock market plummetted and the ringgit weakened. At the end of the four-day UMNO Assemblies yesterday, all mass media reported that Mahathir has again re-established his control and command in UMNO. Today, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Market Composite Index plunged another 10 points to 457.61 while the ringgit went as low as 3.970 against the US dollar today.

Will such critical comments be regarded as "membangkitkan perasaan tidak kepuasaan hati terhadap mana-mana Kerajaan" and not to be allowed at any public meetings in Malaysia?

Malaysia is attracting the worst possible publicity as a country where an MP is disqualified and  jailed for 36 months not  for any heinous crime of armed robbery, arson or murder but for defending the honour, human rights and women rights of an underaged girl who was herself detained while the powerful and mighty accused goes scotfree

Such a dubious reputation does not reflect well on Malaysia and raises the fundamental question as to what type of a society and civilisation we are trying to build in the country.   Is this the Vision 2020 that all Malaysians have been asked to dedicate themselves for the next two decades?

There is clearly something wrong with our values and our society if a responsible MP who goes to the defence of the honour, human rights and women rights of an underaged girl should be jailed for 36 months, with the girl even detained for a period while the accused is able to get off completely  scot-free.
 
The Lim Guan Eng  case has brought to the fore the fundamental issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.

We are not here to attack the judiciary or any judge, but the people must have the right in a democratic society to express their concern and outrage at a society and a system  which could produce such an outcome.

 "The Return of the Legal Eagles" is an  excellent opportunity for lawyers and Malaysians concerned about law and freedom to come together to discuss  the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance facing the country today, stemming directly from the Lim Guan Eng case.

Let "The Return of the Legal Eagles" forum tonight  be a historic milestone in Malaysia in the development of a vibrant civil society where a clear and loud message is sent out by lawyers and right-thinking Malaysians  that when justice, freedom, democracy and good governance come under assault,  the civil society will stand up to peacefully and constitutionally reclaim their fundamental rights.

For this reason, leading personalities  of the civil society like Professor Jomo K.S., Irene Fernandez, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, Dr. Sanusi Othman, Dr. Mohamad Nasir, Dr. R.S. McCoy, Fan Yew Teng  are with us or will be coming to broaden  "The Return of the Legal Eagles" forum into an even more significant and momentus event for the larger civil society to show support and solidarity for  the movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.  Because of the shortness of time, it has not been able to reach more prominent personalities of the civil society, or others like Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, Gurmit Singh and A. Ramakrishnan of Aliran have not been able to come because of other engagements although they have expressed their support for the cause.

It is proposed that "The Return of the Legal Eagles" should consider the adoption of a Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance, where the signatories are the  panellists, representatives of political parties and  NGOs, activists committed to the development of a vibrant civil society, as well as all of you as ordinary  Malaysians concerned about justice, freedom, democracy and good governance who have come together tonight.

The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance, June 22, 1998, will ask the government not to draw the wrong lessons from Suharto's downfall and the upheavals in Indonesia, as to think of a crackdown on civil liberties and democratic freedoms or even a second Operation Lalang of mass detentions under the Internal Security Act,  but to take full cognisance of the aspirations of Malaysians for wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation.

Malaysians do not want street protests and marches as happened in Indonesia, but their demands for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance are no less urgent and insistent.

Malaysians have very limited democratic space whether in freedom of speech, expression, press,  assembly and  information and the time has come for the expansion of these democratic spaces to give Malaysians a greater say in the decision-making process as to how the people can be united and the nation emerge from the year-long economic crisis in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable hardships, pain and injustice to Malaysians.

(22/6/98)


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