(Penang, Saturday): The Federal Court decision on August 25, 1998 in confirming the Court of Appeal decision in imposing a 36-month sentence on DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, for Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act offences had caused nation-wide dismay, shock, grief and outrage as testified by the reactions of NGOs like Aliran, SUARAM, JUST as well as among the ordinary people of Malaysia, regardless of race, religion, gender or class.
Internationally, there has also been shock and outrage at the Federal Court decision in the Lim Guan Eng case.
Amnesty International has declared Guan Eng as "a prisoner of conscience solely for expressing his opinion and fulfilling his duties as a parliamentarian" and maintains that the charges laid against Guan Eng and the authorities’ demand for a custodial sentence as "politically-motivated and aimed to remove a prominent political critic from further participation in public life."
Yesterday, I was visited by two Canadian Members of Parliament who express full support, sympathy and solidarity with Guan Eng, namely Shaughnessy Cohen, ChaIr of the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and Sheila Finestone, Chair of Canadian Inter-Parliamentary Union and head of Canadian delegation to the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference which ended today.
Shaughnessy Cohen said she would raise the injustice of the Lim Guan Eng case on her return to Canada, particularly in the Canadian Parliament while Sheila Finestone would raise the case at the forthcoming Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Moscow starting on Sept. 6.
ALIRAN and SUARAM came out with a statement on the very day the Federal Court confirmed the Court of Appeal conviction and sentence of 36 months jail against Guan Eng.
Both ALIRAN and SUARAM described August 25 as a black day for justice and freedom of expression.
ALIRAN said "Many Malaysians will be terribly disappointed and stunned by the verdict".
It said: "The verdict is a terrible blow to the freedom of expression - a fundamental right in a civil society. People will now be reluctant to speak up - because of oppressive laws - against instances of injustice affecting the poor and the downtrodden, who will end up as unrepresented, voiceless citizens.
"Many Malaysians feel that Lim, a Member of Parliament, was articulating their aspirations and expressing outrage on their behalf over the statutory rape of a minor. The victim had, in open court, named the culprit but Malaysians are baffled as to why this lead was not followed through by the authorities but they went all the way to punish Lim.
"In the end, the victim is not only Lim Guan Eng but also Justice itself. Today, 25th August, will go down in Malaysian history as a day of infamy when an outspoken crusader for justice had to pay an enormous price for acting according to his conscience."
SUARAM said: "SUARAM holds firm to the view that YB Lim’s case is politically motivated and he is a victim of selective prosecution. Furthermore, we hold firm to the belief that it is the right of every Malaysian, from a Member of Parliament to the lay person on the streets, to protest and express anger when fellow Malaysians have been victimised by the state.
‘What YB Lim did for the girl and her family was what we would expect any elected Member of Parliament to do. What the Federal Court judges did today goes against the basic sense of justice in every justice-loving Malaysian."
JUST President, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar’s statement entitled "Shame!" said:
"The imprisonment of Member of Parliament Lim Guan Eng is a damning indictment of our legal and judicial system. It is a sentence that shames Malaysian democracy.
"Even if Lim was guilty of making some baseless allegation in his attempt to ensure that justice was done to an underaged girl and her poor family, he should not have been handed such a severe sentence. The Federal Court should have taken into account the more fundamental principles involved in his case: Lim’s concern for justice; his role as a Member of Parliament; his right as a citizen to express a position on a matter of major public concern….
"Guan Eng may be in prison. But in the ultimate analysis it is Malaysian democracy that languishes in jail. There are people who may want to break Guan Eng’s spirit but they will not succeed. They have only succeeded in shaming the nation and smearing its name."
Parti Rakyat President, Dr. Syed Husin Ali, in a statement said:
"We feel that the heavy sentence imposed on Lim Guan Eng is to create a fear among the people from criticising any government or government party leader, Next to the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Printing Presses and Publication Act is the most cruel and oppressive law in this country. Both are capable of creating a psychology of fear. Once the psychology of fear is widespread, as it is now, then the government leaders are free to do whatever they like. This will kill democracy in this country."
The reactions of dismay, shock, grief and outrage is not confined to national and international organisations, but also among the ordinary Malaysians as evidenced by the ever-increasing numbers of Malaysians who gathered outside Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur from 9 p.m. to midnight for a seven-night "Vigil for Justice" to "Redeem Justice, Free Guan Eng".
There has been a flood of phone calls, letters and email expressing the dismay, shock, grief and outrage of of the ordinary people.
A sample of the flood of emails which Guan Eng and my family have received are as follows:
"August 25 was a long day for all concerned Malaysian; I've been waiting by the radio for the news all day and it ends up to be DISATROUS. It is indeed a black day for the whole nation, for those who care enough! My high spirit for the forth coming CommonWealth Game '98 has been dampened. The National Day is meaningless anymore. Though you have lost your freedom, but your spirit is still free. Keep up the spirit YB Lim, Long life DAP! 27.8.98"
"i may only be 17 but i feel a deep respect for your courage in defending a malay girl's rights.However i am angered that this fight for justice has brought to your imprisonment.This only shows the amount of fairness that is practiced in a so-called democratic country.I sincerely hope that you will not end you fight for justice after this but go on .God bless you! -li shan,kuantan 26.8.98"
"Believe me, I broke down when I read your true story. My
little 4 years old daughter also broke down when she saw me shobbing uncontrollably.
U are indeed right to say that many of us ordinary Malaysians do not have
the courage to rise up against injustice. We are generally 'kiasu' but
I believe that things will change ONE DAY and the ONE DAY is going to start
now. After reading your true story, I couldn't care less if our email is
intercepted by the authority. It is time we make a stand against injustice.
If going to jail or even death are the price to pay, I believe may of us
are prepared to face the challenge. cannie 26.8.98"
"It is easy to talk about fighting for justice. But to actually do it and sacrifice your family in the prossess is most difficult. Those with children and wife will trully understand this. Even though we feel very sad and feel the pain, only your wife will feel the pain day and night. The pain of shouldering the burden of your family and the task of bringing up your children in your absence must be agonising to your wife at times. - 26.8.98"