(Kajang, Friday): DAP lawyers will consider whether to formally ask the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah to withdraw as a member of the Pardons Board when considering the petition for pardon submitted by the DAP Deputy Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng, so that he would not be disqualified as Member of Parliament and could continue his good work for the people and country.
On Monday, 7th September 1998, Guan Eng accepted the advice of the DAP Central Executive Committee and signed in Kajang Prison the petition for pardon to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and to the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca so that he would not be disqualified as a Member of Parliament.
Guan Eng take his responsibilities and duties as a Member of Parliament very seriously, acknowledged by friends and foes alike as one of the few MPs to keep Ministers and the government front-bench on their toes and to articulate the hopes, aspirations, needs and fears of the ordinary Malaysians. It was precisely because Guan Eng took his responsibilities and duties as an MP seriously that he is today languishing in the Kajang Prison - not for any high crime of arson, armed robbery, rape or murder, but for diligently, conscientiously and courageously responding to the desperate pleas for help of a grandmother and going to defend the honour, women’s rights and human rights of a 15-year-old girl being victimised by the mighty and powerful.
This was also why on that black day for justice and democracy on August 25, when the Federal Court confirmed the Court of Appeal conviction and the two sentences of 18 months’ jail for offences under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act, he performed a very meaningful act before he was led away from the prisoner’s dock in the Federal Court to the Kajang Prisons. After the last embrace with his family members and saying goodbye to his wife, mother, sisters and myself, Guan Eng took off his coast, emptied his pockets of all his belongings, and before he handed his coat to his wife, Betty Chew, he kissed the parliamentary button on his coat, the symbol of his status and duty as MP - which he treasured most deeply.
Under Article 48(4) of the Malaysian Constitution, Guan Eng is still Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka although he is in Kajang Prisons, sleeping on cement floor without a mattress to protect him from the cold of the cement seeping into his bones, and I have written to the Secretary of Parliament, Datuk Mohd Salleh bin Haji Hassan, asking that all parliamentary correspondence, including notice of the next Parliamentary meeting starting on Oct. 20, be sent to him c/o Kajang Prisons.
Questions have been raised as to why Guan Eng had filed petitions for pardon to both the Yang di Pertuan Agong as well as to the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca. This is because there is ambiguity in the Malaysian Constitution as to whether Guan Eng’s petition for pardon should be sent to the Yang di Pertuan Agong or the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca - an ambiguity which may have to be clarified by a constitutional amendment later.
Lawyers and top government officials are divided as to whether Guan Eng’s petition for pardon for the removal of his disqualification as Member of Parliament should be directed to the Yang di Pertuan Agong or the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca as the offences concerned were committed in Malacca and it was in a Malacca court that he was first tried and convicted.
On one thing, however, there is no ambiguity - the automatic membership of the Attorney-General in the Pardons Board, whether it be pardon by the Yang di Pertuan Agong or the Yang di Pertua Negeri.
Guan Eng’s case stemmed from the abuse of power and selective prosecution by the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, who had in fact appealed against the initial Malacca High Court fine of RM15,000 for the two offences - demanding a custodial sentence for Guan Eng , completely heedless of the implication of his disqualification as a Member of Parliament.
In these circumstances, shouldn’t the Attorney-General withdraw from the Pardons Board in Guan Eng’s petition for pardon to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca to remove his disqualification as a Member of Parliament, so that the Pardons Board would not only be fair, but seen to be fair?
Mohtar Abdullah should explain whether he is prepared to withdraw from the Pardons Board, whether in advising the Yang di Pertuan Agong or the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca, in Guan Eng’s petition for pardon to remove his disqualification as Member of Parliament.