Is it contempt of court to point out a judge’s "injudicial conduct", whether in making injudicious statements or for breaching the Judges’ Code  of Ethics

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Malaysian judges are not only shocking Malaysians by their judgments and sentences, but also by their speeches and statements outside court.

Yesterday, High Court Judge Datuk Low Hop Bing said that absolute freedom of speech cannot be practised for the sake of maintaining law and order, when nobody in Malaysia had ever advocated "absolute" freedom of speech.

Low said the law represented the will of the people and it was a mandate given by the people themselves.

"If there is total freedom of speech, it is lawless. When this happens there is no law and order,"  he added.

Malaysians will not be surprised if such a statement had been  made by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who is famous for what I had described in Parliament as his "perverted illogic", attacking "absolute freedom" when no one had ever advocated for it, but through media monopoly and control, seek to equate those who oppose draconian curbs on the freedom of expression as advocates of "absolute freedom".

Malaysians do not expect judges to expound such a thesis at a time when more and more Malaysians are standing up to throw off undemocratic fetters on a free  press and legitimate freedom of speech and expression.

Low gave instances which  "could lead to contempt of court", one of which is "accusing a judge of injudicial conduct".

Would I be guilty of contempt of court if I accuse Low of "injudicial conduct" in making a most injudicious paper on "Contempt of Court" at the 1999 High Court Judges Council Conference in Kuala Trengganu yesterday?

Furthermore, would a person who accuses a judge of having breached the Judges’ Code of Ethics also be guilty of "contempt of court".

For instance, under the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994, it is stipulated that "A judge shall not "inordinately and without reasonable explanation delay in the disposal of cases, the delivery of decisions and the writing of grounds of judgement".

Former DAP MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng was sent to jail on August 25, 1998 when the Federal Court, headed by Chief Justice Tun Eusuff Chin, rejected his appeals and upheld the two 18-month concurrent sentences for offences under the Sedition Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act, leading to the disqualification of a sitting Member of Parliament for the first time in Malaysia.

Guan Eng case became a national and international cause celebre, for it highlighted the great gulf between law and justice in Malaysia, and Guan Eng was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Guan Eng has come out from Kajang Prison after serving 12 months of his imprisonment, but Tun Eusuff Chin has not written the grounds of judgment so that Guan Eng, the nation and the world can know the reasons why Malaysian judicial history has to be made to disqualify a sitting Member of Parliament in the country.

Would anyone be guilty of contempt of court for pointing out  that Tun Eusuff Chin had breached the Judges’ Code of Ethics against "inordinately and without reasonable explanation delay in…..the writing of grounds of judgment" and in urging him not to commit "injudicial conduct" by immediately handing down the grounds of judgment of the Federal Court in the Lim Guan Eng case?


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