Contempt of Court Act: Mahathirís conversion  not to protect lawyers against discretionary power of judges but because of his frustration that he could not  "fix" Karpal Singh

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Yesterday, the  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir  Mohamad announced after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting that  the government will study the possibility of having a  specific legislation relating to contempt of court.

 He said the Bar Council had proposed this and the government would look  into the proposal.

The Bar Council had submitted a memorandum on the proposed Act to the Prime Minister on August 6, but it had not received any positive  response until yesterday.

What is the reason for the sudden conversion of the Prime Minister to the need for  a Contempt of Court Act?

I do not believe that Mahathirís sudden conversion  is because he now agrees with the Bar Council that there is a need for a specific law to protect lawyers against the  discretionary power of judges, but because of his frustration that he could not "fix" Karpal Singh, as counsel for Anwar Ibrahim.
When Mahathir returned from his overseas trip on Wednesday, he announced that the government would take action against Karpal Singh for his "libellous statement" in  the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sept. 10 when Karpal forwarded the report of a Melbourne laboratory analysis of Anwarís urine sample on August 18 which showed high level of arsenic.

Mahathirís conversion on the need for a Contempt of Court Act apparently came about when he was advised that by making his threat to take action against Karpal, the Prime Minister was in fact committing a contempt of court himself!

Laws should not  be enacted just because the Prime Minister wants to carry out a vendetta against anyone.

The way contempt of court powers had been exercised in Malaysia have brought  considerable national and international disrepute to the country,  undermining the ability of lawyers to discharge their duties  in the administration of justice as well as exposing the Barisan Nasional governmentís lack of commitment to protect and promote the fundamental liberties of freedom of expression and a free press.

There should be the fullest consultation with the Bar Council and the civil society in the process to enact a Contempt of Court Act in Malaysia so that it would not be seen as another instrument of oppression by the Barisan Nasional government against the Opposition and dissent even in the conduct of court  proceedings.


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