(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): In this connection, I must express my shock at the proceedings at the Malacca State Assembly yesterday, where the Barisan Nasional state government has brought disgrace to itself and the electorate by engineering a "no quorum" situation for the 20th time to sabotage the debate of adjournment motions by DAP Malacca State Assemblymen (and this time on the two important issues of the pig farming industry and a review on house assessment rates), but also at the answer given by the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Abu Zahar Isnin as to why the pardon petition of MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Guan Eng was rejected by the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca.
Abu Zahar said Guan Eng's appeal was rejected because the offence he was convicted for under the Sedition Act was a serious one. He said: "Sedition is a serious offence in a multi-racial state and nation...examples abound of countries beset with problems because of sedition." Replying to a supplementary question from Malacca Opposition Leader and DAP Assemblyman for Bandar Hilir, Sim Tong Him, Abu Zahar said sedition could disastrously disunite, physically damage the nation and even lead to "mass killings as in some countries".
Abu Zahar said the Yang Dipertua Negeri chaired a meeting of the State Pardons Board last March 3. Its other members were the Chief Minister, representative of the Attorney-General (Datuk Heliliah Mohd Yusof), Tan Sri Aziz Tapa and Datuk Ng Kim Fong. Another member, Datuk Dr. K.Nagaratnam was absent from the meeting as he was overseas.
The Malacca Chief Minister’s explanation was most reprehensible for two reasons, which show that the Malacca Pardons Board had failed to apply its mind properly and lawfully when considering Guan Eng’s pardon petition:
Firstly in claiming that Guan Eng’s sedition offence was serious in a multi-racial society, the Chief Minister was implying that Guan Eng’s action involved incitement of hatred and disaffection between the different communities, which could lead to racial conflicts. This is completely wrong and untrue.
In fact, Guan Eng is the first Malaysian political leader in our 42-year history to stand up for the fundamental rights of a citizen of another race and religion to the extent of being prepared to pay the supreme price of losing his personal liberty, loss of his Parliamentary status and disenfranchisement of his political rights.
I challenge anyone in this House or outside to name another political leader whether before or after Guan Eng who had similarly crossed race and religious barriers to uphold the basic rights of another citizen.
The question that Guan Eng’s action in championing the rights of the 15-year-old girl victim of statutory rape could possibly cause racial conflicts had never been raised at any stage of his trial, and it is most shocking that this should now be used as the chief reason for the rejection of his pardon petition.
Secondly, the Malacca Chief Minister is claiming that an offence under the Sedition Act is more serious than other offences, whether corruption - for which former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Harun Idris was able to get a full pardon after Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad became Prime Minister in 1981 - or even murder, in the case of former Cabinet Minister Datuk Mohtar Hashim was also able to get a full pardon after being convicted and jailed for the murder of the Negri Sembilan State Assembly Speaker. This second reason is also unsupportable.
It is a clear travesty of justice that the Attorney-General or his representative did not withdraw from the Malacca Pardons Board deliberations on Guan Eng’s pardon petition when it was the Attorney-General’s selective prosecution which was the cause of Guan Eng’s jail sentence.
Guan Eng received a communication from the Malacca Chief Minister’s Office in Kajang Prison on 24th March informing him that his petition for pardon to the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Malacca had been rejected by the Malacca head of state on March 20 following the advice of the Malacca Pardons Board on March 3, 1999 to reject the pardon petition.
In the Malacca State Assembly yesterday, Abu Zahar said that the State Pardons Board had also taken into account a petition signed by more than 300,000 Malaysians when rejecting Guan Eng’s petition.
Is this true? The three important reasons stated in the petition signed
by 300,000 Malaysians in support for Guan Eng’s petition were:
The Bar Council, the Human Rights Society (HAK) and scores of NGOs had also petitioned for the pardon of Guan Eng. Have all these petitions been considered by the Malacca Pardons Board?
Article 42(5) of the Federal Constitution provides that "The Pardons Board constituted for each State shall consist of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Chief Minister of the State and not more than three other members, who shall be appointed by the Ruler or Yang di Pertua Negeri; but the Attorney-General may from time to time by instrument in writing delegate his functions as a member of the Board to any other person".
Article 42(9) provides that "Before tendering their advice on any matter a Pardons Board shall consider any written opinion which the Attorney General may have delivered thereon".
Did Guan Eng have any fair chance in his pardon petition when the Attorney-General, whose selective prosecution in the first place had resulted in the jailing of Guan Eng, is a member of the Malacca Pardons Board either directly or through his representative, and the Pardons Board "shall consider the written opinion of the Attorney-General" on the pardon petition. When the Malacca High Court imposed a maximum RM5,000 fine for the offence of sedition and RM10,000 fine for the offence under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Attorney-General counter-appealed to demand jail sentence.
This was why I had raised the question publicly why the Attorney-General shouldn’t withdraw from Guan Eng’s pardon petition, so that the Pardons Board would not only be fair, but seen to be fair.
In this particular case, did the Attorney-General submit a written opinion to the Malacca Pardons Board on Guan Eng’s pardon petition, which tantamounts to double jeopardy to Guan Eng as far as the Attorney-General’s role and influence in the Pardons Board over the subject matter is concerned.
There is a further bias and unfairness of the Malacca Pardons Board which vitiated the legitimacy and legality of its decision to reject Guan Eng’s pardon petition - the composition of the other three members of the Board.
The three other members of the Malacca Pardons Board who considered Guan Eng’s pardon petition on March 3, 1999 were appointees each from Malacca UMNO, MCA and MIC, who have a vested partisan interest in wanting to "finish off" Guan Eng as the DAP had held the Malacca town parliamentary seat without interruption for the last 30 years in seven general elections since 1969.
The other three members of the Malacca Pardons Board were:
MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik had gone on public record as stating that Guan Eng deserved his conviction and jail sentence and similar sentiments had been expressed by the top UMNO leadership. In the circumstances, how can anyone expect the UMNO and MCA political appointees of the Malacca Pardons Board to exercise untrammelled impartiality and fairness in the consideration of Guan Eng’s pardon petition in a case where their respective parties have such an intense partisan interest to "knock" Guan Eng out of parliamentary politics?
The maxim that "Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done" applies equally to the Malacca Pardons Board, and the political appointees of UMNO and MCA should have disqualified themselves from deciding on the pardon petition of the three-term DAP MP for Kota Melaka as well as DAP Deputy Secretary-General to avoid suspicion and accusation of bias and unfairness.
As under the Constitution, the Malacca Yang di Pertua Negeri is bound to act on the advice of the Malacca Pardons Board, if the Pardons Board decision at its meeting of 3rd March 1999 to reject Guan Eng’s pardon petititon was flawed for its bias and patent unfairness, then the advice to the Yang di Pertua Negeri Malacca was also invalid and unlawful.
The rejection of the petition for pardon by the Yang di Pertuan Agong for the removal of his parliamentary disqualification is also a matter of great controversy.
When the Malacca Yang di Pertua Negeri rejected Guan Eng's pardon petition on March 20, 1999, the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Tun Mohamad Zahir Ismail had said that Guan Eng had lost his status as MP, and that his appeal to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for the removal of his disqualification as MP should be submitted after the rejection of the pardon petition by the Malacca Yang di Pertu Negeri and not before.
If this is the case, then it was most improper for the Yang di Pertuan Agong to be advised to reject Guan Eng's petition for the removal of his parliamentary disqualification which was submitted to the Yang di Pertuan Agong on Sept. 8 last year - at the same time as the submission of the pardon petition to the Malacca Yang di Pertua Negeri - as Guan Eng should have been asked to submit a fresh pardon petition for the removal of his disqualification as MP.
It is against all principles of natural justice that the Attorney-General should again be a member of the Pardons Board playing such a decisive role in determining the outcome of Guan Eng's petition to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for the removal of his parliamentary disqualification.
Who were the other three members of the Pardons Board which decided that Guan Eng's petition should be rejected by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, and when did the Pardons Board hold its meeting, were all members of the Pardons Board present and what were the reasons for the rejection?
I attended the Inter Parliamentary Union Human Rights Committee’s hearing on Guan Eng’s case at Europoean Parliament, Brussels on Monday, 12th April 1999 at 4 p.m.
I was informed that the head of the Malaysian IPU delegation to the Brussels Conference, Deputy Foreign Minister, Datuk Abdul Kadir bin Sheik Fadzir had appeared before the IPU Human Rights Committee and made certain representations on Guan Eng’s case, which were incorrrect and untrue.
Guan Eng and and Anwar Ibrahim have become permanent concerns of the world community of Parliaments as represented by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) as blatant examples of violations of human rights of Parliamentarians following the 101st Inter-Parliamentary Conference at Brussels at the European Parliament from April 10 to 16, 1999.
At the end of the seven-day conference, the final sitting of the Inter-Parliamentary Council (the IPU's governing body) examined the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which meets four times yearly to examine cases of MPs who have been subjected to arbitrary treatment during their term.
The Committee on the Human Rights of MPs regretted having to examine a new case in Malaysia, that of Anwar Ibrahim who had just been sentenced to a six-year prison term.
In addition, the Committee, composed of five members: François Autain, France, President; Hilarion Etong, Cameroon, Vice-President, as well as François Borel, Switzerland; Juan Pablo Letelier, Chile, and Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka "remained very concerned about the case of Lim Guang Eng, another Malaysian MP".
The IPU in a press release released after the IPU Conference in Brussels on April 16 said: "The Committee, which had been entrusted with carrying out an on-site mission in November 1998, had not been able to meet with Mr. Lim Guang Eng in prison. The Malaysian delegation had expressed regret in that connection, for which the Committee wished to thank it."
It is most regrettable, however, that in his submission to the Committee on the Human Rights of MPs in Brussels last Monday, Abdul Kadir had made misrepresentations about the conditions of Guan Eng’s imprisonment, which I had to correct when I appeared before the IPU Committee later on the same day.
The resolution adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Council in Brussels on April 16, 1999 on Guan Eng’s case, said among other things:
"Noting that there are considerable discrepancies in the information supplied by Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s family, party and lawyers and the authorities regarding the conditions of Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s imprisonment and state of health:
(i) whereas the authorities affirm that Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s health does not give rise to any concern and that he has only lost 3 kilos during his detention, his family affirms that he is suffering from ailments which he never had before (severe backache and migraine and inflammation of the nose) and has lost 10 kilos, explaining the difference by the existence of two weighing machines in prison, one in the prison hospital and the other in the prison record office,
(ii) whereas the authorities affirm that he receives preferential treatment and is kept in a single cell, his family states that in the Asingan Security Block where Mr. Lim Guan Eng is jailed, 25 cells are at present occupied of which only two accommodate more than one prisoner, all the others being kept in single cells like Mr. Lim Guan Eng,
"Considering also that Mr. Lim Guan Eng will remain deprived of his civic rights for five years, such period commencing on the date of his release from prison,
1. Wishes to thank the Malaysian delegation and in particular the Deputy Home Minister for his expression of concern at the way in which the mission had taken place, and accepts the apology offered by the delegation;
2. Notes with deep concern the conflicting accounts of Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s state of health and conditions of imprisonment given by Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s party and family on the one hand, and by the Deputy Home Minister on the other, and can but be all the more concerned that the mission was prevented from gathering independent information on his conditions of imprisonment and state of health;
3. Reiterates its firm conviction that, in making the alleged statements deemed offensive, Mr. Lim Guan Eng was merely exercising his right to freedom of speech and function of oversight of the Executive, which would be meaningless if it did not include the right to scrutinise the administration of justice; affirms that, in exercising their oversight function, parliamentarians are essential actors in the promotion and protection of human rights; remains therefore deeply concerned at the harshness of the judgment and the limits it sets on freedom of speech and on the right and duty of the people’s elected representatives to exercise their essential function of oversight of the Executive;
4. Is deeply saddened that Mr. Lim Guan Eng’s petition for pardon for which the Inter-Parliamentary Union had expressed its strong support was turned down and that he has thus lost his parliamentary mandate and his right to stand for election;
5. Expresses the hope that this decision may be reconsidered and appeals to the Malaysian Parliament to make every effort to this end;
6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this decision to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the Chairman of the Malaysian IPU Group and all other competent authorities;
7. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining the case and report to it at its next session (October 1999)."
Parliament and the Malaysian people should know about the resolution which the Inter-Parliamentary Council in Brussels had adopted on the Anwar Ibrahim case which, among other things, expressed that the IPU
"1. Is alarmed at Mr. Ibrahim’s sentencing to six years’ imprisonment and has every reason to fear, as elaborated on below, that Mr. Ibrahim may be prosecuted not on account of any criminal act but rather on political grounds;
"2. Refers in particular to the foundation of the charges
and, in this connection, wishes to point out in particular the following
disturbing facts among many others:
(i) When the accusations of sexual misconduct were first made in August 1997 by the persons who are now acting as key witnesses, a police investigation ordered by the Prime Minister discarded them as groundless and unfounded; despite this, they were brought up again by the prosecution;
(ii) The day following Mr. Ibrahim’s dismissal from his posts, the police announced publicly that he was under criminal investigation for acts of sexual misconduct, tampering with evidence and other criminal acts; on 20 September 1998, he was arrested not under such criminal charges, which can be challenged in court, but under the Internal Security Act;
(iii) Just the day before his arrest, two persons were convicted of having allowed Mr. Ibrahim to sodomise them and sentenced to imprisonment; both have meanwhile retracted their testimonies affirming they were coerced; there is an affidavit attesting that prosecutors in Mr. Ibrahim’s case attempted to pressure Mr. Nallakaruppan, who is charged under a penal norm which carries the death penalty, to implicate Mr. Ibrahim; instead of investigating such unlawful behaviour, the lawyer who brought this matter before court was charged with contempt of court and an arrest warrant was issued against the lawyer who had made the affidavit;
"3. Notes that the corruption charges were amended in such a way that the prosecution was no longer obliged to prove the sexual misconduct charges which had been the subject of hearings of witnesses and presentation of evidence for over two months; cannot but consider that this clearly shows the absence of any case for the prosecution;
"4. Points out with concern that the amendment of the charges and expunging from the file of evidence regarding the sexual misconduct charges prevented Mr. Ibrahim’s defence from presenting its arguments and evidence and thus from clearing him immediately of any such unfounded accusations;
"5. Finds this all the more disturbing since, as the Malaysian delegation pointed out, charges of sexual misconduct are highly damaging in Malaysia, particularly for politicians;
"6. Notes that the corrupt practice charges are intimately linked to the sexual misconduct charges insofar as Mr. Ibrahim is said to have directed two police officers to obtain denial statements from the persons accusing him of sexual misconduct; recalls that one of the police officers concerned had stated that the accusations brought against Mr. Ibrahim were groundless, and fails to understand how attempting to obtain a denial of false statements defaming a person can be a criminal offence; rather believes that Mr. Ibrahim has a right to obtain redress for damage caused to his reputation and personal integrity by such groundless accusations;
"7. Expresses its indignation at the ill-treatment inflicted upon Mr. Ibrahim while in police custody, and urges the authorities to make public without further delay the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry and bring to justice those responsible; fears that if such treatment can be inflicted upon a Deputy Prime Minister, this lends credence to the allegations of coercion of witnesses’ statements;
"8. Strongly urges the authorities to respect due process of law and Mr. Ibrahim’s right to fair trial and to investigate fully and without any further delay all allegations of undue interference with the course of justice in his case;
"9. Would appreciate receiving:
(i) a copy of the judgment handed down on Mr. Ibrahim;
(ii) fuller information on the possibility Mr. Ibrahim has of attending parliamentary sessions;
(iii) information on the outcome of or stage reached in the defamation proceedings Mr. Ibrahim launched against the Prime Minister;
(iv) information on the progress of his complaint of unlawful dismissal from his post of Deputy Prime Minister;
"10. Requests the Secretary General to convey this decision to the competent Malaysian authorities, inviting them to provide their observations;
"11. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining the case and report to it at its next session (October 1999)."