Government should explain why it declined to respond to the international legal community’s report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" before its publication although it was given a full month to do so

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Malaysian Government and in particular the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, should explain why the government declined to respond to the international legal community’s report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000"  before its publication although it was given a full month to do so.

The joint report of International Bar Association, the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association and the International Lawyers' Union, which was released simultaneously in Geneva, London, India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday, was  based on a fact-finding visit to the country in April last year  by three top judges/jurists, namely Lord Abernethy from Supreme Court, Scotland, Justice N. J. McNally, Apellate Judge of the Supreme Court, Zimbabwe and Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, Senior Advocate and a Commission member of the International Commission of Jurists, India.

The fact-finding mission was asked to examine:

  1. The legal guarantees for the independence of the judiciary in Malaysia and whether these guarantees are respected in practice. The mission was to use as its yardstick the 1985 UN Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
  2. The ability of lawyers to render their services freely. The  mission was to use the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as a yardstick.
  3. Any impediment, either in the law or in practice, that  jeopardises the proper administration of justice.

On 17th February 2000, the four international legal organisations sent a letter to the Government of Malaysia through its Permanent Mission in Geneva enclosing two copies of the report, welcoming any comments from the government and indicating their preparedness to incorporate the comments, subject to their length, in the published version of the report.  They asked that the comments be received by 15th March 2000 and be limited to 5,000 words.  Regrettably, the Malaysian Government did not comment on the report.

The report, "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000"  is a terrible indictment on the rule of law and system of justice in Malaysia and the judicial and legal community in the country must respond to its strictures as well as recommendations for the restoration of a just rule of law.

When launching the report in London, leading lawyer Lord Goldsmith, co-chairman of the International Bar Association, said that the "dismal catalog of the many ways the rule of law in Malaysia has been eroded" has raised widespread concern that judges did not act independently where government interests were at stake.

"Running through the report is the threat of the power of the executive and its effect on justice, not by any means in all cases, but in the few but high profile cases where government interests are at stake," Goldsmith said.

The association said the joint report "expresses serious concern about the fairness of the trial of former deputy prime minister (Anwar) and the independence and impartiality of the trial judge."

The judicial and legal community, together with  the Malaysian Government, Parliament and the Human Rights Commission, cannot remain indifferent or silent to such a terrible indictment of the system of justice in Malaysia, which affects not only  one of the most important cornerstones of human rights but will jeopardise Malaysia’s chances to be a successful K-economy and  one of the top IT superpowers by attracting the world’s cream of talents to Malaysia.

The Government should publish a White Paper, which should include the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000", to respond to the terrible indictment on the justice system in Malaysia by the international legal community, focussing in particular on its many  recommendations for a truly independent judiciary, including:

Apart from the Government which should come out with a White Paper on the Report, the Human Rights Commission which should immediately address a grave human rights concern in the country on the restoration of a just rule of law, the Bar Council should also come out with an independent Report to respond to the terrible indictment on the system of justice in the country by "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000".


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman