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
(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.
by Lim Kit Siang
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:
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
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.
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
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:
"That the executive should recognise the independent constitutional
position of the judiciary and have a proper understanding of what that
"The executive should conduct its business in such a way so as to not
interfere with the independence of the judiciary in any way. Equally important,
it should be careful to conduct its business in such a way as not to be
seen by the reasonable observer to be interfering in the independence of
"The judiciary should act and be seen to act with complete independence
from the executive. The decision making and reasoning of the judiciary
in the recent cases of Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim have quite understandably
given real cause for concern in this regard."
"The judiciary does all in its power in the wider interests of justice
to counter the harshness of repressive legislation and overbearing actions
on the part of the executive. That is the role of the judiciary when
faced with repression no matter where it comes from. The burden will
fall mainly on senior members of the judiciary who must take the lead.
In the present situation and in light of the experiences of 1988 this will
require great courage. Even still we consider it essential if the
reputation of the judicial system in Malaysia is to be restored to what
it was and what it should be."
"The choice of judges for high profile cases should be carefully considered."
"There should be a significantly greater recruitment to the Judiciary
from the Bar the members of which should be prepared to accept posts in
"(a) The inter-changeability of lawyers and judges under the
combined Judicial and Legal Service should come to an end to ensure the
separation of powers and independence of the judiciary. (b)
An independent prosecution system should be established."
"Members of different branches of the establishment should be very
careful about how they are seen in public and by the public."
"An international conference on the independence of the judiciary be
held and training sessions on human rights law be organised for its members."
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