The Government has, however, maintained a deafening silence on the report
of the international legal community although it had ample notice of the
contents of the report, having been given a month before its publication
to give its comments.
The Malaysian Government was given copies of the report by the four international legal organisations on 17th February 2000, and it was invited to give its comments, subject to their length, for incorporation in the published version of the report.
Although the government had chosen not to give its comments to the report for incorporation in the published version, the government had ample time to come out with an immediate public response to it, especially as its strictures about the system of justice in Malaysia and its recommendations for the restoration of a just rule of law cannot just be ignored or sidelined.
There appears to be a conspiracy of silence involving the Government, the mainstream media and even the recently-formed Human Rights Commission to put up a major pretence that such a terrible indictment of the system of justice by the international legal community simply does not exist and for life in Malaysia to continue as usual, ignoring the fact that the report strikes at one of the most important cornerstones of human rights and 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.
In the past few days, the newly-appointed members of the Human Rights Commission have been make public pledges that they would speak up fearlessly to promote and protect human rights in the country, some referring to the areas of their concern.
However, none of the Human Rights Commission members had dared to mention even once the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" since its publication on Wednesday although it has put Malaysia in the glare of international spotlight and the dock of international opinion about gross and fundamental violations of human rights in the country.
"Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" welcomed the establishment of the Human Rights Commission but recommended that it should work as "an autonomous and independent body in a manner consistent with the Paris Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions, the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1992/54 of 3rd March 1992, General Assembly Resolution 48/134 of December 1993. Unfortunately, these international instruments and resolutions have not been complied with in the establishment of the Human Rights Commission by the Malaysian Government.
The report is not optimistic about the functioning of the Human Rights Commission as it said:
"We are convinced that the pressure of restrictive and needlessly repressive legislation has impacted crushingly upon the agencies of the law - the judiciary, the legal profession and the police. The true spirit of justice under the law has become enfeebled. In such a climate authoritarian personalities flourish, libertarians are frustrated, practitioners are reduced to increasingly frenzied posturing, and the police wield extensive and largely unchecked powers."
Referring to these "extensive and largely unchecked powers", the report referred to Lord Acton's famous words, "tends to corrupt".
The Human Rights Commission's response and reaction to the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" will become the acid test as to whether it could promote and protect human rights in Malaysia or is only allowed to be an alibi institution to legitimise human rights violations as it has been crippled by the scope of its terms of reference and powers of jurisdiction.
Malaysians are waiting to see whether the Human Rights Commission will put its head under the sand to say that the terrible indictment of the system of justice in Malaysia in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" is completely out of its jurisdiction, or whether it would courageously and creatively confront and grapple with the fundamental human rights concerns and issues highlighted in the report.
The high-profile cases reviewed and referred to by the report include those involving former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, former DAP Member of Parliament Lim Guan Eng, DAP National Deputy Chairman and former five-term MP, Karpal Singh, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, counsels Zainur Zakaria and Tommy Thomas and Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez.
Section 12(2) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia bars the Commission from inquiring into any complaint relating to any allegation of the infringement of human rights which (a) is the subject matter of any proceedings pending in any court, including any appeal; or (b) has been finally determined by any court.
The Human Rights Commission might use this section to justify its inability to examine the high-profile cases reviewed by the four international legal organisations, but this cannot apply to the Lim Guan Eng case as it is no more a subject-matter pending in any court, although as rightly pointed out by the report, the Federal Court’s judgment has not yet been delivered despite the fact that Guan Eng had already served his one-year jail sentence.
Section 12(2) however should not preclude the Human Rights Commission from reviewing Guan Eng’s case from the standpoint of the strictures of the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" as another classic case where there is no just rule of law in Malaysia.
Furthermore, the Human Rights Commission should not be precluded from examining the many recommendations made by "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" to restore an just rule of law, pertaining to the relationships between the Bar and executive, Bar and Judiciary, the Judiciary and the executive as well as the role of legislative power - without trespassing into anyone of the pending high-profile cases.
The time has come for both the Government and Human Rights Commission, as well as the official mainstream media, to end their conspiracy of silence and respond to the terrible international indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia in the international legal community's report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" to show Malaysians and the world that Malaysia and its government are serious about the rule of law, human rights and democracy.