In the age of information technology, when information travels at the speed of time, the Malaysian Government must not behave like the ostrich hiding its head in the sand, thinking, because it it cannot see, that it cannot be seen.
The nation and the world are waiting for the government’s response to defend itself in the face of the most terrible indictment of the system of justice in the country - which is an even greater blot on Malaysia’s judiciary as compared to the nation’s first judicial crisis more than a decade ago.
In 1989, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights was one of the international legal organisations which issued a report on Malaysia, entitled "Malaysia: Assault on the Judiciary" documenting the Malaysian government's actions in attacking judicial independence between 1986-1989.
It found that since late 1986, a series of actions by the Malaysian government had violated basic principles of judicial independence established under international human rights law and that the "cumulative effect" of the government's actions had been to deprive the nation's judiciary of its independence in matters affecting state power and "greatly weakened the rule of law".
The current Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais
Yatim, who is in specific charge of the portfolio of law and justice, fully
agreed with its findings, as could be testified by Rais’s 1995 book "Freedom
under Executive Power in Malaysia - A Study of Executive Supremacy"
, in particular the following conclusions:
In fact, it could fairly be said that Rais in his book was even more outspoken in his denunciation of the marginalisation of the basic freedoms of Malaysians, particularly the rule of law and an independent judiciary as compared to the 1989 report "Malaysia: Assault on the Judiciary".
Rais concluded that Mahathir had destroyed the independence of the judiciary, which is "merely illusory", "reduced to being a mere namesake" and the doctrine of separation of powers "perfunctory".
The latest report ‘Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" is an update of the relentless deterioratiation of the system of justice and the marginalisation of the fundamental rights of Malaysians as documented by the 1989 report "Malaysia: Assault on the Judiciary" and Rais’ 1995 book: "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia - A Study of Executive Supremacy".
Rais Yatim should table the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" in the Cabinet on Wednesday and propose a Commission of Inquiry to institute the just rule of law and to restore the Malaysian judiciary to its finest hour as in 1986-1989, so that in five or ten years’ time, there would not be another report from the international legal community entitled: "Requiem for Justice in Malaysia".
There is striking similarity and correspondence in Rais’ book and "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000".
Both agreed for instance that there had been no complaint of interference by the executive in the independence of the judiciary during the term of office of the first three Prime Ministers from 1957 to 1981 or even in the early years of Mahathir’s premiership until in the mid-eighties.
Or as Rais put in in his book:
The cases which "stung" the Prime Minister included JP Berthelsen v. Director General of Immigration, Lim Kit Siang v. Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed (contempt of court action over the Prime Minister’s interview in TIME magazine), Lim Kit Siang v. United Engineers Malaysia Bhd., the Aliran case, Karpal Singh v. Minister of Home Affairs, Public Prosecutor v. Cumaraswamy and the UMNO deregistration case.
Rais said that in the first judicial crisis a decade ago, "men who were known to be upholders of the rule of law and in particular who committed themselves to the independence of the judiciary were eliminated from the system" and that "the judiciary is now more timid in asserting its judicial independence".
But Rais is now back in the Cabinet in the pivotal position of ensuring that the Malaysian judiciary can return to its "finest hour" which he had defined as the period 1986-89 and the restoration of the just rule of law.
Has Rais returned to the Cabinet still as one of those men committed to be upholders of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, or minus these qualities and attributes?
In the eighties, Rais made the famous statement that he had "burnt his bridges". The question being asked is whether he had also "burnt his bridges" with his principles and convictions about a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.
I believe the overwhelming majority of the 193 MPs have not sighted the system of justice in the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000", released worldwide four days ago. The first thing Rais should do is to ensure that every MP gets a copy of the report when Parliament reconvenes tomorrow, table a White Paper incorporating the government’s response and schedule two days for a special debate on the terrible indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia in the current meeting of Parliament.