The first shocker is Raisí admission that he was not aware of the report by International Bar Association, the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association and the International Lawyers' Union entitled "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" five days after it had been released worldwide simultaneously in various world capitals on 5th April 2000.
Rais made this shocking revelation when he was asked to respond to my fourth media statement yesterday on the international legal communityís terrible indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia, where I called on Rais to table the report in Cabinet on Wednesday, ensure that every MP gets a copy of the report, table a White Paper incorporating the governmentís response and schedule two days for a special debate on the subject.
The second shocker is that although he is the Cabinet Minister specifically in charge of legal matters, Rais said he was not aware that the four international legal organisations had sent two copies of the report to the Malaysian Permanent Mission in Geneva on 17th February 2000, inviting the Malaysian Government until March 15 to give its comments, subject to their length, for incorporation in the published version of the report.
Rais should cause an investigation to be made as to why he, as the Cabinet Minister directly responsible for law and justice, was not immediately informed when copies of the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" was first sent to the Malaysian Government on 17th February 2000 for comments.
If it is true that Rais was never informed of the report "Justice in Jeopardy - Malaysia 2000" although it was sent to the Malaysian Permanent Mission in Geneva on February 17, 2000, this could only mean that the transmission of the report to him had been waylaid by the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar owes the nation an explanation for this unhealthy Cabinet rivalry.
The report "Justice in Jeopardy - Malaysia 2000" was posted on the Internet the instant it was released worldwide on April 5, 2000, and the very next day, the DAP homepage gave the URL where the report could be accessed.
I have in any event sent to Rais the URL where "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" could be downloaded and copies made for Ministers, Members of Parliament and all judges - as the report should be compulsory reading for all of them.
Yesterday, Rais said that if "serious issues" had been raised in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000", he would brief and extend the report to the Cabinet.
The issues raised by the report are indeed very serious and fundamental ones, for the report represents the double failure of the Malaysian judiciary to pass international scrutiny for being truly independent and that there is just rule of law in the country.
The report was based on a fact-finding mission to Malaysia 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 following international concerns that in Malaysia the independence of the judiciary was under threat and that lawyers were facing difficulties in carrying out their work freely and independently.
The mission was asked to examine three questions:
In its Conclusion and Summary of Recommendations, the report said that "there are well-founded grounds for concern as to the proper administration of justice in Malaysia in cases which are of particular interest, for whatever reason, to the government".
The findings and recommendations of "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" had in fact been foreshadowed by Rais himself, in his study of the conflict between the rule of law and executive power in Malaysia in his book, Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia (1995) - which gave an account as to how the supremacy of the executive had rendered subservient the judiciary, Parliament and the basic rights of the citizens.
"Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" is testimony that Raisí fears in his 1995 book that "the future of the rule of law and human rights in Malaysia is dismal" are being borne out by recent events.
Rais had raised "serious issues" about the rule of law and justice in his 1995 book. The issues raised in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" are even more serious because of the further deterioration of the rule of law and human rights since Raisí study and should be the subject of serious consideration and national debate by the Cabinet, Parliament, the Human Rights Commission, the Conference of Judges, the Malaysian Bar and the civil society.