Deputy Speaker Datuk Lim Si Cheng ruled that the report "Justice in Jeopardy:Malaysia 2000" which is the worst international report card for the Malaysian system of justice and judiciary since Independence in 1957 does not qualify to be a considered a "definite" or specific matter, saying that examples of specific incidents were flash floods or World War II.
Such a ruling flies against all common sense as well as the whole tradition of parliamentary practices, both in Malaysia and in the Commonwealth. In the first place, if there is another World War II, Parliament would be debating it not under Standing Order 18 which only allows an one-hour debate to ventilate a burning issue of the day in the form of an adjournment of the house to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, but as an ordinary emergency motion allowing for full-length debate.
Si Cheng’s ruling debases Parliament as the highest political chamber in the country capable of addressing the latest developments of concern to the people so that it is always relevant to the needs of the country.
On 16th August 1995, I sought an adjournment of Parliament on a motion of urgent, definite public importance to debate a memorandum by Tenaganita on allegations of deaths, abuses, torture and dehumanised treatment of Bangladeshi and other migrant workers at the Immigration detention camps.
Although my application failed, the Speaker, then Tan Sri Mohd Ismail Zahir, agreed that the motion was a definite matter of public importance, but he did not agree that it required urgent attention.
Why is it that an NGO memorandum about abuses in immigration detention camps could be be accepted in 1995 as a "definite matter of public importance" but in 2000, the international legal community’s report which undermines Malaysia’s international standing and reputation with its terrible indictment on the system of justice in the country is not considered as a "definite matter of public importance"?
Is this because Parliament has become even more restricted and repressive in giving space to MPs to raise burning issues of the day?
Is this also a message that the Barisan Nasional is going to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the international legal community’s terrible indictment of the system of justice in Malaysia - by claiming that the "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" report is "not specific, not of national interest and not urgent"?
The tenth Parliament will be committing a grave abdication of responsibility
if it does not focus on "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" because
the system of justice in Malaysia was examined by the international legal
community on three criteria and was found wanting, namely:
An All-party Parliamentary Committee should be formed to examine "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" and to make recommendations as to how Malaysia can have just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.
The Malaysian Parliament is not completely blameless that the Malaysian system of justice has failed the international test and scrutiny as having a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.
This is why the four international legal organisations responsible for
"Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" said:
The report added:
The question is not only whether there are judges in Malaysia who have the "courage to rise up to the challenge" to "soften the effect of restrictive laws through interpretation and by applying the principles of justice and equity", but also whether there are sufficient Parliamentarians with the courage to democratise the legislative framework to allow for the flowering of a just rule of law.
The All-Party Parliamentary Committee should examine in particular the criticisms of "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" on various constitutional amendments and laws, as well as recommendations, such as:
1. Restoration of the original Article 121(1) of the Constitution
which vests "the judicial power of the Federation" in the High Courts.
This provision was repealed in the 1988 Constitutional amendment
which provides that the High Courts "shall have such jurisdiction
and powers as may be conferred by or under Federal Law".
The report said:
2. Repeal of Article 149 of the Constitution, which allows laws to be passed by Parliament that negate fundamental liberties guranteed in Article 5 (personal liberty), Article 9 (freedom of movement), Article 10 (freedom of speech, assembly and association) or Article 13 (right to property) such as the Internal Security Act.
The report said:
3. Repeal of Internal Security Act because it provides for "wide powers that frustrate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution".
4. Repeal or extensive amendment of the Printing Presses and Publications Act to lessen restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The report said that the "extraordinary powers" of the Minister to grant, refuse or revoke a licence for a printing press or publication "represents a very serious erosion of the freedom of the press such as would be intolerable in a democratic society save in highly exceptional circumstances" and that "A society living under the rule of law cannot function with such serious restrictions on essential freedoms, such as expression and assembly, especially without the possibility of adequate judicial review".
5. Repeal of the Sedition Act, as it is "easily abused" with the extremely wide definition of "sedition tendency". The report said "It might be interpreted as rendering unlawful any political campaigning against the ruling party".
6. Repeal of Restricted Residences Act and Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969.
7. Restoration of the right of judicial review in respect of all legislative enactments.
All Parliamentarians must give serious thought to the report’s conclusion: