Abdullah’s dismissive attitude on  the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" symptomatic of a government  leadership not prepared to respond to national and international opinion for reforms and good governance

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The dismissive attitude  of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi to the devastating indictment of the system of justice by the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" is symptomatic of a government leadership which is not prepared to respond to national and international opinion for reforms and good governance.

Abdullah  said yesterday  that he was not surprised over the report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia  in 2000" which is critical of Malaysia, saying it has become common for  international reports to criticise Malaysia.

 "It has become the norm that when international reports are issued, various criticisms are made against us, all sorts of dissatisfaction," he said.

Abdullah said it was the right of organisations making the report to find fault  and criticise, but the government would always be fair in providing services  and dealing with the people.

He said it was inevitable that systems introduced by the government  would have weaknesses and shortcomings, and the government had never  claimed that everything was perfect.

He said "ongoing" efforts were made every year to improve the situation, including by  amending laws, strengthening organisations, implementing more of  meaningful projects and boosting the quality of programmes.

Abdullah has failed completely to address the central issue highlighted by "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia in 2000" which concluded that "the extremely powerful Executive in Malaysia has not acted with due regard for the essential elements of a free and democratic society based on the rule of law" - that while in the vast majority of cases which come before the courts at whatever level there is no complaint about the independence of the judiciary,  in cases which are considered of political or economic importance to the Executive, there are serious concerns that the Judiciary is not independent and this perception is also held by members of the general public.

The report  also sets out a series of court cases which it says show that the legal system is being manipulated for political ends, including cases where lawyers have been charged with contempt of court or sedition while defending clients.

It said problems with the independence of lawyers and judges had only arisen since Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  came to power in 1981, a point which had been made earlier by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim in his 1995 book "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia - A study of executive supremacy"

From Abdullah’s indifference, it would appear that the government has no intention to respond seriously to the recommendations of the report to restore a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary, and in particular the following recommendations:

It is a fallacy for any government leader to claim that it is only international organisations which have "an axe to grind" against Malaysia which are making trenchant criticisms about the system of justice in Malaysia.

The concerns about a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary are the concerns of all thinking and patriotic Malaysians.

The recent  speech by  former Lord President Tun Suffian  in honour of the late Justice Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman in Kuala Lumpur on 10th March 2000 deserves the serious thought of the government and all Malaysians.

Recounting the first judicial crisis in 1988 resulting in the removal of the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas, Tun Suffian said:

He added:

Tun Suffian concluded:

The government, nation and people must address these disturbing reflections on the system of justice in Malaysia by the  former Lord President and the devasting indictment on the system of justice in the report  "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" if Malaysians are to stand tall in the world in the new millennium.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman