Eight  Questions for Rais Yatim about justice and the rule of law in Malaysia

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim declared yesterday that the government would take action against those who break the law, including the Sedition Act and Official Secrets Act. He said offenders would have to face the music and not expect leniency from the Government.

He said this tough stand applied not only to opposition politicians but also those in the Government.

He said: "This applies to everyone.  The word is now out. Everyone should respect the laws of the country".

It is sad that Rais has become the purveyor of the Barisan Nasional double-speak, for what he meant when he said that "the word is now out" is that those in Opposition are going to be  hounded and persecuted by all the draconian laws of the land while those in Government would continue to enjoy immunity from prosecution, including from corruption laws.

Rais is not being sincere and genuine when he said that the laws of the country must be respected by all - for Malaysians know of a group who need not respect the laws of the land.

Rais is also not being honest with himself when he said that the people should leave it to the court to decide if the charges against three Opposition politicians were justified.

Let Rais answer the followingeight  questions on the system of justice in Malaysia before he continues to mislead the Malaysian public with statements which  he himself could not, in good conscience,  sincerely and  honestly hold:

  1. Does Rais agree that in Malaysia there is no  rule of law  but only rule by law - resulting in the wide gulf between  law and justice to the extent that courts of law have ceased to be courts of justice.
  2. Does Rais agree that the independence of the judiciary which suffered it first and worst assault in the judiciary crisis in 1988 had not been restored, and what is worse,  the crisis of confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary has reached  an even more critical stage today as compared to 12 years ago.
  3. Does Rais agree that Parliament has not only failed to protect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, but has aided and abetted in their serious violations?
  4. Does Rais agree that the independence of lawyers, together with independence of the judiciary, are two important prerequisites for the rule of law and that the arrest and prosecution  of Karpal Singh for statements made in court while discharging his duties as counsel for former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim amounts to another major assault on the rule of law in attacking the independence and  immunity of lawyers in court.
  5. Rais said that there is no immunity enjoyed by lawyers in court.  Before the general election, even the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad conceded that Karpal Singh enjoyed immunity for what he said in court and this was why the Prime Minister and another Cabinet Minister with legal background, the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, were talking about enacting a special Contempt Act to remove such an immunity.  When did the government change its mind that lawyers enjoy immunity for what they say in court and are only subject to contempt proceedings?  Is this Raisí first unique contribution as Minister in charge of law and justice in the new Cabinet?
  6. Rais said that Karpalís prosecution will be the first test case in Malaysia and the Commonwealth countries where a lawyer is prosecuted for  what he said in court.  As Minister responsible for law and justice well-versed in legal traditions, did he caution the Cabinet and the Attorney-General that scoring such a "first" in Commonwealth countries by attacking the immunity of lawyers for what they say in court is not going to redound to the credit of the Malaysian government and  is not something  to be proud of - but  a most shameful and dishonourable decision  as showing a country and government which has utter contempt for the rule of law?
  7. Parti Keadilan Nasional Vice President Marina Yusoff has been charged with sedition for saying that UMNO leaders had started the May 13 riots in 1969.  Would Barisan Nasional leaders be similarly prosecuted for sedition if there are proof that they had alleged that Opposition parties started the May 13 riots in 1969?
  8. Parti  Keadilan Nasional youth chief,  Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor was charged under the Official Secrets Act for disclosing classified Anti-Corruption Agency reports to reporters last November.  The reports were in connection with ACA investigations into International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and the former Malacca Chief Minister Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Cik. Ezam had told reporters then that the reports were posted to his house by an unknown person several days earlier. Both these ACA reports were the subject of police reports by Anwar Ibrahim and had been posted up on the Internet for access by Malaysians.  In prosecuting Mohamad Ezam, the government is confirming that these are genuine ACA reports. Ezam may or may not be  be guilty technically of an offence under the Official Secrets Act, but the more important question is why the ACAís recommendations for the prosecution of Rafidah and Rahim Tamby Cik for corruption had not been acted upon.  Will Rais press in the Cabinet next Wednesday that while Ezam is being prosecuted for the technical offence under the Official Secrets Act with regard to the two ACA reports on Rafidah and Rahim, both Rafidah and Rahim should be prosecuted for corruption as recommended by the Anti-Corruption Agency in accordance with his statement yesterday of the governmentís new tough stand that "offenders - whether opposition or government  -  would have to face the music and not expect leniency from the Government"?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman