Eight Questions for Rais Yatim about justice and the rule of law
(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.
by Lim Kit Siang
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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
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?
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