Rais should clarify whether   his comprehensive report on the administration of justice has been submitted to the Cabinet and why it has not been made public

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): A strange silence has descended on the “in-depth report to improve the administration of justice” which the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim had been talking about last year and in January, and which was to be presented to the Cabinet in March this year to be "the basis of our efforts to improve the administration of justice within the next three years and to restore public confidence".

At  the Second Australia-Malaysia Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra on May 25, 2000, which Rais and I attended, I had criticised the procrastination on the part of the Cabinet to address the criticisms and recommendations in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000",  a joint report of International Bar Association, the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and the International Lawyers’ Union and  which was a damning indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia.

In his response at the Canberra conference, Rais said he would shortly be presenting the report to the Cabinet.

Before Rais could present a report on the administration of justice to Cabinet, he was involved in a public spat in  June last year with the then Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin who ridiculed Rais as merely a Minister for "tables and chairs" for the courts.

After the spat,  Rais announced in July that he would present his  report on the administration of justice to the Cabinet at  the end of the year, clearly timing it until after the retirement of Eusuff Chin as Chief Justice on December 18, 2000.

With the appointment of Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah as the new Chief Justice, Rais again reminded  the nation in January this year about  his report on the administration of justice, and that it  would be presented to the Cabinet in March this year.

In his interview with Malaysiakini in early January, Rais said that his “comprehensive report on the administration of justice” will comprise the performance of various agencies connected with  the judicial process, justice, the administration of  justice in general - the police, customs, immigration, the   administrative aspects of the courts,  and questions related to justice  in general in the country.

He added that some extracts from the controversial “Justice in Jeopardy” will be included in the report.

Rais said that the report will also focus on laws pertaining to the security and public order, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Police Act and the Public Order Act as well as  the Printing Presses and Publications Act, which was “often criticised for its role in stifling media freedom”.

It has  therefore come as a shock when  Rais said  last week that there would be no review of  ISA  although it could be reviewed in the  future when the country's security situation allows for it but it may not be for some time yet.

He claimed that a review was in fact already on the cards, but when the Kampung Medan racial clashes broke out, it was untenable to continue.

Rais had been most inconsistent.  If Rais was telling the truth that his “comprehensive report on the administration of justice” which included a review of the ISA was meant for presentation to the Cabinet in March this year, such a report would have been ready or already in the final stages when the Kampung Medan clashes broke out on March 8 this year.

In claiming that “a review was in fact already on the cards” until it was aborted by the Kampung Medan racial clashes, it tantamounts to  an admission that there had not been any review of the ISA - despite Rais’ claim that his “comprehensive report on the administration of justice”, work on which must have started before June last year, would include a relook at the various repressive laws such as the ISA.

In any event, why should the Kampung Medan clashes abort the review on the ISA, when there was not a single person who was detained under the ISA arising from the clashes?

These inconsistencies have raised the larger question as to what has happened to Rais’ “comprehensive report on the administration of justice” and Rais should clarify whether it has been submitted to Cabinet as it is now June and  why it has not been made public.

If Rais has prepared a “comprehensive report” on the administration of justice, encompassing questions related to justice in general, then it should have dealt with circumstances like attempts to pervert the course of justice as disclosed by the Sabah election judge, Justice Muhammad Kamil that he had been  given a directive over the phone that the election  petitions before him  should be struck off without a hearing.

Rais has called on  Justice Muhammad to name the person who directed him to strike out the Likas election petitions. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri  Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  commenting on the disclosure said:

“I don’t understand. Certainly I didn’t give any directive.  I don’t know, may be other people are giving directives, may be some people from some court perhaps can give directives, I don’t know.”

Mahathir is the second person to deny that he was the person responsible for the telephone directive to Justice Muhammad, the first being the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi - although why both should make such a denial remain a mystery to me, as nobody suggested that they were in any way implicated.

However, what is disturbing by the reactions of both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister is the lack of the seriousness  warranted by such an outrageous attempt to pervert the course of justice.

In 1996, the then Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah directed the police to launch investigations into the  33-page poison-pen letter  which made 112 allegations of  corruption, abuses of power and misconduct against 12 named judges because  it was his “duty and responsibility” to protect  the integrity of the judiciary and the administration of justice in this country.

Why shouldn’t the present  Attorney-General Datuk Ainum Saaid do the same now and direct the police to launch investigations into the attempt to pervert the  course of justice by the telephone directive to the Sabah election judge?

Rais should state whether he would raise this issue at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting to protect judges from attempts to suborn and subvert justice.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman