Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s 2003 Budget has created many firsts, for being the
longest budget address in the nation’s history (two hours and 45 minutes),
coining the new Bahasa Malaysia term “bajet” for “budget”, a budget for
two years, with the most number of MPs leaving the House for one reason or
another during the long delivery and being the most “political” budget ever
delivered in Parliament.
Mahathir started his long 2003 budget address
by defending the indefensible – the mega-projects which squandered
scarce public resources, and in particular
Putrajaya and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which burdened
the present generation with his megalomaniac vision of Malaysia in the next
century – he gave the inescapable impression of preparing the defence for his 22-year legacy as the fourth Prime Minister
of Malaysia even before stepping down from
office next October.
what was most deplorable about
Mahathir’s 2003 Budget speech was its
clear rebuke and thinly-veiled
threat to the judiciary over the recent Federal Court decision on the mala fide
detention under the Internal
Security Act (ISA) of the reformasi four, Mohd Ezam, Tian Chua,
Saari Sungib and Hishamuddin Rais – making many
wonder what would have been Mahathir’s reaction and response if the
Federal Court had acted as it should have done in quashing the Ministerial
detention order for the four and ordered their
actual release and not just holding
that their police detention under the ISA was mala fide and unlawful, but
avoiding a decision on the legality of the Ministerial order for their detention under the ISA.
claimed that the Internal Security Act had “saved” the nation from violence,
anarchy and “utter chaos”. I
have myself been twice detained under the ISA and I had never at any time
advocated violence, anarchy or “utter chaos”.
What the ISA had saved was Mahathir
and the Barisan Nasional government from the need for greater democratic
responsibility and accountability. Mahathir
“We have spared the nation from this turmoil with the rule of law practised by the Government. The Internal Security Act (ISA) has indeed saved the nation. Today, the liberal West, has conceded that preventive laws are necessary in safeguarding internal security.
”The rule of law is paramount. Its adherence should not be confined only to the Government but also to other branches in the Administration. The civil service, judiciary, police and armed forces must be professional and abide by the laws passed by Parliament. Should anyone disregard the rule of law and disrespect the separation of power, democracy will collapse and anarchy will prevail. Under anarchy, the nation will not progress. We will become like some Islamic and non-Islamic nations, always weak, oppressed and manipulated by foreign powers.”
two paragraphs in the 2003 Budget Speech should be studied not only by
the judiciary and the legal community, but by NGOs and the civil society
concerned about a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.
notion and definition of the
“rule of law” had been eloquently debunked by none other than his Minister
in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim in his classic study,
"Freedom under Executive Power in
Malaysia", where Rais pointed out that what exists in Malaysia is not the
“rule of law” but “rule by law” which is no different from what
prevailed in Hilter’s Nazi Germany.
what is most irresponsible and reprehensible was the
ominous-sounding warning of the “collapse of democracy” if
“anyone” – whether the civil
service, judiciary, police and armed forces -
should “disregard the rule of law and disrespect the separation of
the light of the recent Federal Court decision over the mala fide detention of
the Reformasi Four under Section 73 of the ISA, though not applied logically to
the subsequent Section 8 detention by the Minister, the thinly-veiled threat to
the judiciary contained in these two paragraphs of the 2003 Budget speech
tantamounts to contempt of court.
Attorney-General, Datuk Abdul Gani Patail should study the 2003 Budget speech to
cite Mahathir for contempt of court for his
clear rebuke and thinly-veiled
threat to the judiciary over the
recent Federal Court decision on
the mala fide detention of the Reformasi Four under the ISA as he has the
constitutional responsibility to protect the independence of the judiciary and
uphold the doctrine of separation of powers
- where no one branch of
government should be allowed to threaten or subvert another branch in the full
discharge of its constitutional role, powers and responsibilities.