Call on Attorney-General Gani Patail to withdraw the charge against Irene Fernandez tomorrow to end the eight-year international embarrassment and agony to Malaysia as the cause celebre highlighting Malaysia’s deficit in democracy and human rights
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP calls on the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to withdraw the charge against Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez tomorrow to end the eight-year international embarrassment and agony to Malaysia as the cause celebre highlighting the country’s deficit in democracy and human rights.
There are three reasons why Irene Fernandez should never have been charged under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 for “maliciously publishing false news” in connection with a memorandum in 1995 about maltreatment, torture and death in illegal immigrant centres, which I had also raised in Parliament at the time, viz:
The eight-year agony, trial and tribulation of Irene Fernandez was also the agony, trial and tribulation of Malaysia in the international arena as the butt of universal criticism for the double deficit in democracy and human rights.
Gani Patail can make amends for the misjudgment of his predecessor in 1996 in giving consent for the prosecution of Irene Fernandez, subjecting not only the labour activist but also Malaysia’s good name and reputation as a democracy which respects human rights to an international blot for eight years.
Malaysiakini’s report yesterday about the sudden development in Irene’s case, where the date for judgment fixed for March 17 next year had been brought forward five months earlier for tomorrow, has raised all-round concerns not only about human rights but also the rule of law in the country.
When Irene’s case last adjourned in March after being dragged on for over seven years, the defence had closed its case and all parties agreed on a time-table for written submissions.
In view of the length and complexity of the case, with a total of more than 50 witnesses and the hearing lasting over seven years, with more than 2,200 pages of notes of evidence as well as several points of law raised for consideration by the High Court and Appeals Court, the magistrate Juliana Mohamed decided on a time-table for the completion of the trial, viz:
I understand that because of the complexity of the case, the defence did not meet its June 30 deadline for its first submission. The magistrate, who is set to resign from the public service on Oct. 17, sent a notice on Oct. 7 asking the parties to send in their written submissions two days later, intimating her intention to deliver judgment tomorrow.
Despite the short notice, the prosecution had submitted its 82-page submission, without waiting for the defence’s submission.
No one can fault the magistrate for her impending resignation but grave questions about justice have been raised by the sudden telescoping of the timetable for the written submissions in a case which had already attracted such adverse international attention for the country for such a long time that the Chief Justice, Tan Sri Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, should give his personal attention to ensure that justice is not only done, but justice is seen to be done.
Of course, the Gordian Knot of the Irene Fernandez case can be cut by the Attorney-General withdrawing the charge tomorrow – which in the circumstances will be the best solution for the country and Irene.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman