A Mockery of Our Judicial System — Goh Wei Liang

A week or two have passed. Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has filed for a royal pardon.

She probably missed Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s favourite Chinese phrase the importance of always maintaining dignity. And I noticed that Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali doesn’t say much but I guess we know why — he’s looking up. Crowd numbers are dwindling in Sg Buloh but PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is trying to revive it.

I have to admit, the campaigns were catchy. Rakyat Hakim Negara, Kita Lawan, Political Prisoner, Free Anwar. But what do these mean? What sort of precedence are we setting? For all the other clients who have lost their Court cases, are they entitled to an army of supporters or campaigners for social media war, candlelight vigils and demonstrations like what Anwar gets now?

Can they get the Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong to comment and fight for them, too? Are we claiming that our courts are not independent?

I was going through some news, blogs and articles. I found the following:

  • On 24 May 2013, the magistrate’s court rejected the remand of Batu Member of Parliament Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar Baba, and activist Haris Ibrahim. They were ordered to be released immediately.
  • On 31 May 2013, the Court of Appeal maintained the jail sentence handed down by Shah Alam’s High Court to Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, a former Menteri Besar of Selangor and Umno man.
  • On Aug 1, 2013, the Election Court rejected the petition filed by BN to annul the election results for Penggaram in Johor with costs.
  • On Aug 15, 2013, the High Court dismissed an application by Perkas president Ibrahim Ali to set aside a court order allowing Anwar to commence committal proceedings against him. Ibrahim Ali lost this application with costs.
  • On Aug 18, 2013, the Elections Court rejected the election petition by BN. PAS kept its seats for the Bachok parliamentary seat and Jelawat state seat.
  • On Sept 17, 2013, the Court of Appeal allowed an application by Anwar Ibrahim to recuse a judge from his case.
    In December 2013, we read that the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision to award PAS leader Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin in his law suit against a news portal.
  • In the same month, we read that the Court of Appeal dismissed the election petition filed by Barisan Nasional against PKR top politicians like Tian Chua (Batu, KL), Nurul Izzah (Lembah Pantai, KL) and Lajim Ukin (Klias, Sabah), with costs.
  • On Feb 17, 2014, the High Court ordered the New Straits Times to pay RM350,000 in damages to PAS’ Husam Musa in a defamation suit.
  • On Feb 28, 2014, the High Court’s judgement went in favour of Anwar in his case against Papagomo the blogger. The defendant was ordered to pay Anwar RM800,000 in damages.
  • On Sept 4, 2014, the Federal Court threw out Felda’s RM200 million defamation suit against PKR’s Tan Kee Kwong for an article in Suara Keadilan which Felda claimed to imply that it was corrupt and committed legal offences.
  • In the same month, the High Court dismissed a former BN assemblyman’s defamation suit against DAP’s Member of Parliament from Penang.
  • On Oct 9, 2014, the Court of Appeal ordered the ban on pro Opposition Zunar’s cartoon books to be lifted and all the copies seized were to be returned to him.
  • On Dec 11, 2014, the Court of Appeal awarded damages of more than RM4.5 mil to five former ISA detainees. They are well known Opposition figures — Tian Chua, Hisham Rais, Saari Sungib, Badaruddin Ismail and Badrulamin Baharom.
  • In the same month, Kit Siang won a lawsuit against a media outlet and was awarded RM250,000 while the High Court dismissed a RM2 million defamation suit against PAS president by a former PKR election candidate.
    And on 26 Feb 26, 2015, the High Court dismissed National Feedlot Corporation Chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail’s appeal to strike out two CBT charges. He is the husband of Wanita Umno chief.

Now, before anyone throws any slander and defamatory comments at our judges, before any politician or supporter labels the judiciary as manipulated, kangaroo courts and before anyone says things like what a politician tweeted “Hate to say it, but there’s a reason why judges often go to Hell”, remember this: if the judiciary was indeed lopsided or “kangaroo” as some may call it, then don’t you think that Hisham Rais, Kit Siang, Nizar, Tian Chua, Ng Wei Aik and all would have received judgements not in favour of them?

In fact, the costs and damages awarded to them were more than some if not most of our savings combined!

Tun Arifin Zakaria is the Chief Justice and a well-respected one. He has been in the legal fraternity for more than 40 years when some of us were still playing with toys, in our diapers, in kindies and some of us were not even born yet.

In his speech earlier this year, Tun Arifin said:

“Even if the Courts’ decisions do not find favour with lawyers and members of the Bar, they should be temperate in their reaction and exercise restraint, circumspection and plain good manners before making unwarranted criticism against the Judiciary, especially in public debates and discussions. True to our profession we must carefully manage our differences in order that they may not develop into attitudes that are inimical to judicial harmony amongst stakeholders. I recognise that judges are not infallible. I share the view expressed by Lord Pannick, who once observed that —

“… Judges … must be open to criticism because in this context, as in others, freedom of expression helps to expose error and injustice and it promotes debates on issues, of public importance.” (Pannick: {2014] PL 5, 9)

The irony is this. In recent months a few senior lawyers who earn their bread and butter in the very environment they vilify, make some caustic remarks against the Bench. If unchecked, unrestrained public criticism of judges undermines confidence in the Judiciary. This in turn, has deleterious consequences for the administration of justice. As Lord Judge CJ once remarked:-

“… it does matter to the welfare of the community, and the preservation of the independence of the Judiciary, that the confidence of the community in its judiciary should not be undermined.”

This is our CJ — magnanimous, professional, measured, knowledgeable. Just what we expect him to be.

I know the Opposition supporters and sympathisers won’t like to hear this but “faith” in the judiciary is restored the very next day after Anwar was sentenced. Ask Christopher Leong the Bar Council President and his “friends”.

Those in the legal profession went to work the day after. They will still go to work today, tomorrow, and every single day not just to defend but also to sue for their clients … in front of the judges which some politicians say will go to Hell, in front of the judges which political supporters and media label as Kangaroos.

Our judges are not politicians and they don’t just sit and preside over political court cases. In a year, the judges in Federal Court disposes (adjudicates/presides) over 1,000 cases, the Court of Appeal 6,000 cases, over 115,000 by the High Courts and more than half a million cases by the Sessions and magistrate’s courts in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

Judges are there to do their job and they definitely don’t enjoy the moments when judgments don’t go your way and you run amok in social media, organise demonstrations and smear their name and the institution. We must not allow this or any case to set a precedence.

So, please, to those who wear the shirts Rakyat Hakim Negara, to those who tweet or talk about Kita Lawan, stop it. No one should be allowed to make a mockery of our judiciary.

*First publisehd in The Rakyat Post, 25 February 2015.


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