Malaysia’s worst week ever for credibility and integrity of the administration of justice in the country
The past week starting with the Federal Court’s dismissal of Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II appeal on Tuesday 10th February is likely to be the country’s worst week ever for credibility and integrity of the administration of justice in Malaysia.
The Federal Court’s 5-0 unanimous decision to dismiss Anwar’s appeal has come as a great surprise, even to those who had never entertained high hopes that Anwar could get off unscathed in his latest encounter with selective and even malicious prosecution.
But even the most pessimistic had expected either a 3-2 verdict or at worst a 4-1 decision, but everybody was floored by a unanimous 5-0 judgment.
What further stumped the legal and judicial fraternity, as well as the general public, was that there was only judgment by the Chief Justice, Tun Arifin Zakaria, when the public expectation was more than one judgment, even five judgments!
It will not be easy to find another Federal Court judgment in the past two decades which had met with such instant universal condemnation, not only inside the country but outside – by foreign governments like United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland (which declared that it would raise Anwar’s jailing at the next meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva), the European Union; international legal, parliamentary human rights organisations like the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, LAWASIA and the Law Council of Australia and international press like Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.
But the greatest disservice to the credibility and integrity of the administration of justice, and in particular whether there is true independence of judiciary and just rule of law, came from the Prime Minister’s in 109 words in three-paragraph statement on Feb. 10, which said:
“The judges will have reached their verdict only after considering all the evidence in a balanced and objective manner. Malaysia has an independent judiciary, and there have been many rulings against senior government servants.
“The police report against Anwar Ibrahim was brought by a private individual – Anwar’s employee and personal assistant – not by the government. As the victim of a sexual assault, he had every right to have his case heard in court.
“In this case, exhaustive and comprehensive due process has been followed over many years. That process is now complete, and we call on all the parties involved to respect the legal process and the judgment.”
Even the worst enemies of the country could not have conceived of an ultra weapon like the 109-word three-paragraph Prime Minister’s Office statement to discredit the administration of justice, the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Malaysia.
The 109-word three-paragraph Prime Minister’s Office Statement not only peddled false notions and baseless assumptions about the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, but worst of all, it punctured the myth about the presence a truly independent judiciary and the just rule of law in Malaysia.
The PMO office statement issued before the completion of the “exhaustive and comprehensive due process” in Anwar’s Sodomy II trial is in fact the “smoking gun” of Executive violation of the doctrine of separation of powers and interference with the judicial independence and the rule of law.
A judgment from the highest court of the land must be able to stand or fall on its inherent logic and cogency and superiority in its reasoning and arguments, but when the Executive had to be called in to shore up support as calling on Malaysians to “respect the legal process and the judgment”, there is indeed something very rotten with administration of justice in the country!
It is not only the decision of the Federal Court and the integrity of the judiciary which came under intense scrutiny and criticism, the senior lawyer who became Prosecutor under fiat, Tan Sri Muhamad Shafee Abdullah and the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail were also subjected to severe criticisms.
Former attorney-general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman called for Shafee’s fiat as public prosecutor to be be revoked, especially after Shafee’s continued attacks on Anwar Ibrahim after the Opposition’s conviction and sentencing.
Abu Talib said Shafee’s disparaging remarks about Anwar after the case was settled was most inappropriate and merely lend credence to the perception that Anwar’s case was politically motivated.
Shafee is only bringing the office of Public Prosecutor into disrepute when he reacted to criticisms of former Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan by suggesting that she be charged with contempt of court for criticising the judiciary’s decision on Anwar’s case.
Will Shafee next suggest that Malaysia break diplomatic relations with countries which are highly critical about the Federal Court decision on Anwar’s case and declare principal officials of international organisations like ICJ, IPU, Amnesty International which continue to be highly critical of the Federal Court’s decision on Anwar as persona non grata?
Today, there is a call for the Attorney-General Gani Patail to be sacked for abusing his powers by “hiding” an Order to Investigate (OTI) on Shafee and continuing to appoint the latter as a prosecutor in Anwar’s Sodomy II trial.
Former Kuala Lumpur CID chief Mat Zain Ibrahim had filed a police report on Feb 7, three days before Anwar’s conviction, urging Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to exercise his authority over Gani.
Mat Zain said Najib should set up a tribunal to impeach Gani from the AG’s post as Gani continued to appoint Shafee to head the prosecuting team for Anwar’s Sodomy II appeal, despite the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) itself having signed the OTI dated Jan 3, 2014.
Mat Zain said that he only found out about the OTI on May 19, 2014, when the police called him to Putrajaya to have his statement recorded in relation to three police reports he made on Dec 15, 18 and 26, 2013.
Mat Zain’s allegations are serious and cannot be ignored by the Prime Minister.
The idiom “It never rains, but it pours” is appropriate to describe the plight of the administration of justice, particularly with regard to whether there is true independence of judiciary and just rule of law in Malaysia.
Will there continue to be inelegant silence from the Prime Minister on the national and international crisis of confidence of the Malaysian judiciary and rule of law?