October 23, 2014
Malaysians urged to demand the A-G’s accountability
DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang today issued a clarion call to Malaysians to demand that the Attorney-General’s Chambers submit to public scrutiny for its accountability.
In a media statement referring to A-G Abdul Gani Patail’s announcement on Septtember 9 that his office would review the sedition charges against academic Azmi Sharom and others, Lim noted that seven weeks had passed “but nothing has been forthcoming on the outcome of this review, or whether such a review has taken place.”
He said the opaqueness of the AG and his office “is not maintainable in a modern democratic country committed to accountability and good governance principles.”
He urged Malaysian citizens and their representatives in Parliament to demand that the A-G’s Chambers “submit to public and parliamentary scrutiny for accountability. MPs and the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether in the exercise of the prosecutorial discretion on the basis of public interest, are these purely legal considerations or they also involve political considerations, and if so, the nature of these political considerations,” he said.
The DAP leader also referred to former A-G Abu Talib Othman’s criticism of Gani’s September 9 statement. “Is he (The A-G) admitting that he was not fair and transparent when the accused were first charged, and that is why he is reviewing the cases now? Maybe he should clarify,” he quoted Abu Talib as saying. Lim said Gani, more than failing to clarify, had allowed the sedition blitz to continue.
Contrasting the sedition charges against opposition leaders and activists with the apparent immunity of Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali despite his call for the burning of Bibles, Lim said Gani was “fuelling the worst crisis of confidence in the nation’s history over the role and powers of the Attorney-General as a result of his silence over the escalating controversy”.
He said the A-G’s failure to provide an “acceptable explanation that there has been no arbitrary abuse of the A-G’s prosecutorial discretion … has raised serious questions as to whether he is committed to upholding the rule of law and to act as guardian of the public interest”.
Lim also quoted from a letter from former Court of Appeal judge K C Vohrah (left) that the Star published today. He said Vohrah expressed “the legitimate nagging concerns in many minds”. Vohrah called for the review and withdrawal of sedition cases based on three considerations:
1.The Sedition Act is an oppressive law and that many jurists and scholars consider sedition (based on common law seditious libel) as obsolete. Seditious libel came during a period when the divine right of rulers was not only accepted but believed to be necessary;
2.That once a person is charged for an offence under the act, looking at the state of case law in Malaysia, there is no defence that can normally be taken for offences, say, under the Penal Code or other acts creating offences. So it appears there can be no defence even of truth, lack of intention, presence of an innocent or honourable intention, absence of consequent harm, or even a lack of possibility or potential for consequent harm.
3.That the A-G before exercising his discretion whether to charge a person for sedition must ignore pressure from any quarter, political or otherwise, the noisy and the cantankerous, and the well-meaning and well-intentioned groups (who have not seen the oppressive implications of the law), and focus on whether it is reasonable to charge such a person in the context of all relevant circumstances in an age of “disagreement in ideas and belief on every conceivable subject” which are the essence of our life in modern Malaysia pushing on for developed status in 2020. http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Letters/2014/10/23/Doubts-in-administration-of-justice/