October 5, 2011
Written by Maclean Patrick, Malaysia Chronicle
The inability for the Malaysian judiciary to bring to closure the Altantuya murder case is shameful and highlights the creeping rot within the judiciary system. The fact that the judgement for the murder trial has yet to be written 2 years after pronouncement is a sham and reflects badly on the courts of law in Malaysia.
For beginners, the judge in question should have written the judgement, signed it in his name and submitted this to the Federal Court. This is in line with Section 281 (b)(ii) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593) that requires such document to be presented upon the appeal against the death sentence.
But while the two former bodyguards of Prime Minister Najib Razak have been sentenced to hang for killing Altantuya, and have already appealed their sentences, the High Court judge, Mohd Zaki Yasin, who found them guilty has till date not written up his judgement.
How then can an appeal be made to the Federal Court if the judgment has not been written? It seems that the courts are purposely delaying the appeal process so as to allow more time to pass, yet to what benefit will this be to the two police officers already sitting on death row?
And why has the Najib administration not questioned Mohd Zaki Yasin as to his inability to write the judgement? Or is Mohd Zaki Yasin waiting for someone else to write the judgement for him? This should not be a surprise, since only in Malaysia is a judge ‘permitted’ to have someone else write his judgement.
Legal profession or wild, wild West
In an astonishing display of the corruption in the Malaysian legal system, a legal secretary testified in 2008 to a Royal Commission of Inquiry that a plaintiff’s lawyer in 1994 wrote an entire judgment to be read by the presiding judge in the case, who then promptly awarded RM10 million in defamation damages to a crony of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad against a journalist and six other defendants.
Those who have been following the Malaysian scene will straightaway know this story revolves around V K Lingam, who in September 2006 became the star player in a continuing legal scandal where a videotape was made public of a telephone conversation he was having with (Tun) Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, then the country’s third-ranking judge and in charge of the appointments of senior judges.
The videotape appeared to show that some of Mahathir’s closest associates, particularly gaming tycoon Vincent Tan, were involved in ensuring or ‘fixing’ the appointments of politically malleable judges.
Goodness gracious, the things that are tolerated!
The royal commission appointed to probe the allegations was told by G Jayanthi, then a legal secretary to V.K. Lingam, that Lingam had written the judgment for the controversial case, in which Vincent Tan was awarded MR10 million in damages for four articles written about him in the now-defunct Malaysian Industry magazine. The judgment was transferred to a computer disk and delivered to High Court Judge Mokhtar Sidin, who read it in court.
In her statement, most of which was written, Jayanthi said that that Lingam was assisted by his brother, another lawyer and the former head of Malaysia’s Industrial Court. She told the court that she had given her handwritten corrections of the draft judgment along with the judgment itself to her lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Lingam, she said, “corrected the draft judgment in red ink on certain pages. Sumanti then did the corrections accordingly and made a copy of the draft judgment in a floppy disk which was to be given by Lingam to Justice Datuk Mokhtar Sidin. I later discovered that the judgment as was written by Lingam was fully incorporated as the official judgment of the said judge.”
Altantuya judgment still ‘hanging’- how now?
It seems that judgments for certain cases can be written in record time and also by someone else either than those involved in the case, contrary to the treatment given to the Altantuya murder. So what then is the problem facing Mohd Zaki Yasin that he has yet to write his judgement? Must a royal commission of inquiry be set up to ascertain as to why the judgement has not been written by Mohd Zaki Yasin?
There are just too many cases of judicial recalcitrance to enumerate. From the 1998 Sodomy I trial perpetrated by ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Perak crisis in 2009, judicial integrity had been on a clear downtrend that does not seem to have found any bottom yet. Just a day ago, 60 opposition MPs filed a motion all the way in Parliament to demand the dismissal of an appellate court judge for plagiarising a judgment written by former Singapore judge GP Selvam.
It’s things like these that make people say the Malaysian judiciary is unprofessional and rotten to the bone. The judiciary that is supposed to be the protector of the people has continued to fail miserably, delaying justice for the innocent and allowing the guilty a free hand at manipulating and abusing the system for their own interests devices.
The very foundation of civil society in Malaysia is compromised and for this Malaysians have to demand reforms and change. Otherwise, Malaysia, sure as a snowball in Hell, is doomed.