January 11, 2016
Zaid Ibrahim takes on Arifin Zakaria and Gopal Sri Ram
First Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria chastised me for not reading the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the Indira Gandhi case before calling the judges names. The entire mainstream media carried the story.
A few days later, he was ably supported by retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, who asked lawyers (meaning me) to read the judgment before criticising the judges. As if that were not enough, he also described me as a lousy politician for not lasting very long as a minister.
Sri Ram finally congratulated Arifin for defending the judges, and for asking them to write good judgments. For someone in active legal practice (despite having been a senior judge for so long) and who now appears before the Federal Court regularly, that’s not a bad precedent to follow.
I would first like to ask both of them to read my blog post properly. My blog is easier to understand than some of the judgments from the Federal Court these days. I write for the common people. I speak their language. I was never a good or erudite lawyer like Arifin or Sri Ram.
I was saddened by the Court of Appeal’s decision in Indira’s case. I was disappointed with the verdict. Reading the judgment will not make me feel any better. It’s the decision that nauseated me.
As with all previous judgments that disappointed me, the judges defend their decision by saying they were powerless because of something or other. It could be because of a previous decision, or because of Article 121(A), or because the matter rests with the Shariah Court. We have heard it all before. That’s the source of my exasperation.
I did not say the majority judges were heartless or the only ones at fault. I was expressing my frustration, not just at the Court of Appeal judges but at all the judges in the Federal Court in the last 10 years for their cavalier attitude towards fundamental liberties and for not asserting the core constitutional principles of our legal system.
My question was, what kind of system do we have? I said the whole country has failed or has lost its soul, and as a result we have produced heartless judges. If a mother cannot be with her daughter for nine years, then the system stinks.
I don’t care if the Court of Appeal is bound by a 2014 Federal Court decision in Raimi Abdullah’s case. Why didn’t the Court of Appeal follow another Federal Court decision in 2007 in the case of Latifah Mat Zin, if that would have enabled them to give justice to Indira?
Over the years I have seen that there has been no attempt to assert the primacy of federal law over state laws, the primacy of civil courts over the Shariah Court.
As in the Indira case, these judges always find, in cases where there is a conflict between shariah and constitutional principle, the easy way out and suggest that non-Muslim parties seek remedy in the Shariah Court. That’s what incensed me. Read my blog post again.
Sri Ram said the Federal Court’s decision in 2014 in Raimi Abdullah’s case was the cause of the problem. I am sure it is, but I don’t care what the source of the problem is. It’s the heartless judges in Raimi’s case that started it all and which brought us to the latest judgment in Indira’s case, and which led me to describe all of them as heartless. That’s my opinion based on what had happened.
So the Court of Appeal was bound by the decision in the Raimi case. Was the chief justice involved in that decision, that others had to follow it? Is Sri Ram saying that the chief justice is the source of the problem? If the judgment was handed down in 2014 then the present chief justice must have presided over the case. If he thinks the decision in the Raimi case was correct, then I am sorry for Indira and her team.
Now I have to pay the price for calling the judges “heartless”. The police are questioning me and I expect to be charged in court. In Malaysia, a senior judge can say the Bar Council should be happy that opposition leaders have won their cases, implying that the Bar is pro-opposition, but no police investigation will be carried out on him.
But I used words that upset some people in the Palace of Justice, and lo and behold, the police came calling immediately.
Those in Putrajaya who think any upcoming trial will be about me are sadly mistaken – it will be about them. I will defend my use of “heartless judges” vigorously, I will explain why those judges have failed their oath of office, not just in Indira’s case but in many others.
Justice has been denied to Malaysians for so long because the judges are heartless.