The promotion of Abdul Gani Patail as the new Attorney General is a slap on the face of all Malaysians, as the appointment came after the Federal Court (highest court) has practically crucified him for his alleged role to fabricate evidence against the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the latter's trial.
In a recent Federal Court judgment (28.06.01) quashing a 'contempt of court' conviction on Anwar's lawyer Zainur, the judges have repeatedly questioned the propriety of Gani's conduct in relations to his alleged role to use the death penalty to extort false evidence from Anwar's pal for the purpose of convicting Anwar. The discourse of the judges points irresistibly to the existence of a conspiracy between the prosecutors and the judge to falsely convict Anwar.
The above dubious appointments have undoubtedly caused serious consternation as to whether the Chief Justice¡¦ avowed course to restore judicial independence will be thwarted and reversed, particularly when his short term of two years will expire in a year's time.
To a country like Malaysia, which has already lost all checks and balances of a functioning democracy, the battle to revive judicial independence is a matter of life or death.
Under Mahathir's 2-decade rule, Malaysia has been transformed from a democracy to a dictatorship through progressive introduction of repressive legislations. Parliament has now been reduced to a mere rubber stamp of the Executive, free press is non-existent, TV and radio stations broadcast only government propaganda, public assemblies by the Opposition are banned, Opposition leaders are arrested and detained indefinitely without trial, judiciary has been cowed (until recently), and election is but a farce.
Mahathir's one-man rule has brought rampant corruption and cronyism benefiting mainly the elites under the guise of affirmative action policy for the Malay masses. Entrenched and comprehensive policies of favoritism based on race is now endangering Malaysia's international competitiveness, and hence its very economic survival in the globalising world. Gross mismanagement and mega-squandering of public funds have drained Malaysia's resources. Above all, Mahathir's cruel and unjust persecution of his former designated successor Anwar Ibrahim and the brutal suppression of the Reformasi movement spearheaded by the latter has plunged Malaysia into international disrepute. The rule of law of this Country has sunk so low that it has yet to regain investor's confidence.
Against this gloomy scenario, the only constitutional means open to reform-minded Malaysians to achieve their objective of unseating the incumbent political power is to seek justice from the judiciary. A truly independent judiciary will be able to restore justice to the people, and return a level playing field of contest for power between the incumbent and the challenger.
A practical example is Anwar's final appeal against his conviction in the first trial, which was scheduled to be heard in the Federal Court on 12th November 2001, but was postponed due, we were told, to the illness of a judge. If Anwar succeeds in this appeal, as well as in all his subsequent appeals against his conviction in the second trial, he will be set free from prison.
Similarly, Reformasi leaders currently detained without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), have also made their final appeal to the Federal Court against previous dismissal of their habeas corpus application. This hearing, scheduled on 19th November 2001, has also been postponed due, we were told again, to the illness of a judge. If these Reformasi leaders succeed in their appeal, this would have meant the court has stepped in to put a stop to the current rampant and reckless abuse of the ISA to crush legitimate political dissent.
The combined effect of the restoration of freedom to Anwar Ibrahim and the Reformasi leaders will instantly re-vitalise their political party Keadilan Nasional. With Anwar's impeccable reputation as a creditable leader nationally and internationally and his immense popularity among the Malay masses still intact, he will undoubtedly pose a formidable challenge to Mahathir. And the Reformasi movement, carrying its anti-corruption battle-cry on a multi-racial platform, will certainly be a viable alternative to the incumbent Barisan Nasional which is mired in money politics and outdated racialism.
The above scenario is no dream, but a distinct reality, if the Chief Justice succeeds in restoring the judiciary as an independent and efficient institution, expeditiously fulfilling its functions under the Constitution.
Since all the Opposition parties have already declared their support to Anwar as Malaysia's future prime minister, it would not be unthinkable for Anwar to galvanise all the Opposition forces into a viable government with sufficient talents to lead Malaysia in the unprecedented challenges that Malaysia presently faces in the new environment of ICT revolution and globalisation. And Malaysia may yet be saved from Mahathir's prolong misrule.
It is not difficult to see that, if this Nation is to survive as a viable democracy, the Chief Justice must be allowed to bring his reforms of the judiciary to fruition expeditiously, without hindrances from the Executive. And the dubious appointment of Gani as the AG, Fairuz as the Chief Judge of Malaya, and Mohtar as a Federal Court Judge are certainly major obstacles that are designed to counter and derail the judicial reforms that have proceeded well so far. And since the Prime Minister is the prime mover in all these appointments under the Constitution, maximum pressure must be brought to bear on him to reverse his course.
An honorable judiciary is our last line of defence against the Prime Minister's incessant encroachment on whatever little human rights that is still left to us. Let us draw a line here and now that the Prime Minister must not cross in his insatiable quest for more powers to enslave us.
Let us reject his puppet AG and his puppet judges with our full might.
- Kim Quek. 21.11-2001