BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
The Malaysian Insider
May 15, 2014
Lawyers today demanded Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail (pic) come out of his cocoon and explain several questionable decisions made by his office relating to charges against opposition leaders which were later thrown out of court.
They are particularly aghast that Gani had decided to go ahead and re-charge opposition leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad for his failure to give a 10-day notice to the police under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) to organise a rally.
This was despite the Court of Appeal’s acquittal of Nik Nazmi on April 25 after striking down a punishment provided under the PAA as unconstitutional because it breached the basic rights of citizens to assemble peacefully.
Yesterday, activists Mohd Bukhairy Sofian, Edy Noor Ridzuan and Badrul Hisham Shaharin, or better known as Chegubard, were also granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal by the lower courts as the judges said they were bound by the Court of Appeal ruling.
The lawyers said that Gani must realise that society’s expectations of him have increased, and he now owes them an explanation.
Gani must defend the integrity of the office he had been holding since 2001, they said.
They also took offence at his use of the Sedition Act to clamp down on dissent against Putrajaya, despite Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announcing two years ago that the law would be repealed.
Last week, DAP vice-chairman Teresa Kok was charged with sedition over her satirical “Onederful Malaysia” video that was made in conjunction with the Chinese New Year this year. Earlier, PKR’s Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar of PAS and activists Haris Ibrahim, Adam Adli and Safwan Anang were also charged with the draconian law.
The lawyers pointed out that politicians aligned to Umno, like Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali and former vice-president Zulkifli Nordin, had escaped prosecution for their inflamatory racial and religious slurs.
The lawyers said Gani should clarify these inconsistencies and failure to do so would only contribute to the negative perception that he and his Chambers were selective in their prosecution against those who were seen as anti-establishment.
Criminal lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu said Gani should break his silence as the issues were of public interest.
“He must clarify these issues, only then the public will see him as visible,” said Baljit, who is now an adjunct professor in a local university.
Baljit said the public also expected Gani to come to court and defend his Chamber’s policy and decision.
“Previous A-Gs, like Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, had regularly featured in the judiciary to take on the members of the Bar. Why is he (Gani) shying away from public-interest cases like those on sedition and the PAA?” he asked.
Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said he would like to see an action-oriented Gani to prevent the citizens from having a skewered opinion on public issues.
“In the past, Gani and his Chambers have gone public and I would expect the same treatment in reaction to public criticism on current and pertinent issues,” he said.
Syahredzan said Gani had a duty to protect the good name of the public institution he was heading which was always under scrutiny.
“I am not expecting him to respond to all issues but at least he must react to important cases to remove any serious aspersion cast on him and the Chambers,” he added.
Constitutional lawyer Edmund Bon said it was a fair demand on Gani’s conduct when he decided to re-charge Nik Nazmi.
“His deafening silence gave the perception that he has no respect for the courts, especially when the Chambers has filed an appeal to the Federal Court against the Court of Appeal ruling,” Bon added.
He said while Gani had the discretion to charge Kok, the next question posed is why prosecute her when Najib had promised to drop the Sedition Act from the statute book.
“Is he trying to show that his office is independent of the prime minister? Gani’s conduct, especially on the sedition law, sends a contradictory message and an explanation from him is timely,” he said.
Lawyer Abd Shukor Ahmad said Gani’s action in his official capacity was not subject to challenge in court but in this new era of open government, he could no longer be an A-G of yesteryear.
“Two previous A-Gs were MPs and they were accountable to Parliament but the current expectation of society on the role of Gani as chief legal adviser of the government and crown prosecutor has shifted,” he said.
Shukor said unlike in the past, people were craving for information and this expectation must be satisfied although Gani was answerable to the cabinet. – May 15, 2014.