An independent judiciary… really?

by Dr Kamal Amzan
The Malaysian Insider
Jan 11, 2012

JAN 11 — We are a funny lot.

Just because of one acquittal, we claim to have an “independent” judiciary. Forget about Eric Chia, forget about the first sodomy trial, forget about what happened to Teoh Beng Hock and let us all just focus on this one and only trial.

From the mainstream media to the online news portals, the response from the government and the opposition leaders to the verdict was akin to striking the lottery.

Today’s headlines in the Star and NST, “Government says it shows freedom of judiciary”, “Slow reassertion of Malaysia’s public institutions”, “Court ruling clears government of baseless accusations.”.

Really? I may be wrong but to claim the judiciary’s independence from one trial verdict seems a bit premature, no?

Why is this verdict such a landmark one… that the entire judiciary’s independence is based on it? Or is it because the verdict went against the establishment that we feel it is independent and free?

In case you haven’t realised, going against the establishment seems to be the “in” thing nowadays. It has been demonstrated by students from UPSI whose tuition fees are borne by us, the taxpayers. They became overnight heroes to some for their so-called “courage”, no matter how misplaced that was.

In as much as I wonder what their grades are like, and whether we should have such individuals teaching our children, I also wonder whether the rakyat will still claim judicial independence when and IF the appellate court overturns the verdict later? Less we forget, the AG has the power to appeal.

Or will we cry conspiracy then?

I ask because I think it is too early to celebrate. Mind you, this is not a perfect science, because only science expects predictable, reproducible results time and again. This is the judiciary.

Malaysian judiciary at that.

Just like winning the SEA Games does not make our Harimau Malaya Olympic champions, one unexpected verdict means nothing in the long run, nor should we start exclaiming judicial independence based on it.

We should be cautiously optimistic, and not lose sight of the real goal. Guilty or innocent, the future of this country does not lie with one man and our progress should not be hindered by the verdict.

It is time we move on. Let the politicians politicise. Malaysians should do what we do best all this while; work hard for our family and by extension the nation. We must keep level heads, be logical and not let our emotions run high. Nothing, and no one should distract us from building and developing this nation of 28 million.

Failing which is detrimental to our own future.

  1. #1 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 - 9:44 pm

    As long as UMNO thnks it is omnipotent, omniscient and omnivorous….the judiciary will be easy meat for UMNO.

  2. #2 by Cinapek on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 12:53 am

    While the sycophantic MSM, true to form , will make loud proclamations that the judiciary is independent, the obscene haste with which Rais made his statement to capitalise on the verdict to score points for the Govt and “bodek” Najib while doing so, suggest that they knew the verdict beforehand.

    I suspect this is all a sandiwara. Yes, this show will play out in the following manner. AG will make the appeal and the court will set a date far down the calendar. Meanwhile Najib calls for an election, and goes to town with the claim that the Govt. did not interfere with the judiciary. If BN wins GE13, the appellate court will deliver the verdict and we all know what that verdict will be.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 1:23 am

    Trying to take Anwar out via sodomy charges I & II has proven difficult in the face of public opinion, both domestic and international, saying it’s politically motivated, the danger to UMNO/BN of further alienation of remaining electoral support for the coming GE by a conviction being clear and present. So it would seem lesser of evils to acquit Anwar and try reap the propaganda benefit of touting the judiciary being independent – headlines in the Star and NST blaring,“ Government says it shows freedom of judiciary”, “Slow reassertion of Malaysia’s public institutions”, “Court ruling clears government of baseless accusations.” This is however not the grand finale. There are continuing problems for the PM in asserting this tag line of independence of judiciary.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 1:24 am

    The first problem is there are the usual detractors who would interpret and contend that the acquittal verdict is indicative of political interference and direction. And the detractors have reasonable grounds to support that contention. So the PM finds himself in an unenviable no-win situation: either conviction or acquittal suggests political interference. If he sticks with acquittal that is not the end of his headache: for the acquittal verdict has dealt a severe blow to the credibility of Saiful and the prosecution team. And here is where the second problem arises.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 1:25 am

    The MalaysianInsider has reported on 11th Jan that according to what Solicitor-General (Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden, who was lead prosecutor in the trial) told TV3 “the “prosecuting team will recommend to the A-G that an appeal be filed” against the acquittal verdict. This is an unprecedented! It implies that the prosecution team led by Solicitor General, dissatisfied with the verdict, may be at odds with the AG. For otherwise if prosecution team & AG are one and share a common stand there is no need to publicize this recommendation on TV 3. They just take a unified stand (quietly) whether to appeal or not within the 14 days prescribed time. Any difference in stand that possibly led to this unprecedented development creates problems especially or the numero ono.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 1:49 am

    Typo error – “…especially to the numero ono…
    The fact that the prosecution team now wants to appeal against the verdict in a scenario that the AG does not share the same enthusiasm may well infer that the AG is aligned to the determination of the powers-that-be not to pursue an appeal, consistent with the stand that conviction incurs too great a political risk and electoral fall out. To not appeal then will not only alienate the govt’s own team of prosecutors inclined towards appeal but it may also buttress detractors’ contention of political interference motivating to acquittal verdict, which is not to be appealed against. However to take contrary stance to appeal (as what prosecutors want) is another back tracking and negates in one blow all the propaganda value of the acquittal behind the MSM’s headlines blaring,“ Government says it shows freedom of judiciary”, “Slow reassertion of Malaysia’s public institutions”, “Court ruling clears government of baseless accusations” and bring the govt and the judiciary immediately back to Square One of being accused as interfering and not independent respectively. Just like either conviction or acquittal, so now either course – to appeal or not appeal- the govt just cannot win or shake off these accusations. It is a real dilemma.

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 1:58 am

    The Wall Street Journal may yet be proven right in speculating that the High Court verdict of Acquittal on 10th Jan may not rest as end to this unhappy drama when Anwar’s accuser (Saiful) and more important the government’s own prosecutors (being discredited by it) are pushing publicly and exerting pressure on the government for an appeal against the verdict.

  8. #8 by Loh on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 2:04 am

    We should only be surprised if the government does not appeal the acquittal. It is not the merit of the case, but it is the process which will get Anwar tied up in matters that prevent him from campaigning full time to remove the present government.

    Najib will again say that he had no hand in either the acquittal or the appeal.

    What is more interesting would be the time lapse between the appeal notification and the time this case is taken up in the court. The government appealed the decision handed down on the constitutionality on the use of the word God with a different spelling, in English two years ago. That appeal case is still waiting.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 5:49 am

    Yes it may be viewed, from one perspective, as furthering BN’s electoral interest to appeal so tat Anwar is bogged down from actively campaigning for the coming GE. However there may be another perspective: if it were viewed that prosecuting the case will, on balance, and in context of getting or losing support for the GE, cast UMNO led BN in negative light of being vindictive, cruel and politically motivated, and that it prefers to be perceived not interfering with, and on the contrary, upholding reform including restoring independence of the judiciary, how will an appeal be consistent with that image?

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 5:52 am

    On one hand, an appeal means the govt disagrees with the acquittal verdict delivered by an “independent” court but on the other hand, if a court has, by reason of independence from govt. interference, delivered a just decision, how does the govt. now appear and look like for purposes of meeting the GE, to try appeal against a just decision after the brouhaha in the MSM about reform/independence of Judiciary? It will imply that it is still vindictive, cruel and conducting a politically motivated prosecution right to the appellate courts with all costs of such prosecution being preserved than neutralised for purposes of the GE!

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 5:52 am

    If that – ie. making sure that Anwar would be weighed down and ineffective in campaigning or the GE were the primary objective – wouldn’t it be better served by alternative recourse in not having the High Court delivered an acquittal verdict so early on the 10th? After all, many peremptory procedural ways may be contrived to protract legal proceedings to the point of time when the court would be required to deliver judgment.

  12. #12 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 6:03 am

    To appeal now -after an acquittal verdict- and then protract the Court of Appeal’s decision, how does that exactly help UMNO/BN score political brownie points on ‘reforms’ to recover support for an imminent GE? I don’t see it: in fact to appeal after an acquittal verdict will engender even more anger amongst detractors in domestic as well as international front. It would have been a lesser evil to delay the earlier High Court decision than have it deliver an acquittal, raising popularity from some quarters, and that quash all by an act of appeal! The dilemma now is compounded by both Saiful & prosecution team – in possible variance from AG’s position- to publicly demand and pressure for appeal!

  13. #13 by boh-liao on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 9:32 am

    Ho, ho, ho, d prosecuting team of AI’s trial wants 2 appeal against d High Court decision
    Aiyo yo, very surprising lah! REALLY?

    M’sia flooded with so much seks in d last few years dat CARS also itchy n want seks position?!

  14. #14 by Godfather on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 11:23 am

    No need to appeal lah….distract the rakyat by proclaiming that the government scientists have discovered by accident an enzyme that allows a person to go around for 4 days without using the toilet.

  15. #15 by Malaysian Voter on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 11:50 am

  16. #16 by Loh on Thursday, 12 January 2012 - 6:36 pm

    The trial judge said that the evidence given by Saiful Bukhari Azlan alone was not good enough to convict Anwar. The DNA evidence was not acceptable to him as reliable, and so he acquitted Anwar.

    The Court of Appeal will have to rule on the reasons given by the Judge.

    Can the court of Appeal say that the statement of Saiful is sufficient to convict?

    Can the Court of Appeal decide that the judge was wrong in his judgement that the DNA evidence was not acceptable.

    If the Court of Appeal cannot do any of the above, how else can the Court of Appeal reverse the verdict?

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