PMO has no business declaring judiciary as independent, say lawyers

by V. Anbalagan
The Malaysian Insider
12 February 2015

No amount of affirmation by Putrajaya will boost the judiciary’s image as an independent body, lawyers said, pointing out that such confidence in the institution of justice must come from the public and litigants.

The lawyers, who were commenting on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) swift statement in response to opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s guilty verdict on Tuesday, said it was unusual and unnecessary.

More so when the statement tried to defend the judiciary by saying that it is independent and that the judges “had reached their verdict only after considering the evidence in a balanced and objective manner.”

Lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said there was no necessity for the PMO to do so although Anwar’s appeal is considered a high profile case that had attracted international attention.

“No such statement was issued when the Federal Court in a 4-3 ruling rejected the Catholic Church’s leave application to appeal against the right to use the word Allah in a weekly newspaper,” Amer said.

Similary, he said there was no response from Putrajaya when the Federal Court last month allowed the government’s appeal and sentenced to death two former police commandos for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Amer said the only way the judiciary could assert it is an independent arbiter was in the conduct of a trial or appeal and finally reflected well in its grounds of judgment.

He said that since the bench took eight days to hear the appeal and slightly more than two month to deliver its verdict, all the five judges should have written separate judgments.

“There is nothing wrong with coming to a unanimous ruling but the public wanted to know the reasoning of the judges who heard the appeal,” he said.

Another lawyer, R.Kengatharan said he too was perplexed why the need for the government to roll out a statement as soon as the opposition leader’s conviction was affirmed by the apex court.

“When MAS aircrafts (MH370) went missing and another (MH17) was shot down, the official response came days later,” he said.

Kengatharan said every citizen would assume that the judiciary was independent but if they wanted to draw another conclusion, that was public perception.

He also questioned whether the statement was made after consulting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and whether he endorsed it.

Kengatharan said that statement could amount to contempt of court because it was made before the judicial process to decide the measure of punishment for Anwar was concluded.

Lawyer S.N.Nair said the statement was unwarranted as no foreign countries had condemned that verdict or the judiciary.

“Why was there a knee jerk reaction for this case,” he asked.

He said even if the judgment was criticised, it was for the judiciary to defend itself without fear and favour.

“But ultimately, it is the public and litigants who should endorse whether the Malaysian judiciary is credible and free to decide according to law,” he said.

The PMO’s swift response to Anwar’s guilty verdict has raised eyebrows, after it was released just minutes after the Federal Court announced its decision.

Anwar and several Pakatan Rakyat leaders at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya had also raised this matter before the five-member bench on Tuesday.

In response to this, PMO said that it had prepared statements in advance for either outcome: conviction or acquittal, adding that Putrajaya had no prior knowledge of the Federal Court’s decision to convict the opposition leader.

On Tuesday, a five-man Federal Court bench dismissed Anwar’s appeal against conviction for having carnal intercourse with his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The bench led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, later affirmed the five-year jail term imposed by the Court of Appeal last year. – February 12, 2015.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Friday, 13 February 2015 - 8:21 am

    In a normal check and balanced system, its ONLY NORMAL for the executive to complain of too independent judiciary. NOT defend them immediately after they rule in their favour, there should not be any need for it if they are. Doing it merely cast EVEN MORE DOUBT on the independence of the judiciary.

    But the facts of the case speaks for itself. The problem is in this country, there are too many who don’t even know what normal means so much less understand how it really is connected to them personally in the end..

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Friday, 13 February 2015 - 9:26 am

    WHAT’s wrong with PMO praising our judges n judiciary lah?
    Excellent thing, must praise high high mah
    Transparency lor

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