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IHT: Judicial Bravery Startles Malaysia
By Thomas Fuller
3/7/2001 2:20 am Tue
[Keputusan pengadilan 3 hakim yang membebaskan Zainur itu akan
digunakan sebaik-baiknya oleh peguam-peguam Anwar. Ini pastinya
akan menyebabkan Mahathir keresahan yang tidak ketentuan. Anwar
nampaknya semakin mengancam dan sihat di dalam walaupun tubuhnya
di dalam kesakitan dan dipenjarakan. Tetapi Mahathir pula seperti
semakin terlebam dan dalam kesakitan. Sakit diluar bolehlah diubati
tetapi sakit di dalam siapakah yang tahu?. Tentunya tidak ada doktor
yang pakar mampu merawat sakitnya itu nanti.
Mahathir nampaknya semakin dihinggapi juga oleh keaiban yang amat
ditakutinya. Seorang demi seorang yang mendampinginya sudah semakin
tersisih darinya kerana dilanda keaiban juga. Raja polis sudahpun
terkena dan kini raja duit telah menghilang dan raja mahkamah pula sedang
kepanasan telinga. Tanpa wang dan tanpa mahkamah dan tanpa polis siapa
lagi yang dapat melepaskannya?
Thomas Fuller International Herald Tribune
Monday, July 2, 2001
Rulings Represent the First Check on Mahathir Regime in a Decade
KUALA LUMPUR A series of high-profile court rulings against the
government recently has surprised lawyers in Malaysia and has
provided the first significant legal check on the administration of Prime
Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad in more than a decade.
In the last four weeks judges have freed members of the opposition who
were detained under a draconian security law, exposed and
invalidated sham elections and criticized a judge who convicted the
government's most prominent dissident.
Lawyers attributed the judiciary's new activism to the appointment last
December of Mohammed Dzaiddin Abdullah as chief justice. Mr.
Dzaiddin is respected among the legal establishment and soon after his
appointment he vowed to tackle the public's "negative perception" of
the judiciary. But lawyers here also say they wonder how long Mr.
Mahathir, who has been in power nearly 20 years, and his
authoritarian government will tolerate such challenges.
"There is definitely a resurgence of judicial independence," said Param
Cumaraswamy, a Malaysian lawyer who also serves the United Nations
as special overseer of independence for judges and lawyers. "The only
concern is the political forces and how they are going to react."
For a decade, the country's courts have played a key role in
buttressing Mr. Mahathir's administration. They have jailed or fined
government critics and cases against the administration often have
foundered. The recent decisions, however, have dealt blows to the
government in several sensitive areas.
The Federal Court, the highest in the country, ruled during an appeal
last week that the judge who presided at the conviction of Mr.
Mahathir's principal political foe, Anwar Ibrahim, had displayed "a
blatant disregard of rules of procedure" during one of Mr. Anwar's trials.
Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, is serving 15 years in prison
for abuse of power and s###my.
In their ruling Thursday, the court's three judges unanimously dismissed
a contempt-of-court conviction against one of Mr. Anwar's lawyers.
"We are left with an unenviable position of questioning the motive" of
the prosecutor in Mr. Anwar's trial, Justice Steve L.K. Shim wrote in his
Lawyers for Mr. Anwar say they are considering how the judgment can
be used to buttress Mr. Anwar's appeals.
"We are still working out the right way of putting it," said Sankara Nair,
one of Mr. Anwar's lawyers. "We could throw a certain imputation that
the judge was biased."
The still far-off prospect of a successful appeal by Mr. Anwar - and
freedom for the former deputy prime minister - is, at the very least,
unsettling to Mr. Mahathir, who has faced increasing dissent from
inside as well as outside his party.
Mr. Anwar continues to be popular and is one of the few politicians in
the country capable of galvanizing the opposition against the prime
minister. In the meantime, however, an increasingly independent judiciary could
hurt the government in a host of other cases, including who has the
right to tens of millions of dollars in oil royalties.
In the meantime, however, an increasingly independent judiciary could hurt the government in a host of other cases, including who has the right to tens of millions of dollars in oil royalties.
Malaysia's main opposition party sued the government to reclaim the oil
money, which was diverted by Mr. Mahathir after the opposition
captured the oil-producing state of Terengganu in the 1999 elections.
Terengganu's government, which was controlled by Mr. Mahathir's
party for more than a decade, had been receiving the royalties.
The return of the money to the Terengganu government could boost the
opposition, which stripped the ruling party of about 20 percent of its
seats in the last election.
A recent decision by a judge in the eastern state of Sabah also raised
the possibility that future elections may be scrutinized more closely by
In early June, Justice Mohammed Kamil Awang nullified the election of
a high-profile member of Mr. Mahathir's ruling coalition, saying the
politician had been elected by nonexistent voters. In his ruling, the
judge stunned the legal establishment by revealing that he had been
given a "directive" over the phone to dismiss the case.
The judge later revealed that the caller was the country's then-chief
justice, a controversial figure who once was photographed on vacation
in New Zealand with a prominent lawyer who was arguing a case
Justice Mohammed Kamil described the chief justice's directive as an "insult to one's intelligence" and said that he had decided to ignore the phone call and to "act as a judge and not a 'yes man.'"