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Joint statement by lawyers against intimidation of judiciary

Lawyers slam the attacks against the judiciary and judges following a 'leaked' document from the MACC on supposed conflict of interest.


We, the undersigned, wish to express our support for the statement issued by the president of the Malaysian Bar on April 4, in relation to the so-called "leaked" document from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the attacks against the Malaysian judiciary and judges thereof.

The continuing intimidation of the judiciary by irresponsible actors in connection with the SRC International case is a danger to the rule of law in our country, particularly as 14 judges have considered the SRC International case and 13 of them have handed down reasoned judgments upholding the conviction.

Further, the issue of the purported conflict of interest of Mohd Nazlan Ghazali was canvassed and argued by the lawyers for Najib Razak before two separate panels of the Federal Court (in the main appeal against conviction, and subsequently in the review application pursuant to Rule 137 of the Rules of the Federal Court 1995).

On both occasions, the Federal Court considered the matter and decided there was no merit in the allegation.

It is noted in this regard that the sole dissenting or minority decision in the review application did not offer any opinion on the issue of the alleged conflict of interest.

Thus, the allegation of conflict of interest against Nazlan has been decided with finality. The principle of "res judicata" applies and the matter cannot be reopened.

Certainly, it cannot be reopened as a collateral attack in the media or by any other means. To do so is a serious undermining of the administration of justice.

Another concern is the "leaked" MACC letter dated Feb 20, addressed to the chief justice that went viral and which was then released to the press containing a purported "finding" or "view" by MACC that Nazlan was in breach of the Judge’s Code of Ethics.

This constitutes a serious transgression by MACC of its authority and jurisdiction under its governing act. The MACC letter concerns issues that are not within the purview or competence of the MACC.

It is clear that the MACC cannot make findings or come to a view, nor decide on matters that fall outside its jurisdiction but which are squarely within the purview of the judiciary.

Moreover, it is astounding that such a sensitive and confidential letter could have found its way into the public domain, raising serious questions about the confidentiality of MACC processes which warrant immediate investigation.

We note that a letter from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said to Najib's lawyers was similarly leaked to the press containing a repetition of MACC’s questionable "finding" or "view".

It is unusual that a minister has seen fit to respond and provide information to a litigant in respect of MACC’s letter to the chief justice. This reeks of interference.

We further wish to express our profound disappointment at the silence of the attorney-general: 

(a) on the conflict issue which has been decided conclusively by the Federal Court; and

(b) in failing to publicly clear Nazlan of the scurrilous allegations of corruption (which even Najib has withdrawn).

More so, as the attorney-general is himself a former Federal Court judge and must surely appreciate the devastating effect of his silence upon the judiciary and the sanctity of the administration of justice.

This case has given rise to an unacceptable level of intimidation against judges who are doing their duty to uphold the law without fear or favour.

They are facing constant harassment, and are subject to machinations and schemes by some with vested interests.

All of this must stop as it does not serve the rule of law or the country. Those who have been found to have committed offences must pay for them. That is the Malaysian criminal justice system.

There should be no preferred class of people in this country who are permitted to tear down an institution to escape the law.

Everyone is said to be equal before the law. Does anybody believe that if it was not a powerful political figure involved in the SRC International case, the current attacks on the judiciary would occur?

Do Malaysians want to see, again, our justice system compromised by powerful politicians?

Finally, one may criticise a judgment of the court, but this must be done in temperate terms for a proper purpose, and without casting any aspersions or ascribing improper motives against a judge. This would be contemptuous, and liable to legal action.

Responding to MACC’s Ahmad Rosli Mohd Sham:

The response from MACC misses the woods for the trees. The two "surat pekeliling" (government circulars) referred to by the MACC committee are wholly inapplicable. They apply only to civil servants.

(Ahmad Rosli Mohd Sham is MACC’s Operation Review Panel chairman).

Judges of the superior courts (High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court) are not civil servants.

In any event, such circulars cannot override the MACC Act. MACC only has the power to investigate alleged corruption and matters related thereto. This is clearly set out in the MACC Act.

MACC does not have any power or jurisdiction to investigate, let alone make findings or come to a view of an alleged conflict of interest in a court matter and breaches of judicial ethics.

The position taken by MACC via its committee is untenable and serves to confuse the issue and the public.

Furthermore, and as stated earlier, this precise issue has been decided conclusively by the Federal Court and any reference to it as if it were a live issue is wholly improper.

This statement is signed by:
• VC George
• Param Cumaraswamy
• Zainur Zakaria
• Cyrus Das
• Mah Weng Kwai
• Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari
• Yeo Yang Poh
• Ambiga Sreenevasan
• Lim Chee Wee
• Steven Thiru
• George Varughese
• Fareed Abdul Gafoor
• Salim Bashir
• AG Kalidas

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.