Malaysian justice system into shameful disrepute

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By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – The Bar Council said today it was disheartened by the government’s  position in the V.K. Lingam controversy which it said had brought the Malaysian justice system into shameful disrepute.

Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said today that he was appalled at the government’s stand that no wrongdoing could be established in the probe into the V K Lingam video clip incident.

Lingam, a senior lawyer, had been secretly recorded on video engaged in a telephone conversation where he appears to be brokering senior judicial appointments.

The video first surfaced in 2007 and became a major campaign issue in Election 2008 for the opposition.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz sparked an uproar in Parliament on Monday when he said “judiciary fixer” Lingam had been let off the hook “because he had broken no law”.

Nazri also suggested that Lingam breached no laws as he might “have just acted to fix the appointment of judges as if he was brokering the appointment of senior judges to impress people”.

Malaysian Insider reported Nazri argued that from the legal perspective Lingam could have merely made a suggestion as to who should be appointed to senior posts in the judiciary.

A royal commission had proposed that action be taken against Lingam and several others purportedly involved in the recording including former Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin, Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan, a close friend of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Nazri revealed that investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the figures named also found no conclusive evidence that there was any form of power abuse by any of them.

“Such a simplistic and irresponsible conclusion is an affront to the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI)’s commendable work of thoroughly and objectively sieving through the evidence presented.

“The RCI found that wrongdoings had indeed been committed, and it further identified some breaches of statutes applicable to the circumstances,” Ragunath said in a statement today.

He added that Lingam’s statement that he was able to fix the appointment of judges “brings into contempt the administration of justice.”

“The video clip raises grave questions but there is also other evidence of serious misdeeds, for example Dato’ V.K. Lingam’s authorship of a judgment in a case in which he had himself appeared as counsel for one of the parties.

“Another example is the clear evidence of the joint New Zealand holiday taken by Dato’ V. K. Lingam and then-Chief Justice Tun Eusoffe Chin and their respective families, which wholly discredited their claims for many years that they had met only by chance,” he said.

Ragunath stressed that these incidents must be investigated to determine if the allegations were true.

“What happened has undoubtedly brought the Malaysian judicial institution into shameful disrepute.  To now say that no laws have been broken and to classify the affair as ‘No Further Action’ is to selectively and arbitrarily apply justice.

“The tragic irony will not escape the Malaysian public – the very system of justice that Dato’ V. K. Lingam has been found to have abused and made a mockery of now refuses to mete out justice against him,” he said.

Pakatan Rakyat MPs yesterday presented the alleged key witness that may support their claims that Lingam and Eusoff had planned their New Zealand trip together.

They had hoped the alleged key witness, Lingam’s former secretary Jayanthi Naidu, would prove that the government was attempting to cover up the scandal which has raised suspicions about possible collusion.

However Nazri refuted today that Jayanthi was the witness that MACC was looking for.