Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Bar Council ‘appalled’ at government stand on Lingam

Bar Council ‘appalled’ at government stand on Lingam

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”.

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.

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“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.

Islamic groups ejected from Allah suit

Islamic groups ejected from Allah suit


By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – It will be a straight fight between The Herald and the Home Minister in the High Court here next month over the right to publish the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God.

Judge Lau Bee Lan from the High Court’s Appellate and Special Powers division fixed hearing for Dec 14 after ruling in favour of the Catholic Church’s bid to strike out interveners in their challenge against the Home Minister’s ban on publishing the word” Allah” in a non-Muslim context.

Lau retracted her decision, made three months ago, to allow eight state Islamic councils and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) to intervene in the suit, on the basis that they were advisers to the rulers who are heads of Islam.

“The order on the 3rd of August was made on the grounds the High Court had no jurisdiction, following the order from the Federal Court,” counsel for the church, S. Selvarajah told reporters after leaving the judge’s chambers.

The Federal Court, led by Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, had earlier this year made a landmark ruling barring the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) from intervening in a dispute between the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) and Bong Boon Chuen and 150 landowners over Islamic burial land in neighbouring Selangor.

The top court’s decision set the example for other lower courts to keep interveners out.

Selvarajah also said the issue of “justiciability” – whether the courts had the power to decide on the use of the word “Allah” – which had been raised by lawyers from the Attorney General’s Chambers representing the Home Minister, would be argued during the hearing proper.

He noted that The Herald’s annual publishing licence would expire on Dec 31.

The priest-editor of the Catholic weekly, Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, smiled brightly at the court’s decision.

“It’s good. It’s the thing we’ve been waiting for,” a much-relieved Andrew told The Malaysian Insider. “We hope it can be settled within the year.”

The Herald, which is read by 14,000 subscribers, was first banned from publishing the word “Allah” last year.

Under threat of having its licence revoked, it filed a suit challenging the Home Minister’s ban for going against the Federal Constitution, but the dispute failed to be resolved then because its licence had expired.

It was forced to file another application earlier this year, based on the existing publishing licence.

Govt cancels Catholic paper’s 2010 permit

By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – The future has just grown murkier for the country’s only Catholic newspaper, which is locked in a lawsuit against the Home Minister over the right to publish the word “Allah” to mean God for Christians.

The Malaysian Insider was told that The Herald’s publishing permit for next year was retracted recently.

The weekly’s priest-editor, Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, explained that the Catholic Church which publishes the multi-lingual weekly, had first applied for the annual licence in late July.

The Home Ministry had replied on Aug 5 and approved their application to publish in four languages: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil, but rejected their request to add a new language, Kadazandusun.

The church received a second letter from the Home Ministry on Sept 3, which promptly retracted the approval given a month earlier even though the RM800 publishing fee had been paid up.

No reason was given for the rejection, Andrew said.

Instead, the Home Ministry ordered the church to disclose its bank accounts and send in the latest statement, which Andrew found odd.

“They are a licensing body for permits, not a commercial body,” he said.

The priest also said they were forced to put in a letter asking for a refund on the RM800 payment, which he also found strange.

He noted that the ministry should have returned the money automatically, and added that he would not follow the directive as it may indicate that the church agreed with the rejection.

Andrew said the church has enlisted the aide of Datuk Michael Chong, a special officer to the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and a church-going Catholic, to clear the confusing chain of events.

Chong responded promptly and told him the deputy home minister had “overturned” the decision to reject the church’s permit.

But there has been no breakthrough since then. Their last communication was yesterday, through an SMS exchange.

“We’re in limbo right now,” Andrew said.