The Malaysian Bar refers to the Prime Minister’s latest statement that he received pressure from particular parties to intervene in court matters as a way to exonerate several unnamed individuals from criminal charges.
This assertion is deeply concerning and, if true, is tantamount to the commission of several criminal offences, including obstruction of justice and abuse of powers.
It is pertinent to note that the act of obstructing a public servant in the discharge of his or her public functions is a criminal offence under Section 186 of the Penal Code, and the definition of a “public servant” in Section 21 of the Penal Code encompasses judges and officers of the court.
Pursuant to Section 202 of the Penal Code, it behoves a person who has a reasonable belief that an offence has been committed, to give information in respect of that offence. Failure to do so is tantamount to an offence.
Whoever that had approached the prime Minister to intervene on their behalf is procuring the commission of a criminal offence. According to Section 25 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, any person who is given, promised or offered any gratification – which in this context includes the promise of political support – shall report this to the MACC without any delay.
Gratification under Section 3(f) of the MACC Act includes any service or favour and this includes protection from any penalty from action or proceedings. It is evident from the law that the prime minister is legally obliged to report such an incident immediately to the MACC.
The Malaysian Bar therefore urges the prime minister to name the individuals who have made such requests and to lodge a report with the relevant authorities, without any further delay. The police and the MACC must promptly commence investigations into these incriminating accusations.
In addition to investigations, the Malaysian Bar calls for the immediate setting up of a royal commission of inquiry to look into these claims. This is a matter of critical public importance, and under no circumstances should the independence of our justice system be compromised. The prime minister’s claims are serious allegations of attempts to persuade him to break the law and abuse his prime ministerial powers, and these have acute implications on the rule of law and the administration of justice in our country. A thorough investigation must be undertaken to uncover the extent of any attempt to interfere with our justice system.
In the English Court of Appeal decision of Morris and others v The Crown Office , Lord Denning stated:
… The course of justice must not be deflected or interfered with. Those who strike at it, strike at the very foundations of our society.
This perfectly encapsulates the necessity of an effective justice system where the courts can arrive at their decisions without any undue pressure or influence.
The importance of a democracy where the judiciary is insulated from political interference, cannot be overstated. The judiciary must be independent and impartial, free of all external influences so that it can carry out its functions without any impediment. It is the responsibility of not only the courts, but of all our institutions — the legislature, executive and judiciary — to ensure that no one is above the law, irrespective of their political or social affiliations.
The prime minister, as the leader of this country, therefore, owes a duty to the rakyat to provide a full and frank disclosure of the identities of these parties and bring them to justice. We call upon the prime minister to lead by example. If no clear explanation is furnished and no report is made, this may give rise to unnecessary speculation or perception concerning the prime Minister himself.
No stone must be left unturned, and this matter cannot be put to rest until the truth is ascertained. There must be public confidence in the dispensation of justice by our courts, and action must be taken swiftly to remove the concerns of the rakyat, in light of this sudden and alarming revelation.
Judicial independence is sacrosanct and is the hallmark of a mature and functioning democracy. The Malaysian Bar has confidence that our judges are scrupulous and conscientious individuals who strive to serve the public. We stand ready to protect and defend the independence of the judiciary to ensure that the rule of law and the administration of justice in our country are preserved.
AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.