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Jaundiced Justice!

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To postpone the hearing of the habeas corpus applications by the PSM six who have been detained without trial under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 was the most inordinate thing to do, writes Martin Jalleh, who was in court yesterday.

In the midst of a packed courtroom of members and supporters of the Socialist Party of Malaysia many of whom wore red T-shirts, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Su Geok Yiam apparently turned “yellow” today.

Justice was compromised, as a cowed Court caved in and allowed the application by the government, Police and Home Minister to adjourn hearing the habeas corpus applications of six PSM leaders who have been held under the Emergency Ordinance since 2 July. The detainees are Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, PSM deputy chairman M Sarasvathy, central committee members Choo Chon Kai and M Sukumaran, Sungai Siput branch secretary A Letchumanan and national Youth chief R Sarat Babu.

With the continued “unlawful” detention for a further two weeks, justice was further delayed again today. The urgency of determining on the detention (and freedom) of the six did not seem to matter much to the judge during today’s hearing. Justice was further denied to those unjustly detained. It was public perception that what seemed to be of greater importance to the judge was that the government was not denied the opportunity to extend the injustice!

The flimsy and frivolous excuse given by Senior Federal Counsel (SFC), Othman Yusof, who represented the Inspector General of Police, the government and the Minister of Home Affairs (the respondents) for the application for an adjournment was that they needed to respond to 15 additional affidavits filed by the six detainees.

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Lead counsel Haji Sulaiman Abdullah objected to the request for the adjournment. He said that the six could not file the additional affidavits earlier because the respondents had delayed in providing the lawyers access to the detainees. “It was a situation of their very own making … The respondents would not be in a predicament to request for an adjournment, had they allowed the detainees access to their lawyers earlier.”

Haji Sulaiman also argued that the sole ground advanced by the respondents for the continued detention of the applicants in their earlier affidavits was that the six were detained because the police were investigating them for their role in the Bersih rally of 9 July. Since the rally is over, there are no further grounds for their continued detention. He raised the ridiculousness of the issue: “How do you justify the detention after 9 July? None of the (respondents’) affidavits addressed that point!” He told the court: “The respondents should not be rewarded by asking for an adjournment to put in further affidavits.”

Alas, the Attorney-General’s Chambers has been so predictable and even pathetic in the case. A few days before the hearing, one of the lawyers of the PSM 6, Edmund Bon, was even able to predict (very accurately) that the lawyers for the respondents would seek an adjournment. “They will probably try to drag it past the 30 days so that they have more time to get the minister’s order. Once the minister’s order is filed we have to get a new habeas corpus application,” he said, adding that this was how many EO cases were handled but go unreported because the detainees were not as prominent as the PSM 6. (An order by the Home Minister would enable a person to be detained for two years, and the order can be renewed indefinitely.)

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Justice Su’s decision to grant an adjournment to the habeas corpus applications was met with shock, sighs of disgust, exasperation, and comments implying that Su was being supine, some which are not so suitable to mention here! Several lawyers who were also in the gallery and who were standing in front of me asked aloud: “How can they do it… how can they face themselves at the end of the day…. how can the judiciary come up with something as ridiculous as this?”

After the decision by Su to adjourn the hearing, Hj Sulaiman referred to an earlier question posed by the judge on whether they would agree to abandon the 15 additional affidavits, with a view of proceeding with the habeas corpus application. The senior counsel said that in the interest of his clients he was prepared to forego the 15 additional affidavits so that the Court could get on with hearing the habeas corpus applications for the liberty of his clients were at stake!

SFC Othman objected, as a ruling has been made. A lively exchanged ensued.

Justice Su proceeded to give directions on the filing of the affidavits and outline submissions. She eventually postponed the hearing of the PSM 6’s habeas corpus application to 5 August.

“Su-preme” injustice was done by Justice Su today! She gave in to the superficial arguments of the lawyers for the government, Inspector-General of Police and Home Minister. To postpone the hearing of the habeas corpus applications by the PSM six who have been detained under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 was the most inordinate thing to do.

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The countless who came to show their solidarity for their six brave comrades and patriots were no doubt disappointed but they did not despair. They were more determined. Their chant of “Bebas, bebas! Bebas PSM 6! (Free the PSM 6!)” rang loud and clear in the corridors and halls of the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Martin Jalleh, a well known political commentator, is a regular contributor to Aliran.

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