Why Penalise The Four Academicians For Voicing Their Opinion?

Istana Negara

Almost a year ago, voters voted for change and hailed the dawn of a new era.  They kicked out the Barisan Nasional administration for a coalition that promised them better life quality, better pay, freedom of speech among others.

A month later, the Minister of Education announced that public universities could organise debates and forums “like in other renowned universities around the world” (Menteri: IPTA kini boleh anjur debat, forum – Malaysiakini, 6 June 2018).

This prompted an academician, Dr Khoo Ying Hooi, to pen his feelings saying that the newfound freedom of speech is needed to create a new narrative that academicians do not only teach in universities but have a bigger responsibility, that is to contribute to society (Suara hati ahli akademik yang kini bebas selepas berdekad dirantai – The Malaysian Insight, 9 June 2018).

Just six days to a year of taking over the administration, the same Minister of Education wants the four academicians who presented their views to the Rulers Council to resign from their post (Maszlee: Academics must take responsibility for executive summary on Rome Statute).

He was alluding to the fact that they should not continue to hold their post due to alleged lack of integrity.

The four are Professor Datuk Dr Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Dr Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.  The four were summoned by the Yang DiPertuan Agong to present their views of the Rome Statute to the Rulers Council.  The four were opposed to the Statute and cited their reasons.

The Rulers Council also summoned Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to present their views and reasons for their support of the Statute.

If the government is truly serious about respecting freedom of speech and expression, then it should also respect dissenting views.  Furthermore, the four academicians, like Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G, were summoned by the Rulers.  They did not just appear in front of the Rulers at their own time, whims and fancies. It was an order.

It just happens so that the views of the four managed to convince the Rulers Council that the Rome Statute is not good for the nation while Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G failed to convince their Majesties otherwise.

Therefore, in the name of integrity, shouldn’t Shad Saleem Faruqi and the A-G resign too?

Erectile Dysfunction

My post yesterday had put lots of knots in many Opposition supporters’ (Penyokong Pembangkang or PEPEK for short) knickers, it seems.  Some questioned why is it that they cannot find reference to some of the things I had written.

The answer is simple – I attended the talk by US Supreme Court Advocate Appellate Tom Goldstein. So did some others whom I saw, like Azmi Arshad, blog owner of Another Brick In The Wall, Tun Faisal of JASA, members of the media (both mainstream and electronic).

The talk was supposed to start at 9am and was to finish at 11am as the auditorium was to be used by another session.  Tom arrived late, around 10.25am and was given only half an hour to speak with five minutes of Q&A session.  Among the questions asked during the very short Q&A session were “Does the US plan to do away with the jury system in its trials” and “The 1MDB is a civil forfeiture suit, why is there now a criminal action being pursued”.

Both were answered by Tom as per the media reports.  And then it was announced that they had to cut the session short because the auditorium had been booked for another programme.

Tom was ushered into a meeting room where he and the Dean of the Faculty of Law had their coffee break, together with some UiTM staff.  The media chaps were ushered to a different place to have their food.  Only Tun Faisal, a journalist from The Mole, and I, managed to bring our food and sat at the same table with Tom.  Tun Faisal and I asked the questions on IPIC, SRC and 1MDB where Tom mentioned the complexity of the case and why there is absolutely no progress whatsoever – the complainants who are in no way linked to 1MDB lodged a complaint with the US Department of Justice saying that money had been siphoned from the 1MDB, to which the 1MDB had denied losing any money.  So to whom should the money be returned to if no one has lost any?

And to this I asked Tom if this is the reason it has taken the DoJ so long to actually initiate something, he answered with a simple, “Yes.”  In other words, the probe has come to a standstill. The only reason they have asked a stay on the civil investigation and changed it to a criminal one is to NOT allow any of the money to be spent.  To date, no one has been named as criminal defendants, not one charge has been filed, and not one targetted to be investigated on a criminal charge.

Which brings me to this:  the Attorney-General of the US, in his speech at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington DC yesterday said that 1MDB is kleptocracy at its worst.

The headline that had gotten all the PEPEKs wet

Mr Sessions said that allegedly corrupt officials and their associates had reportedly used the 1MDB funds for a “lavish spending spree” such as US$200 million for real estate in South California and New York, US$130 million in artwork, US$100 million in an American music label and a US$265 million yacht.

1MDB officials allegedly laundered more than US$4.5 billion in total, he said, through a complex web of opaque transactions and shell companies with bank accounts in various countries such as Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg and the US.

This is nothing new. This is something we have heard which was read live on cable TV by Mr Sessions’s predecesor. And this brings me to a question – if this is so, why hasn’t the US DoJ taken any action for the past year and a half?  This only underscores what Tom Goldstein had said – the complaint said the money was siphoned from 1MDB, but the 1MDB said they have not lost a single cent.  So, whose money did these “1MDB officials” siphon?

Those assets have been frozen since mid-2016 and still have not been returned to 1MDB. Why is that?  All the people that have been charged, tried and sent to jail for laundering “1MDB money” in Singapore and elsewhere in the world were bank employees who flouted the local financial regulations.  Yet, not a single 1MDB employee has ever been charged in those courts.  Why?

PEPEKs are dancing today thinking that something new had been revealed, when it is just old news being repeated. No doubt that they money and assets the US DoJ confiscated last year represents kleptocracy at its worst.  But what has that to do with 1MDB? Can we have the money back now if they are 1MDB’s?

The PEPEKs think that they have won the argument, but really they are just dry PEPEKs, giving an erectile dysfunction to the celebration.

When The Bar Is A Place To Drink

I am not sure if I am supposed to be surprised or if I should express shock at the latest statement issued by the President of the Bar Council of Malaysia, because no matter the President, they all speak like they have been doing nothing but drinking.

The courts should not refer to laws, says the Bar Council President

The currrent President, George Varughese explained that tort of misfeasance in public office is derived from British common law, which is unwritten but fully applicable in Malaysia.

“The action was therefore not brought under the Federal Constitution or any written legislation, and the High Court should therefore not have relied on either of these in determining whether the prime minister is a public officer. The nature of the powers of the office of the prime minister ought to have been examined to determine whether that office qualifies as a public office under common law,” said Varughese in a statement yesterday.

In striking out the suit, Justice Abu Bakar Jais had ruled that Najib, as the prime minister, is not a public officer and hence the suit has no cause of action. He based his decision on Article 132 of the Federal Constitution and the Interpretations Act 1948 and 1967, under which the prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers, and political secretaries are not considered public officials but as members of an administration.

This is the first time that I am hearing a call for judges not to refer to any written laws or the Constitution under which laws are made and enacted.

Firstly, Varughese himself explained that the tort of misfeasance in public office is derived from British common law, the ‘common law‘ being the operative phrase here.  Malaysia’s legal system operates three kinds of laws: the common law, the Shariah law, and the customary law.

Under the common law, what Varughese is suggesting is for Justice Abu Bakar Jais to have tried the case under primae impressionis, a legal case where there is no binding authority and the findings adjudicatory in nature.

However, the learned judge (which is why he is a judge, and the present AG also is an ex-judge) knows he is bounded by laws and the Constitution, and therefore has to make interpretations based on the laws and the Constitution of which his ratio decidendi is derived.

I see lots of negative comments have been made because of the decision of the learned judge.  Some cite American laws and interpretations of the Australian law on the definition of the”public officer” but forget that this is a Malaysian common law case applied in a Malaysian court of law.  If one wants to cite Section 3 of the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003 of Western Australia, we might as well refer to and use the Saudi Arabian Criminal Law here and let us see if more than 95 percent of the population would wish to migrate!

This is why Justice Abu Bakar Jais is a judge, and not some gobbledydook like the commentators are.

And another gobbledydook commented that if Najib Razak is not a public officer, then he is a coolie. He would know that word. That is the occupation of his ancestors when they were brought here from Kerala to toil the rubber estates.

I cannot imagine how many judges would have been fired from their job for deciding in favour of the opposition if he is being given powers again.

Fortunately, Najib Razak is not a dictator like this coolie-descendant is.

Says the descendant of coolies