Friday, April 9, 2010
The courts and the Law — Dr Mahathir Mohamad
I think it was the President of the Bar Council who pointed out that the law provides for a judge to accuse a person with contempt of his court and to punish him.
I am not disputing this legal provision. But we know of the cynical reference to some laws being an ass. In fact many lawyers would claim that the Internal Security Act which provides for detention without trial as bad law, and many have urged that the law be removed from the statute books.
The reason cited is that without a hearing in a court of law, the executive has assumed the role of prosecutor, judge and executioner. In today’s society this is a denial of justice.
But the same people, who strongly object to the ISA, support the law providing for contempt of court in which the aggrieved judge becomes the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner.
Clearly we are seeing double standards in the implementation of justice.
To say that the judge knows best as to the culpability of the accused person is to once again breach the principles of justice. A judge should not know and prejudge a case. He should be quite ignorant of the case coming before him and he should allow himself to decide simply based on the evidence put before him, the words of the witnesses and the pleadings of the prosecutor and the counsel for the accused person.
If a judge is also a witness to the case then he would be biased and cannot possibly do justice to the case.
There is certainly a need for a law against contempt of the court but it should follow the same procedures as applicable to all other cases including being heard by other than the aggrieved judge.
The charge should be made properly. There should be no arbitrary arrest before a charge is made. The accused person should be given his right to hear the charge and to state his defences before a judge who is not personally involved.
Court procedures would take time but in the case of Matthias Chang, there was really no hurry as he was in fact given one week to pay the fine or be jailed. In fact when he turned up on the stipulated day the judge was not available and he was told to come back the next day.
Yet when he willingly went back the next day to surrender, he was told that his arrest would be made in the car park.
I suppose this is again standard procedure but it would amount to additional punishment because it would humiliate him.
At the time of writing this in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, I am told he is unconscious because he had chosen to protest by fasting against the injustice of the way the law was used by the judge.
The Government may not be moved by his act but if it does not then it would compare very badly indeed against the British Raj which responded humanely to the fast by Ghandi.
Matthias' health in poor form
He is 'weak and dehydrated', says lawyer of Dr Mahathir's ex-political secretary
FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE: Chang in hunger strike in prison
KUALA LUMPUR: Matthias Chang's condition has taken a turn for the worse.
His lawyer, Manjit Singh, told The Malay Mail this morning that the lawyer was "weak and dehydrated" due to his selfimposed hunger strike.
Despite his condition, 60-year-old Chang, the former political secretary to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is adamant to continue with his hunger strike in protest against a month-long sentence for contempt.
"He is expected to be sent to the hospital soon," he said when contacted at 11am today.
"He doesn't want to stop his hunger strike, contending that it was a matter of principles. He is adamant, arguing that he has done nothing wrong."
His persistence has caused anxiety for his family members and friends.
Yesterday, Manjit had told The Malay Mail that Chang's health was "rapidly deteriorating" in the Kajang prison. Doctors at Serdang hospital were alarmed when Chang insisted on being returned to prison despite not having fully recovered.
Incarcerated on Friday, Chang was rushed to the Serdang hospital on Monday afternoon and placed on intravenous (IV) drips. When these IV drips were stopped, Chang still refused to consume anything and insisted on returning to his prison cell, reasoning that he could recover faster there.
"Chang returned to the Kajang Civil Prison on Wednesday morning but it was quite premature because he did not receive a clean bill of health to leave," he said.
"But because of his persistence, it's back to square one with the doctors saying that his condition is a cause for concern."
Stating his client has been frequently visited by family and friends at prison and the hospital, Manjit said the RM20,000 fine was not the issue.
"Many of his friends have come forward with the money. But, he has refused their offer. Not that he doesn't have the money either," said Manjit.
Instead of being in the comfort of his home a long time ago, Chang instead chose to share his cell with fellow inmates.
"Being a man of principles, Chang refuses to give in to injustice. That's why he's still on hunger strike.
"His family, relatives and friends are looking at alternative options of helping him without his consent. This is workable. Actually, anyone can pay the fine."
Chang was cited for contempt on March 25 when he refused to apologise after a spat with High Court judge Noor Azian Shaari and a lawyer during crossexamination in his breach of contract and defamation suit against American Express (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.
He was ordered to serve a month-long sentence after refusing to pay the RM20,000 fine for contempt.