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Lawyer strikes gavel on ‘emasculated’ AG

 | January 15, 2013

Senior lawyer Sankara Nair is seeing red over the AG's inaction concerning an article that attacked a high court judge.

KUALA LUMPUR: A week has passed since the article defaming Justice VT Singham was exposed but there continues to be pin-drop silence from the Attorney-General’s Chambers regarding the matter.

The inaction drew flak from senior lawyer Sankara Nair, who was among those who criticised the article published on the Perkasa website which cast aspersion on the high court judge’s impartiality and sexual orientation.

“I have criticised the writer and called on the Attorney-General [Abdul Gani Patail] and Chief Justice [Arrifin Zakaria] to take swift and immediate action against the writer for such insinuations against the reputation and person of a judge.

“This is prima facie contempt on the face of court as the matter is still pending before the court and is clearly designed to intimidate or influence the judge. This is indeed and undeniably, a very serious and deadly assault on the judiciary,” he told FMT.

Sankara, who expressed disappointment that Gani had chosen to remain “unduly reticent” and appeared “emasculated” in initiating action, questioned if this was because the perpetrator was pro-establishment.

“It would appear to be so. If so, is the attorney-general not abdicating his constitutional and statutory role and duty as ‘the guardian of public interest’?”

“Many a time in Malaysia and on numerous occasions, we have seen the attorney-general arbitrarily entering into the judicial arena in the name of public interest and the courts have long recognised the said role of the AG and allowed such interventions,” he added.

Sankara explained that Justice Singham or for that matter, any judge, would find himself in a legal predicament notwithstanding that it was a case where he was capable of initiating contempt proceedings as this was a case of contempt on the face of the court.

“However, a judge may find himself legally hampered as he may be accused of being in violation of the long held principle of natural justice – nemo iudex in sua causa ‘no man shall be judge unto his own cause’.

“Another legal hurdle to overcome is that the writer is neither a litigant nor a witness in the said proceedings and it may lead to impediments in issuing a show cause on the writer,” he added.

Najib’s silence

It is precisely because of the aforesaid principle and the instance that judges being vulnerable and incapable of defending themselves, he said, the attorney-general was expected to protect the sanctity of the courts.

“And in this case, by reason thereof, it is incumbent on the attorney-general to initiate contempt proceedings against the rogue writer before another judge,” he stressed.

Justice Singham is the presiding judge in the RM50 million suit filed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim against Utusan Malaysia. The verdict is to be delivered on Jan 23.

Meanwhile, Sankara said the public had yet to see any action on the part of the attorney-general and the chief justice thus far.

“Are they not able to appreciate the seriousness of the matter? Would they allow Perkasa or anyone for that matter, to undermine the judicial institutions in Malaysia with impunity? Are they themselves feeling intimidated by the powers that be?

“If they abdicate their constitutional responsibilities, who then shall protect the integrity and independence of our judges? Would there not be anarchy in our society?” he asked.

Sankara also called on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to break his “elegant silence” on this serious matter.

“Also, I wonder where are the loud voices of political leaders in all this. Where are the NGOs? Are they not bothered by this? Or would they only scream when they themselves are personally at the receiving end? We can for now, excuse Anwar or PKR from raising the matter, as it involves his personal suit and he being the leader of PKR,” he said.

Sankara was also dismayed with the response of Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee.

“Apart from a feeble comment that action should be taken against the writer, he too has not taken this matter any further as he normally would, like the many [at times unnecessary] EGMs,” he said.


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