Taxi driver’s bid to remove LTTE as terror group filed out of time, says govt lawyer

Taxi driver B Balamurugan (in red shirt) was among the 12 charged with supporting LTTE, a now defunct separatist group.

KUALA LUMPUR: A judicial review application to compel the home minister to remove the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group as a terrorist organisation from a gazette notification should be dismissed as the action was filed out of time, a government lawyer said.

“The application should have been filed within 90 days after it was published in the government gazette in 2014,” Senior Federal Counsel Ahmad Hamir Hambaly said.

Taxi driver B Balamurugan, one of 12 men who were previously charged with supporting and being in possession of materials linked to the LTTE, only filed the application in January this year.

Hamir said Balamurugan should also have applied to the minister to remove LTTE as a banned group instead of coming to court.

However, lawyer Omar Kutty Abdul Aziz said there were no grounds to file action in 2014 as the arrest and prosecution of Balamurugan had only taken place late last year.

“The need to file the action on Jan 8 arose only when Balamuragan was investigated by police and subsequently prosecuted. Our action is well within the three month period,” he said.

Omar said it was a misconception in law that Balamurugan must write to the minister instead of seeking legal remedy.

“My client is not the specific entity but the LTTE. He has every right to exhaust his legal avenues,” he said.

Omar Kutty Abdul Aziz

Omar said the LTTE should be removed in the gazette notification as the minister had among others relied on newspaper reports between 1987 and 2009.

“Our government also did not pass a law to declare that the LTTE was a threat to national security,” he added.

High Court judge Mariana Yahaya will deliver her ruling on Sept 17.

Balamurugan filed the action on the grounds that the Nov 12, 2014 gazette notification by then minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was irrational and unreasonable.

Balamurugan also wants 17 other organisations and 39 individuals to be removed from the gazette and the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing, and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

In his case, the 37-year-old said the minister’s decision to declare the LTTE as a terrorist group was untenable as the Sri Lankan army had even in 2009 declared the entity as a defunct organisation.

“Moreover, he said the Swiss Federal Court had also declared that the LTTE was not a criminal organisation.

On Oct 29, Balamurugan was charged in the Sessions Court with supporting the LTTE at an event held at the Kuala Kangsar Municipal Council hall (Sungai Siput Utara branch) on Dec 28, 2014.

He also faced three charges of possessing items with elements of terrorist acts or related to the LTTE, in a mobile phone at three locations in Sungai Siput on Oct 10 , 2019.

He also faced a fourth charge of supporting the LTTE via a Facebook posting on Oct 7, 2019.

However, on Feb 21, then attorney-general Tommy Thomas in a press statement said all charges against the 12 accused would be dropped immediately.

He said that mere idol-worshipping did not constitute a crime, adding that there is “no realistic prospect of conviction for the dozen accused on any of the 34 charges”.

“Accordingly, in the exercise of my discretion pursuant to Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution, I have decided to discontinue proceedings against them with immediate effect,” he added.