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Najib’s Silence on Zahid Signals Trouble for Malaysians

Posted: 11 Oct 2013 12:26 PM PDT 
Some may opine that silence does not signal agreement but the majority of the public are thinking to the contrary, that he indeed has given the 'green light' for his Home Minister to just carry on doing what he has done. Interestingly, not a word has been uttered with regards to his One Malaysia rhetoric. 
Jay Jay Denis, Law Student
"If we get evidence, we shoot them first," he was quoted as saying. They were then threatened that if any of it was reported, their news portals might face a situation of having to shut down. Dato' Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, a Member of Parliament, a man put in charge of one of the most key ministries in the country. And what will happen after this? I think you know, there is no need for explanation when it comes to this.
The Home Affairs Minister has crossed that proverbial line many a time but has he been held accountable? I don't recall him being investigated for his brash statements at all.
To say that "we shoot them first" is absolutely preposterous, and coming from a Minister! Many countries try to observe the rule of law, putting it above everything else so that it acts (via the judicial system), as a check and balance for any society, governing its citizens and keeping all in check. He has however, clearly undermined it.
What Zahid has done is undermine the judiciary in Malaysia, very clearly so. Allowing the police to bypass the courts and act as disciplinarians to society shows that we might be at a crossroad here, where the legal system is not given the chance to do its duty. Even for his self-proclaimed law, the now infamous Prevention of Crime Act, the Minister said that "even if there is not enough evidence, we can detain them for 2 years," which vividly validates my point. He wants a free rein to act according to his whim and fancy.
Now, more fuel has been added to this ever-growing fire where he proudly claimed that it is not standard procedure for warning shots to be fired. The Standard Operating Procedure observed by our police force is slightly vague as not many are aware of it. However, there certainly has to be a set of procedure, or Rules of Engagement which they are bound to follow, and not being gung-ho when apprehending criminals.
As agents of law, that is their duty actually, apprehend criminals and not take them out. I thought we all believed in the notion that one is 'innocent until proven guilty' but do you see any shadow of that here?
The cherry on Zahid Hamidi's cake of amazing statements is when he nonchalantly challenged to be sued for sedition. As a matter of fact, his utterances are irrefutably seditious in nature, by even segregating races as a means of getting support for the party elections which is blowing a lot of steam but losing substance.
All of these do not bode well for his Premier. PM Najib has not been seen to refute or be dissimilar with Zahid's newfound brashness. Some may opine that silence does not signal agreement but the majority of the public are thinking to the contrary, that he indeed has given the 'green light' for his Home Minister to just carry on doing what he has done. Interestingly, not a word has been uttered with regards to his One Malaysia rhetoric.
The Prime Minister speaks of transformation and maybe it is. Powers that be are allowed to act on their own accord and not be subjected to ministerial responsibility. We have gone up a notch or two after GE13, with the race card at the forefront of UMNO's agenda. Silence is golden, as the old adage goes, but ignorance can be detrimental. Malaysia's Prime Minister is trying hard to get back confidence from the people.
He can start immediately, right here, right now. Get tough on the Home Minister, and he should rightfully be dismissed. This has to be a benchmark that more of this sort of unacceptable behaviour will not go unopposed.
Najib should act now, but I know he will not. Or maybe the only way that change can come is from the ordinary people, they might be able to do something extraordinary. The clock is ticking. Hope Najib clicks into gear.

Election Courts are worse than the Election Commission!

Posted: 11 Oct 2013 12:15 PM PDT

People queuing up to collect post-election payouts in Penang. The yellow cardboard lists down the 10 seats won by the BN in Penang 

Justice is not served when election petitions are dismissed on technical grounds, asserts P Ramakrishnan.

Yes, the Election Courts are worse than the Election Commission! The recent disappointing decisions of the Election Courts have proved that there is no hope for parliamentary democracy even in the judiciary.

If the Barisan Nasional is a great let-down for democracy, the Election Commission is an even greater let-down for the electoral process. But shockingly, the Election Courts comparatively are far worse in that they cannot dispense justice to the aggrieved party even if there was a glaring injustice.

It is clear as daylight that the BN abused the electoral process by openly bribing voters through its many projects launched especially during the period leading up to the GE 13 (including the campaign period itself) by dishing out goodies and cash inducements to win over the voters. Billions of ringgit in cash or projects were dispensed freely giving an unfair disadvantage to the Opposition who were cash-strapped.

Electoral process perverted

Voters were given bonus slips with the promise of cash payments if their respective BN candidates were elected. In this manner, those aligned with the BN perverted the electoral process. And there was evidence that this was so because the Aliran team has evidence to prove that this happened. On 10-12 May, people who had queued up for payments at a shoplot off Jalan Sungai Dua in Penang told Aliran that cash was given out to those who came with the bonus slips. Payments ranged from RM120 to RM200. What was surprising was that this took place barely 100 metres from a police beat station. Conveniently, the police personnel were out on their 'ronda' at that time!

By all accounts, this was the dirtiest election ever. State apparatus was fully utilised to promote the BN cause. Money from the national coffers was lavishly used to influence voting patterns in favour of the BN.

The Election Commission, tasked with the duty to conduct free and fair elections, did not live up to that responsibility. It failed to maintain a clean and honest electoral roll to ensure fairness in the voting process. The indelible ink that was meant to be used to prevent fraudulent voting turned out to be a farce and a fiasco, thanks to the EC.

The EC never commented on the one-sided media coverage or the twisted lies and false propaganda trotted out by the electronic media. It maintained its incredible silence over the BN's excessive expenditure, sumptuous feasts with free-flowing beer, and cash hand-outs.

The election corruption was so rampant that it was not possible to overlook or entirely ignore this electoral offence. It is a fact that that this kind of inducement must have swung votes in favour of the BN, especially in rural and remote constituencies where poverty-stricken residents gratefully cast their votes for the BN.
It is because of these many wrongs that the losing Pakatan Rakyat candidates and supporters filed petitions in the specially set up Election Courts seeking the courts' assistance for justice. In an environment where everything is stacked against the ordinary citizens, courts are looked upon as dispensers of justice, the only hope for some remedy.

However, this hope was so cruelly dashed.

These litigants went to court fully believing that there were triable issues involved for the courts to take a serious look into the matter. But their petitions were dismissed – by what the lay person may perceive to be on flimsy procedural grounds.

Petitions dismissed on technical grounds

They were dismissed because they had failed to comply with several regulations in accordance with Rule 9 of the Election Petition Rules 1954 and for failing to satisfy regulation 15 of the Election Petition Rules 1954. In one instance, it was quoted that the petitioner had failed to serve the documents personally!

Justice is not served when the petitions are dismissed on technical grounds. It is preposterous that a litigant's right to justice should be dismissed because of the failings of his or her counsel. The lawyer concerned ought to know how to file a petition but if for some reason that petition is defective, why deprive the litigant from having the case heard?

Is it too difficult – isn't it in the inherent power of the court? – to order the petition to be put right so that the substantive issues in the petition could be addressed by the court? Justice is not hinged on technicalities but on the question of right and wrong.

Forfeiting the litigans' right to be heard is a grave injustice. In doing so, isn't the court perpetuating a wrong and upholding an injustice? This is morally repulsive!

It is incredulous that the petitions for Machang and Selising constituencies were struck off apparently on grounds that could not be sustained. It is patently wrong to observe that the petitions were not personally served on the respondents by the petitioner himself. It is without merit.

Any judge before elevation to the bench must have been a practising lawyer. Surely, the judge must know that the filing of the case and the serving of documents to the respondents are entirely the responsibility of the lawyer's firm – not that of the petitioner.

In such a case where justice has to be done to the litigant, the High Court should use its discretion by referring the matter to the Federal Court. This would allow real justice to be done to the petitioner and would be fair to the public.

Apart from this, the Election Courts have also awarded exorbitant costs to the respondents. The costs awarded ranged from RM30,000 to RM200,000! Many litigants who went to court in good faith would find these awards rather excessive.

Genuine concerns for free and fair elections

Ordinary voters who go to court out of a genuine concern for free and fair elections are not rich individuals. They are not in a position to fork out this kind of money for acting in the interest of society at large. In any case why award costs to the returning officer and the Election Commission?

Election corruption and fraudulent voting are serious issues that undermine free and fair elections. This must be addressed soberly, sincerely and honestly so that such abuses can be curbed. For this, senior judges from the bench should be specially appointed to hear these petitions so that they can differentiate the chaff from the grain.

So far, the Election Court rulings have left many frustrated and disillusioned with the courts.

Let us be reminded by this observation that can only come through wisdom:

"The good judge will always endeavour to maintain that justice in his court must not only be done but must be seen to be done. The judge can be as impartial or unbiased as can be but if any party, especially the losing party, should leave his court with the impression that the trial was one-sided then justice has failed." (Justice C H Chan, 'Judging the judges'). 


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