Sunday, November 09, 2008

RPK release a victory for justice

RPK release : beginning of judicial independence?

The Shah Alam High Court Judge Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad’s order to release Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) immediately and unconditionally from his Internal Security Act(ISA) detention was a landmark ruling.It was courageous and righteous move that was hailed by the vast majority of right thinking Malaysians who want to see that ISA abolished once and for all. Justice Syed Helmy rightly described RPK’s detention as unconstitutional and amounts to an abuse of power as the home minister had acted beyond his jurisdiction to issue the order to detain him for 2 years.

It has been the practice in the past that those detained under Section 8(b) of the ISA are not allowed judicial review. This provision had often been abused by the detention of individuals for reasons other than what the Act was intended for. However Justice Syed Helmy’s ruling that the court could hear such an application if there were instances of possible abuse of powers is very reassuring as it means that there is still hope for freedom of those unjustly detained.

The ISA is a cruel and inhumane law that must be abolished as it has no place in this modern era. The vast majority of Malaysians including legislators from the Barisan Nasional have called for its repeal. The government has no option but to graciously accede to the demands of the people or risk losing further support. In the meantime it is the sacred duty of the judiciary to check the abuse of the ISA by those in power so as to prevent politically motivated detention the draconian law.

The reputation of our once renowned judiciary is at its lowest ebb due to scandals of various sorts and Justice Syed Helmy’s rulings will go a long way in the resuscitation of the ailing institution. It also goes to show that there are still judges up there who could rise up to the occasion to safeguard the integrity and independence of our judiciary. The release of RPK is a victory for human rights that have been blatantly ignored of late. It is a victory for the judiciary itself whose reputation has been negatively perceived by the people. Above all it is a victory for the rakyat who detest the ISA.

One case may not exonerate the judiciary’s discredit nor does it signal any significant change towards reformation. Only a series of good judgments over a prolonged period of time will do this but knowing that there are still reform-minded judges among the fold gives us some hope that the judiciary can still be reformed as promised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
All Malaysians salute Justice Syed Helmy for his brave act that shows his deep sense of patriotism to the nation. We hope his example will prod others to rise up to restore the reputation and integrity of the institution that was once the envy of others.

If the government and the Conference of Rulers are serious in wanting to reform and restore the judicial integrity and independence, they should seriously consider Syed Helmy and other judges like him to be elevated to higher posts so that together, by their fearless actions, help to restore the status of the judiciary to its past glory.

The judiciary is the last bastion of defence for the rakyat against abuse of power and victimisation by the state. If that institution fails its duty to mete out justice to the people there would be lawlessness, chaos and turmoil.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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