Govt’s new committees reflect its pathetic inability to make wise decisions on important issues
12 Oct 2021
Prime Minister has announced the formation of three committees.
One to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the death of firefighter Adib Mohamad Kassim. Two of the allegations made by Tommy Thomas in his book about judicial abuse (appointment of judges, excessive executive interference in the judiciary and selective political prosecution). Committee three is to look Tort of Misfeasance against those who are found to have been negligent for not pursuing a judicial review of the Batu Putih case.
Unfortunately, the formation of the three Committees reflects the government's pathetic inability to make wise decisions on important issues in the country. As they say, if you don't want to make decisions, form Committees.
In July 2020, the Police had already submitted investigation papers (IP) to Attorney-General to charge 12 people for their involvement in Adib's death. Why was this not done? You do not need a government Committee to do justice; you ask the AG. A phone call will do. If the Police had asked for another inquest at the same time, then you asked the Home Minister: did the Police know what they were doing? If they don't have enough evidence to charge anyone, say so. Public or political pressure should not influence the decision of a professional Police force. I hope this Special Committee on Adib will not be used to “compel” the AG to make a decision. The law gives the AG the discretion to decide to charge or not to charge anyone, based on evidence, and nothing else, without fear or favour. The question is, does our AG has the qualities to do that? That's all we need to know.
On Tommy Thomas’ book, what he said was nothing new. It is his book, and he is entitled to express his opinions. If you don't like it, don't read it. There is absolutely no need to waste money on more findings. Since the days of the famous VK Lingam (looks like me, sounds like me, but it is not me), we have been grappling with the issue of judicial independence. Although things are better now, there is no guarantee that political interference by politicians has ceased entirely. The Royal Commission on Lingam tapes recommended criminal actions be taken against those involved in "judge fixing," but the government refused to act on the recommendations. We have, over the years, RCI (like Tun Dzaiddin Royal Commission recommendations on Police Reform) and Special Committees on custodial deaths Foreign Exchange losses in Bank Negara, and many more, but nothing by way of remedial actions were taken. Why do we want to waste more time and money to look good to the unsuspecting public by forming Committees?
The third Committee on Batu Putih is the craziest of the lot. We lost the case on the sovereignty of Pedro Branca/Batu Putih (the lighthouse) fair and square. Four judges of the International Court of Justice (by a comfortable majority) gave the decision to Singapore. But the judges gave the Middle rocks and South Ledge to Malaysia. We won partly. We did not lose everything as our emotional leaders were fond of saying.
What tort of misfeasance are they talking about? Do they want to find fault and blame former AG Gani Patail? What review Apandi Ali and the battery of new international lawyers (that will cost us a few million US Dollars) can do to benefit the country? Nothing at all. Gani Patail (a good lawyer) engaged some well-known international law experts during the trial, and our witnesses were the best we had. We just lost the case after three full days of arguments. By the way, no one is competent around here to do a “judicial review” of complex international law issues that took the International Court of Justice months to investigate and deliberate; that depended on history and incomplete documentation to boot? It will be a bad precedent if this Apandi Committee was formed to find fault with his predecessor Gani Patail, and the AGC at that time because one day there will be another Special Committee to look at Apandi’s and Idrus Harun’s “tort of misfeasance”. Do we expect this Committee to also find fault with the Assistant Johor State Secretary who in 1953 wrote a letter to the effect that Johor had no claim on Pedro Branca? What good will this do?
I think the Prime Minister has to be more careful with the advice he gets from his Umno colleagues, who may have “other reasons” for going against certain former decision-makers in the country. The PM must realise that if we take too much time looking back; we will have little left to move forward.