Monday, April 21, 2008

Is It Wrong To Say "I Am Sorry" ?

Hantu Laut

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahamd Badawi was a guest of honour at the Bar Council Dinner on Thursday.Special guests were Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin and Datuk George Seah.

The late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdolcadeer and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman (Pawanteh) represented by their respective families: representing Tan Sri Wan Suleiman are Puan Sri Siti Nurhayati and his son Wan Noor Azli; representing Tan Sri Eusoffe are his granddaughter Brenda Lim and her husband.Tan Sri Wan Hamzah (Mohamed Salleh) was unable to attend.

Abdullah fairly lenghty speech among other things offer to compensate the judges for the pain and loss they have endured for wrongs done to them two decades ago and he said "In recognition of the contributions of the six outstanding judges, the government has decided to make goodwill ex gratia payments to them. Gentlemen, I do not presume to equate your contributions, pain and loss with mere currency, but I hope that you can accept this as a heartfelt and sincere gesture to mend what has been".

It was reported earlier that the government will not apologise to the judges for what happened to them 20 years ago. The man who was deemed responsible for the judicial sacrilege refused to apologise stating that he wasn't the one who sacked them. The fact that he orchestrated the whole thing didn't bother him one least bit. The former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad is always in a state of denial whenever it suits him.

The sacking of the Lord President and the three judges was consequential of the court declaration of UMNO being an illegal association.The fast and furious Mahathir quickly used his authoritarian power to punish the Lord President. He was furious when the then Lord President wrote to the Agong about interference in the judiciary by the executive. The Agong agreed to appoint a tribunal to look into alleged misconduct of the Lord President.

The tribunals that removed Tun Salleh Abas and the judges that defended him were constituted of fellow judges chosen for their allegiance and compliant to Mahathir. From that day onwards the judiciary with a very compliant new Lord President had been whipped into total obedience and had to look upon the executive as its masters. It's the dawn of a new era for the judiciary .A shameful period of conspiracy, corruptions and unconscionable judgements. The 'Hall Of Justice' became the 'Hall Of Fear'. Those with money can buy justice.

Then there were shameless legal scoundrel like Mr Correct, Correct, Correct who befriended filthy rich merchants to finance and influence the appointment of judges.

The crisis of confidence in the judiciary had gone so bad some foreign companies doing business in Malaysia insisted on their legal disputes to be settled outside Malaysia.

Isn't paying ex-gratia payment or compensation a form of apology ?The Prime Minister and his deputy don't think so.So is the Oxford Dictionary.

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'ex-gratia' as "given or done as a gift or favour, not because there is a legal duty to do it"

"The ex-gratia payment does not tantamount to revisiting whatever that has been decided. It is not to be construed as any form of apology but this is our way of addressing some of the personal considerations and experiences and hardship they have gone through.It should be seen in that light and should not be construed as anything beyond that," said Deputy Prime Minister NajibRazak.

It may not be appropriate to ask Mahathir to apologise now because he believes he was right in what he had done.

Since the present government had taken the bold step to resuscitate the case and pay ex-gratia to the victims, it may be more appropriate for the government to apologise. Would an apology hurt the government more than the harm and shame it had placed on the former Lord President and the three judges ?

The government refused to apologise because of possible legal implications, I am not sure whether they can be sued if there was an official apology, which could be even more costly to the government in term of compensation.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was given a standing ovation for his speech by the very same people who a few months back admonished him for failure to conduct investigation into corruptions and fixing of appointment of judges in the judiciary.

Was it a show of support for him from the legal fraternity or they were only applauding his speech. Let's hope Abdullah don't misconstrue it as a support of his leadership and would jettison his succession plan.

Paying ex-gratia and paying penitence would be more appropriate to vindicate all the victims of the injustice.

5 comments:

Letting the time pass me by said...

This is a very interesting and puzzling issue.

I think the question is not about saying sorry but more on proving those people are innocent...

They have been found guilty by a tribunal, and it is according to a proper procedure...

How do we suddenly say that the past decision is wrong without any papers to support our argument?

Can the members of the tribunal offer an apology?

kittykat46 said...

"Sorry seems to be the Hardest Word" - Elton John song 1976.

There will be continuing doubts about the government's sincerity in addressing the issue of Judicial independence until the government can bring itself to formally apologise for the 1988 debacle.

The Expired-Medicine salesman continues to have powerful proxies in the Cabinet. If he is allowed to continue to have such influence on policy, there is little hope for the future of the Judiciary.

Hantu Laut said...

letting the time pass me by,

Why pay ex-gratia if the tribunal was right and the judges were wrong?

Pak Lah is using it just to boost his deteriorating image.

Hantu Laut said...

Kittykat,
Never too late to say sorry and close the chapter in the dark history of the Malaysian judiciary.

SM said...

HL,

Pak Lah "can't" say sorry. By doing that, he & the Govt. are saying they were "wrong" (although it's TDM who's the culprit!). By saying they were wrong they are opening themselves to getting "sued" & God knows what else.
However, by acknowledging what happened & giving them some "money" (typical UMNO politics!), Pak Lah is trying to get the people on his side & it also "shows" (& we know it's probably a lie!) that he is really serious about the Judicial Reform!
He's also trying to divert some of the "flak" (righly so) onto TDM!
I must give it to Pak Lah here, he is fighting back (although in his usual "lembik" fashion!).