To demand that Suhakam should apologise for criticising the court decision only reveals the narrow-mindedness of certain Pas leaders and their complete lack of tolerance for differing views, writes P Ramakrishnan.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) condemned the punishment imposed on two women who were convicted by the Sharia High Court in Terengganu on 12 August 2018 for attempting to have homosexual relations.
Its chairman, Razali Ismail, described the sentence – six strokes of the cane and a fine of RM3,300 – as “humiliating, demeaning and an attempt to publicly embarrass the women and their families”.
Suhakam also called for the repeal of all laws that impose such punishment and wanted the implementation of the punishment imposed by the Trengganu Sharia Court to be stayed and reviewed immediately.
The caning is scheduled to be carried out on 28 August 2018 within the court premises.
Pas took exception to the stand taken by Suhakam and threatened to cite Suhakam for contempt of court over its statement claiming that the conviction was an inhumane punishment and a form of torture.
Pas secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan demanded that Razali must retract Suhakam’s statement denouncing the Sharia Court’s decision to convict the two women. “If he doesn’t retract the statement, maybe we will do something,” he warned.
It is an ominous threat which is uncalled for. According to him, the Sharia Court could summon the person and send him or her to jail for contempt of court. Is he saying that disagreeing with the court verdict is tantamount to contempt of court?
I don’t wish to be embroiled in the morality of the issue. What concerns me is whether Suhakam has a right to disagree and dissent. That is the crux of the matter.
In a democratic system, it is a fundamental right to disagree, and if necessary, to criticise court decisions. To expect the whole nation to applaud a controversial decision of a court is being naïve – this is another word for stupid!
The judgment is delivered by a human being, and human beings can be mistaken in their interpretation of the law. There are numerous examples of wrong interpretations that were subsequently proven conclusively as such when certain court decisions were ultimately overturned by a superior court.
If well-meaning citizens did not disagree or express dissenting views, wrong decisions would have remained as precedents in case law and may even be codified in our statutes without a remedy, and the victims of such tragedy would have suffered a great injustice.
A single decision of a lower court is not decisive or final, unless it involves our Federal Court whose ruling will bind all courts, including itself at most times.
In fact, regarding the judicial decision by the Trengganu Sharia Court, given the concern expressed by Suhakam, a creature of statute, and the urgency of the consequent punishment the facts and the law dictate that the attorney general should step in and refer it to the Federal Court for a juridical direction.
That is why an appeal to court decisions is provided for in the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system so that, at the end of the day, litigant woulds have a further opportunity to pursue their case in seeking justice.
Pas’ stand would mean and imply that there should be no disagreement whatsoever on the findings of the facts or mixed law and the facts of any case; there would be no freedom of thought. There should be no justice to a victim perceived to have committed a crime.
This is totally unacceptable if we believe in the rule of law. We must respect the democratic tradition which allows for dissent and disagreement, especially the decisions of our courts of law when it involves physical punishment.
To demand that Suhakam should apologise for criticising the court decision only reveals the narrow-mindedness of certain Pas leaders and their complete lack of tolerance for differing views.
All thinking Malaysians will reject the mindless views of Pas and condemn them for such intolerance that borders on the callous.