By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang , in Petaling Jaya on Friday,26.7.1985:
Call for a joint committee comprising members of the bench and bar to inquire into the fracas between the Chief Justice and lawyer Karam Singh
The Malaysian people must be very concerned by the fracas between the Chief Justice, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Omar, and lawyer Karam Singh, as to whether Karam Singh had been ‘rushed’ into filling the record of appeal to save the life of Death Row condemned, Sim Kie Chon, 28, in three days when he had six weeks to do so under the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1980.
Karam Singh has made a very serious allegation, for of his allegation is true, then Sim Kie Chon had not been given a full and fair chance to exhaust all legal avenues in his struggle to save his life. The Chief Justice had meanwhile used very strong words against Karam Singh when denying the lawyer’s allegation.
As at issue in the Chief Justice- Karam Singh fracas are not only the respective versions of the two, but also the public’s confidence in the legal and judicial system when it comes to the dispensation of human lives, I would suggest the formation of a joint committee comprising members of the bench and bar to inquire into the Chief Justice- Karam Singh fracas. Such a joint committee, comprising judges and practicing lawyers, which could be chaired by a jointly acceptable ex-judge or ex-lawyer, would help in restoring public confidence in the legal and judicial process in Malaysia.
In his statement yesterday, the Chief Justice said that ‘In fact, I would add that nobody-nobody at all has the right to question a decision pursuant to an exercise of a prerogative of mercy.’
If by this statement, the Chief Justice meant that the question of prerogative of mercy is not questionable in a court of law, he is merely re-stating his judgement when dismissing Sim Kie Chon’s application to Supreme Court in Ipoh on Tuesday, 23rd July 1985.
But if by his statement, the Chief Justice meant that the exercise of pardon powers could not be questioned any where, whether inside or out of the courts, then I must take issue with him.
Article 42 of the Malaysian Constitution makes it very clear that the exercise of prerogative of mercy is exercised on the recommendation of the Pardons Board, which for this case of Sim, comprises the Attorney General, the Minister for Federal Territory, and not more than three other members appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Article 42(9) provides that ‘Before tendering their advice on any matter a Pardons Board shall consider any written opinion which the Attorney-General may have delivered the reon’.
The processes and operations of the Pardons Board, like the exercise of any other power or responsibility, must be equally subject to public accountability- even if they are not challengeable in a court of law. I do not believe that the Malaysian Constitution has been drafted to provide for no right to Malaysians to question the Pardons Board if it acted perversely, as openly discriminating against one class of offenders while favouring another class of offenders.
As under Article 42(9), the Attorney-General is clearly the most important member of the Pardons Board, the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, must explain to Malaysians the basis and criteria on which he recommends either commutation of death sentences or rejection of such appeals.
In the Sim Kie Chon, I would call on the Attorney-General to re-submit a new written opinion recommending that the Pardons Board should commute his death sentence to life imprisonment because of very compelling reasons of justice and humanity.