(Readings) Altantuya and ‘fair trial’? (1) June 9, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Environment, Malaysia, Politics, Readings, Southeast Asia, Women.
What “miracles” could the new prosecution team produce to ensure a “fair trial”, which could not be accomplished by the previous prosecution team? After all, shouldn’t all criminal prosecutions and proceedings be conducted fairly regardless of the personalities in the prosecution team?….
This is the two-parter according to the author, Amer Hamzah Arshad, who is also a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee.
OPINION: To ensure a fair trial?
by Amer Hamzah Arshad
The Malaysian Bar website
Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution (FC) empowers the Attorney General (AG) with discretionary powers to institute and conduct any criminal prosecution. In order to ensure that the AG can prosecute effectively, Section 376 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) allows the AG as the Public Prosecutor to appoint “fit and proper persons” to be Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPP) who shall be under the general control and direction of the AG himself, to handle criminal prosecutions and proceedings. It is pursuant to these provisions that the office of the Deputy Public Prosecutor was created, whereby the DPPs may exercise all or any of the rights and powers vested in or exercisable by the AG except for any rights or powers expressed to be exercisable by the AG personally.
What could be gathered from the above paragraph is that, when it comes to criminal prosecutions, any DPP should be competent to conduct any criminal prosecution on behalf of the AG. The usage of the expression “fit and proper persons” in aforesaid Section 376 would necessarily mean that all the DPPs who are appointed must be persons of high calibre, integrity, and ultimately someone who is able to ensure that all criminal prosecutions and proceedings would be prosecuted fairly.
The necessity to prosecute criminal cases in a fair and proper manner need not be stated as it is synonymous to and should always be the bedrock of any “prosecution”. At least this is what we are supposed to believe.
The recent twist of events in the murder trial of Altantuya concerning the change of the prosecution team, has sparked intense debate amongst the public. Such reaction is not unexpected given the wide media coverage of the trial and the personalities who are involved as well as those who are rumoured to be involved in the case. Given this background, one would assume that all parties concerned in the trial, especially the prosecution, would conduct their affairs in a transparent manner so as to avoid any unnecessary speculation. Therefore, when the High Court was informed by the prosecution that a new team will take over the conduct of the criminal prosecution at the eleventh hour, one could not be faulted for suspecting that something was amiss. While a change in the prosecution team or DPPs in a criminal prosecution is not uncommon, the manner in which such change was made and coupled with the fact that the lead DPP (of the new prosecution team) could not give an answer when the High Court judge suggested that he should work with the previous team for the first few days since he was not familiar with the case, only fuelled further speculation.
Even the AG’s explanation of the matter i.e. that such a move is to ensure that all parties will receive a “fair trial” is somewhat disturbing and perplexing. Does the AG think that the Malaysian public is gullible and would accept such statement at face value without any question? Unfortunately for the AG, this writer as well as the majority, if not all, of the Malaysian public are no longer susceptible to such a lame explanation.
What could have probably been going through the AG’s mind when he made that statement? Did the AG realise that by making such a statement, he is indirectly casting aspersions towards the previous prosecution team as if they are unable to conduct the prosecution in a fair manner? What “miracles” could the new prosecution team produce to ensure a “fair trial”, which could not be accomplished by the previous prosecution team? After all, shouldn’t all criminal prosecutions and proceedings be conducted fairly regardless of the personalities in the prosecution team? How could the change of the personalities in the prosecution team then be equated to a “fair trial?” These are only a few of the many questions that are running through the minds of the Malaysian public, and perhaps the international community as well.
Last but not least, the decision of the AG to change the prosecution team at the very last minute reminds me of what Darth Vader said to the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, “What is thy bidding, my master”. To the AG, this writer would like to part with this question, “Quo vadis”? And for God’s sake, please do not reply, “To ensure a fair trial”.
(This first appeared on Wednesday 06 June 2007 on the website of the Malaysian Bar)