LETTER | After much discourse, discussions and debates by Malaysians over the past few days in relation to the Federal Court decision with regard to the contempt proceedings by the AG against Malaysiakini, and now that the dust has settled, perhaps we may start seeing clearer what this case is actually about.
In a nutshell, it relates to the lack of understanding of the criminal justice system, and the process involved in the prosecution, and withdrawal of charges.
Let us begin by looking at the comments by the famous five. I shall not repeat them here as they can be found in the majority press summary of the decision of the Federal Court. Suffice to say, it is about the decision of the AG to withdraw the 46 charges against former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman.
In paragraph 17 of the press summary of the decision, it was stated by the majority of the Federal Court:-
“ It would be expected for Malaysiakini to foresee the kind of comments attracted by the publication of the article on the acquittal of Musa Aman by the court following the withdrawal of charges, coinciding with the unfortunate timing of the press release by the chief justice. Members of the editorial team, in particular, must have been aware of the kind of materials published and would be able to foresee the sort of comments that it would attract, given their experience in running Malaysiakini for over 20 years.”
The famous five, in all probability, did not understand the process of withdrawal of charges and acquittal.
They, in all probability, did not understand that the withdrawal of the charges against Musa is done by the AG, who is the public prosecutor, and that based on the decision by the AG to withdraw the charges, the court then acquits.
This is what the AG had stated in relation to Musa’s case and the withdrawal of the charges:
"Having studied the whole available evidence and upon discussion being held with the prosecution and investigation team, I decided to withdraw the charges against Musa.”
Now, it is hard not to conclude that the famous five got all confused and wrongly directed their dissatisfaction of the AG’s decision to withdraw the charges, to the courts that acquitted based on the withdrawal of charges instead.
I used the word "wrongly" because they obviously did not know the difference of the roles played by the courts and the AG respectively, in the criminal justice system.
Perhaps what was actually needed in this entire fiasco was a good lesson being taught to the famous five on the role of AG in prosecution and withdrawal of charges, and the role of the courts in acquittal based on withdrawal of charges by the AG.
PUTHAN PERUMAL is a legal practitioner.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.