LETTER

Lingam tape: Formation of no power panel dubious

Amer Hamzah Arshad

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

Say NO to the panel of inquiry! That's my view on the appointment of the panel by the deputy prime minister (the executive-appointed panel) which is supposed to look into the authenticity of the scandalous VK Lingam tape .

I believe that I am not the only one with such a concern. The reason for my strong objection to this executive-appointed panel is one of logic and common sense. One does not need to be a legal scholar to see that the formation of such a panel is dubious or questionable at best and that there are flaws inherent in such an appointment.

Unlike a royal commission which derives its jurisdiction and powers from the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 (the Act), the executive-appointed panel was not set up pursuant to any Act of Parliament. The setting up of the panel and the appointment of its members are highly suspect as they are operating in vacuum.

There is no known law that confers authority or jurisdiction over this panel and the panel is devoid of any legal powers. Having said that, one wonders the capacity in which the panel will be in to determine its terms of reference when it has no legal standing in the first place.

Additionally, the executive-appointed panel has no legal powers like that of a royal commission. The executive-appointed panel has no power to inter alia, summon witnesses, procure evidence, issue a warrant of arrest or even protect witnesses.

Comparing members of the executive-appointed panel with commissioners appointed pursuant to the Act, the commissioners shall have the powers of a first-class magistrate and have the necessary powers to ensure the smooth running and efficacy of the inquiry. Furthermore, according to the Act, the proceedings of the inquiry pursuant to the Act will be deemed a judicial proceeding. Given the gravity of the issue at hand, anything short of a judicial proceeding will not suffice.

The other concern is that the panel is nothing more than another executive committee set up under the auspices of the deputy prime minister. There are many concerns and questions that have been raised by the public over the Lingam tape. All these concerns and questions should be addressed in a transparent and open forum whereby anyone who is implicated or concerned in the matter is able to engage a counsel to represent his interest in the inquiry as provided in the Act.

If we are to allow an executive-appointed panel to investigate into the matter, the public's fears and concerns will not be dispelled. Au contraire, it will only raise more questions and concerns. Only by having a royal commission will the public be assuaged that the inquiry will be carried out in a fair and open manner.

Lest we forget, it is the semblance of impartiality that is important and this is what the present panel is lacking by virtue of its questionable formation. The fact that the adjective 'independent' is used and as a prefix to the word 'panel' does not in any way change the fact that the panel will ultimately be reporting to the executive on the outcome of its inquiry.

The executive-appointed panel in its current form not only lacks legal authority and legitimacy that a royal commission possesses but also lacks the respect and moral authority that is of paramount importance in such an inquiry.

I implore upon the members of the Bar and the public to sign the petition which was launched by The People's Parliament calling for the establishment of a royal commission to investigate the rot that has set into the Malaysian judiciary.

Please view the complete petition here . To sign up in support of this petition please send an email with your name and IC number to [email protected] .

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