Only independence will reinstate court dignity

Judges preside over cases which they deliberately drag on for years and then, on the day of judgment, deliver a verdict of ‘acquittal and discharge’ in a few minutes. 

Mahathir also stripped the mosques of their independence. Under Mahathir, sermons rarely covered community issues but were vehicles for Umno’s political messages. The captive Muslim audiences still dare not protest about these political sermons. 

Mariam Mokhtar, Free Malaysia Today 

When someone lodges a complaint against crime and corruption but is subsequently ignored by a slew of authoritative bodies, including the courts, what else is a man to do? Take the law into his own hands?

The shoe-throwing imam Hoslan Hussein is being punished, for a third time, for trying to do his public duty.

Another shameful aspect about this incident is that his shoe-throwing has shocked a relatively docile and timid Malaysian public who are ignoring the reasons for his going to court.

In essence, the public are behaving just as badly as the judiciary. The judiciary just wants to silence Hoslan. The shoe-throwing has distracted us from the corruption he was trying to disclose in court.

If we were to understand his angst, then more of us might support him and his reasons for going to court, rather than voice support for throwing his shoe at the symbol of government, just because we, too, are frustrated with the authorities.

The Chief Judge of Malaya Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin claimed that the dignity of the court would be redeemed only if a stiff custodial sentence were meted out on Hoslan for throwing his shoes at three Federal Court judges on Feb 22.

The court of public opinion disagrees with Zulkefli.

Ever since former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad stripped the judiciary of its independence, our courts have been reduced to puppets dancing to the tune of their political masters. Will justice be available for anyone?

Zulkefli said that Hoslan will be able to reflect on his actions during his incarceration. Zulkefli might like to consider that if judges discharged their duties without fear or favour, the rakyat might trust and respect them.

Despite claims that he bore no grudges against Hoslan, Zulkefli’s harsh judgment just shows his vindictiveness. The chief judge must be aware that Hoslan is probably the breadwinner with a wife and seven children, as well as his aged parents to take care of.

More to the point, Zulkefli is treating the symptom and not the “disease” itself; the “disease” being the manner in which justice is dispensed, by a corrupted judiciary.

Hoslan’s experience is normal for any Malaysian going through the Malaysian legal system. It is an expensive, painful and long-drawn-out experience. The justice dispensed is laughable and an embarrassment for the country.

Zulkefli said that Hoslan had scandalised the court with his disorderly conduct: “A scurrilous attack on the presiding judges to show his frustration and disgust at the decision, which was unfavourable to him, is clearly an affront to the impartiality of the judges of the apex court and to the judiciary as an institution.”

Without fear or favour

Zulkefli should consider the views of the lawyer and MP, M Manogaran, on the frustration of litigants with the courts.

Manogaran said, “What is wrong with judges granting or extending more time, after all he [Hoslan] was not represented. The court must dispense justice to the people, that is what the public expects them to do. Judges are tasked with dispensing justice without fear or favour.”

“Courts must not function as a corporate body in hurrying to dispose of justice. ‘Stop the monkeying’ on the bench. They are making a mockery of the justice system.”

Hoslan, the former imam at the Al-Rahimah Mosque in Kampung Pandan, had made numerous complaints about corruption and abuse of power at the Ar Rahimah mosque in Kampung Pandan. He approached the police and the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Both ignored him. Instead, he was evicted from the mosque.

Mahathir also stripped the mosques of their independence. Under Mahathir, sermons rarely covered community issues but were vehicles for Umno’s political messages. The captive Muslim audiences still dare not protest about these political sermons.

Hoslan’s problems probably started when he refused to read the stipulated khutbah (sermons) as required by the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Council (MAIWP).

In the lead-up to Bersih 2.0 last year, the Friday sermon at his mosque advised the people not to attend the rally. Hoslan claims that when he heard this, he lifted his robe in protest, and showed the congregation his yellow Bersih T-shirt.

Hoslan claimed, too, that Umno is allegedly manipulating MAIWP behind the scenes, to have him removed.

He told an online news portal that one of the abuses he stumbled on was the alleged payment of a monthly fee by a renowned restaurant, to a mosque committee member who approved the restaurant’s use of land belonging to the mosque. The mosque committee did not receive any of this money.

When Hoslan was called up to the three judges in the Federal Court last month, he thought that his claims of corruption and abuse of funds would finally be heard.

Hoslan told a mainstream paper, “…I thought the least they could do was listen to my plea as this is my last lifeline to finally get out of this mess I was in.

“To my surprise, my appeal was rejected, just like that, without them reading it. I was really angry and disappointed.”

Anyone in Hoslan’s shoes would be livid. Instead of having his case heard, he was then accused of indiscipline and refusal to read from the stipulated sermon as required by MAIWP.