UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s comments at a ceramah last night in Tanjung Piai in relation to the case of a woman who was acquitted of a charge of reckless driving which caused the death of eight teenagers riding bicycles in Johor Bahru in 2017 is reckless and borders on contempt of court.
Ahmad Zahid was reported by Malaysiakini as saying,
“Apabila lapan kanak-kanak main basikal di Johor dilanggar oleh seorang wanita, wanita itu dibebaskan seolah-olah tiada bukti.
“Kanak-kanak itu mati dan jadi arwah. Ini kerajaan double standard,”
The use of the words “Ini kerajaan double standard” implies that the government had some involvement in the said decision and that the Magistrate was not impartial, which is far from the truth.
Ahmad Zahid’s said statement further clearly undermines public confidence in the judiciary, and ridicules, scandalises and offends the dignity, integrity and impartiality of the court.
This is a serious allegation and goes beyond fair criticism of the decision of the said Magistrate as such criticism can cause the public to feel that she was biased and had taken into consideration matters which ought not to have been, when deciding the matter.
Earlier this year, lawyer Arun Kasi was imprisoned and fined by the Federal Court for contempt of court for unfairly criticising its decision in a case which sparked a debate on the limits of criticism of court judgments.
With respect, Ahmad Zahid’s said statement is equally, if not more serious, and ought not escape the long arm of the law. If Arun Kasi was cited for contempt, there is no reason why Ahmad Zahid should not.
In the circumstances, I urge the AG or the said Magistrate to initiate contempt proceedings against Ahmad Zahid, failing which, such reckless statements and comments may become a norm, something which must be avoided.