Government efforts to put RPK back behind bars hits a brick wall
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDERBy Debra Chong
PUTRAJAYA, June 9 – The government’s efforts to put Raja Petra Kamarudin back behind bars in Kamunting hit an obstacle today at the Federal Court.
The Federal Court here ruled in favour of the fugitive editor of the Malaysia Today news website who wanted a review of its earlier order to recall Justice Datuk Augustine Paul to hear the Home Minister’s appeal against Raja Petra’s November 2008 release from detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The three-man panel of judges headed by Court of Appeal President Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff noted that the earlier decision made by a two-man bench had failed to meet the necessary criteria under Section 74(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act for a panel of three judges minimum to hear the case.
“It is therefore our considered opinion that there was a quorum failure,” the judges said in a written judgment read aloud in court today by the deputy registrar to the apex court.
The Federal Court today also noted that the appeal by the Home Minister against Raja Petra had not properly started.
This means that the entire appeal case against Raja Petra “goes back to square one”, his lawyers told reporters.
Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said today’s decision from the highly-ranked judges, which included the Chief Justice of Malaya Datuk Arifin Zakaria and Chief Justice of Borneo Richard Malanjum, were “much welcome” and signalled the judiciary’s seriousness in tackling thorny issues of fundamental human rights.
A new date to hear the appeal proper will be fixed later by the Federal Court registrar as Raja Petra’s lawyers want a bigger panel of five to seven judges to sit at the next round.
In early February, Federal Court judges Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and Datuk Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin rejected Raja Petra’s application to recuse Justice Paul.
Raja Petra, 58, was arrested under the ISA on Sept 12 last year and later sent to the Kamunting detention camp in Taiping, Perak.
He was freed two months later when Shah Alam High Court Judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad granted him a writ of habeas corpus, ruling that the home minister’s order to detain him was beyond the scope of Section 8 of the ISA.