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28 January 1999

ANOTHER EXERCISE OF RE-SCHEDULING TRIAL DATES:- WHY?

Today at the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate's Court, 177 persons who were arrested on 24/10/98 and charged for offences of illegal assembly and rioting were summoned to attend court together with their bailors for a mention before Tuan Ananth Namasivam(the Magistrate).

It should be borne in mind that the hearing date for this group of 177 had previously been fixed by court to begin on 8/2/99 and to end on 8/3/99. Now suddenly, at the eleventh hour the court has summoned these accused back to court and the hearing dates have been rescheduled to begin on 8/3/99 until 8/4/99.
 

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

It should be noted that some time ago, the court had similarly acted with the group of about 125, whose trial dates were originally fixed to begin in May 1999. When this group was asked to attend a mention, the court then brought the trial dates earlier, that is to begin on 2/2/98 and end on 3/2/98. At that point, the court was informed (not only by the Defence lawyers but also by the Deputy Public Prosecutor) that the trial of this group of 177 was fixed for 8/2/99 until 8/3/99. The court was urged not to fix dates that clashed as some lawyers, both from prosecution and/or Defence, would inevitably be involved in both these big trials.

Now, today the court gives the reason for changing the hearing dates as being because this case will be clashing with the other "trial of 125".The raeson given was that there would be no court room "big enough" for 2 big trials. (For the record, the mention today was held in a Meeting Room of the lower court, which had been adapted into a court-room.- Besides the lawyers, the accused and a few members of the media, there was no room for members of the public, let alone the bailors of these accused persons.)
 

MENTION DATES....THEN ONLY HEARING DATES: NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND

It should also be noted that it is not normal that accused's and their bailor's are summoned to attend a mention after hearing dates are fixed.Normally one would go through a few mentions before a hearing date is fixed. Further, it is also odd that the accused and their bailors are required to attend court on a new date before their actual hearing date.
 

WERE THE INFORMATION OF THE MENTION DATE COMMUNICATED TO ALL?

Letters to the accused and their bailors were sent by ordinary post, and not by acknowledged received pre-paid registered post. Hence, there is no way of showing that all the accused and their bailors were aware of the date of this mention. One of the bailors, who turned up in the court did in fact inform the court that she did not receive the said letter. She went on to say that she was informed by a friend of the mention date and she had rushed to court.

The letters letters were send out before the Hari Raya period. It should be noted that during this period the post offices are swamped with greeting cards, be it Christmas Cards(and/or New Year Cards) and Hari Raya Cards. The normally efficient postal services are definitely slowed down by this increase mass of mail. Personally, I only began receiving mail over the past few days since the Hari Raya period. Why? Maybe the regular postman had gone on his Hari Raya leave. Be that as it may, there could be reasons why letters about the mention date could not have reached some of the accused and/or their bailors. Further, not all the accused and/or their bailors hail from the Klang Valley. (One for example is from Sabah, East Malaysia and he would have had to take a flight down for a mention date or else...).

OR ELSE...

If the accused did not turn up for a mention date, he risks the possibility of being issued a warrant of arrest, and his/her bailor risk the possibility of forfeiture of the bail sum(in this case RM2,500).

Today, 4 accused persons and their bailors failed to attend and warrant of arrests were issued by the court for the four accused and notice to show cause why the bail sum should not be forfeited were issued for their respective bailors.
 

4 ACCUSED PERSONS IN REMAND SINCE DATE OF ARREST ON 24/10/98

4 persons, who are illegal immigrants continue to be held in remand in Sungai Buloh Remand Prison pending the final disposal of this matter.
 

PROBLEMS FACCED BY THE ACCUSED PERSONS

Some of the accused persons are facing some difficulties with their employers, who are not very happy with having to give their employees leave to be present at their trial. During this economic crisis, there
is always the possibility of being "retrenched".

Self-employed persons will also face financial difficulties because their businesses and/or sources of income will be interupted for long periods because of this trial, which will definitely last a long time.

Local University students, risk the possibility of being suspended from their campuses upon being charged until the end of the trial. If they are conviceted, they can be expelled. The University and University Colleges Act is a draconian law that does not believe in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Malaysians should lobby for the repeal of this bad law/sections.

Attending the trial would also mean increased expenses for those who would have to travel from far off destinations and find alternative accomodations during the duration of this trial. They will also be separated from their loved ones during this duration.

And at the end of the day, if they are found not guilty - there will be no compensation. There will be no recovery of damages.

THE CHARGES...AND THE EFFECT OF POPULAR DISSENT

It has been several months since there have peaceful assemblies of people in the streets of Kuala Lumpur expressing dissent and
disatisfaction about the leadership and the ruling government. Dissent seem to have been suppressed using the law. But, is this so?? We can only ask ourselves and listen to voices of the common folk in the streets.

ALL HASTE IN STARTING THE TRIAL BUT...

It was also pointed out that the Prosecution (and/or the Police) has yet to provide the Defence Team with copies of the First Information Report and Cautioned Statements of the Accused. Without these documents, how can the Defence Team prepare for their case. It was pointed out that the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre (Kuala Lumpur), whose is acting for 171 of the accused have already written three letters dated, if not mistaken, on 11/12/98, 21/12/98 and 29/12/98. The letters, as usual were sent to
the relevant Police Stations.

The DPP gave his assurance to the court that the said documents will be furnished to the Defence Team.

THE PLAYERS:-
Magistrate             : Tuan Ananth Namasivasam
DPP                      : Tuan Azhar
LAC                     : Mah Weng Kwai(also the Sec. of the Bar Council), Ragunath Kesavan, N. Surendran, Ramid Khan,
                              Charles Hector, Ahmad Juflis.
Lawyers representing individual accused persons: Nor Amran,Nor Hisham, Mohd Redza, Radin, Idris Gedza, J.Gomez.