21 JANUARY 2015
The decision by the 5-member panel on the Federal Court to dismiss the application by the Catholic Church for a review of an earlier decision of the court not to grant leave to appeal the ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in its weekly, Herald comes as no surprise to me.
We would be naïve indeed to expect that this panel of ‘junior’ Federal court judges would allow this application to review a decision of a larger panel of judges headed by the Chief Justice himself. The refusal of the court to allow the Church’s earlier application to have an enlarged bench hear their application was unfortunate as by convention, a larger panel or at least the same number of judges should sit in review of a panel’s decision. This does not help to shift the perception of an already cynical public that the decision in the Allah case is not a fair decision.
Legally speaking, it is a pity that the highest court in this country declined to hear the appeal on substantive issues, and dismissed the application by the Catholic Church for leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal, which in the opinion of many lawyers and academicians, is legally unsustainable. One would have thought that this being a case of enormous public interest (and international attention), the Federal Court would have taken the opportunity to hear the appeal and to hand down a decision supported by cogent, incisive and judicious reasoning. Alas, we are deprived of the benefit of the wisdom of the highest legal minds of this country.
As a result of this long-drawn out Allah case, the ordinary Malaysian would be even more convinced that there is not much hope in the review process in the judicial system. Whatever the reasons given by the judges for the dismissal, the unfairness is a matter of perception where the public is concerned. It is my hope that the issue will be revisited in another case at another time by a different panel so that this matter which is of such great importance to the people of this country can be ventilated in depth and at length in the highest court of the land. The Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians in this country deserve better than what has been dished out to them.
ADUN N70 BA’ KELALAN
CHAIRMAN, PKR SARAWAK