Sin Chew Jit Poh
24 September 2015
Finally some good news.
The suspension of the Edge Financial Daily and the Edge Financial Weekly was lifted by the high Court. The reasoning of the judge as reported in the news appears sound to me.
Basically, the judge decided that the show cause letter to the Edge was vague and unspecific. For example it did not mention exactly which articles the government was referring to when they said that the Edge was publishing something undesirable.
Without such specific information, it would be impossible to reply properly to the show cause letter and this was in the view of the judge against natural justice; which in lay man’s terms would mean it was really very unfair.
There was also a procedural process which the government did not follow when they suspended the Edge and this too was pointed out by the judge as another reason why the suspension was unlawful.
The fact that they did not follow procedure reflects in my view the unseemly haste with which they wanted to suspend the Edge.
Anyway, at the moment it looks good (of course there is the possibility the government will appeal), and there is a ray of sunshine in what has been a depressing few weeks.
It is heartening to note that there are judges who are still willing to look at a case not merely from the lens of the literal law, but also to apply concepts of justice and fairness in their judgment. I have often been critical of the judiciary, mainly by pointing out that the system we have in place now does not engender confidence in the institution.
But at the same time I have also often pointed out that there are very good individual judges who have made sound and just decisions over the years. They tend to be in the High Court and not the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court, but nonetheless their judgments are reasons to celebrate. This is one of them.
And what makes this judgment even more important at this time is the fact the bad implementation of so many laws have occurred recently; for example, the use of the Printing Presses and Publication Act (the same law as used on the Edge), to ban yellow clothes with the word Bersih 4 on them.
This ban is not only embarrassing for its petty obtuseness, it is also groundless. Why ban it? Is it because Bersih is an illegal organisation? Well, it’s not really an organisation; it’s a coalition of NGOs. Maybe it is because the rally is illegal for not getting a permit? Well, it’s not illegal because according to the Peaceful Assembly Act and a Court of Appeal decision, there is no need for a permit to assemble peacefully.
And what about all those people charged under section 124 B of the Penal Code for supposedly undermining parliamentary democracy, when in fact questioning the government of the day and demanding the resignation of a PM one thinks is bad, is part and parcel of parliamentary democracy.
The court needs to declare all this really very poor use of the law as unlawful. It is unlawful to ban t-shirts for no good reason; it is unlawful to define “parliamentary democracy” to mean nothing more than protecting the PM. One hopes there will be judges who can do just that.