Malaysian justice system faces loss of public confidence, credibility, in view of recent rulings

The Malaysian justice system is under fire, as an unemployed man faces 10 years in prison over the theft of RM22 from a mosque’s donation box in Kuala Terengganu, while the Attorney-General’s Chambers withdrew its corruption case against Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi earlier this week.

This is in striking contrast to the notorious discharge not amounting to an acquittal granted to Ahmad Zahid at the request of the prosecution team. This is despite the prima facie case being proven against the deputy prime minister.

This puts the justice system under intense scrutiny. Why the difference in treatment between the ordinary unemployed citizen and the deputy prime minister?

Under our Constitution, the justice system must be scrupulously fair and equal to all, without any regard to the status of the accused. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution states that all persons are equal in Malaysia, be it a poor man, a billionaire, or a deputy prime minister.

Yet, the public can see that under the current administration, this sacrosanct principle has been ignored. How will the people have any regard or respect for the law and the justice system under these circumstances?

It would have been acceptable, and perhaps fair, if the attorney-general had used his discretion not to charge a poor man who stole a meagre sum, without of course, condoning the act. He could have been let off with a warning. Yet, the attorney-general saw fit to proceed with the RM22 case, but discontinued the case against the deputy prime minister involving millions of ringgit.

This disparity exposes our justice system to public disgust and ridicule, and a total loss of credibility. All this, after just nine months of the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional administration.

It is also appalling that the mosque, police, and the prosecution went ahead and pursued this case in court. It would have been more appropriate, and compassionate, to refer the matter to Zakat Terengganu.

A desperate man had to resort to stealing from a mosque’s donation box. A helping hand in this case was needed, rather than humiliating and punishing him like a major criminal, which received national coverage on all the major networks. Where was the compassion in this case?

Public confidence in the nation and the law can be a fragile thing. Once shattered, it is difficult to fix.

If Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s administration continues on this path, we are well on the way to becoming a failed state, with one set of rules for the powerful, and a different one for the poor and dispossessed.

Sasha Lyna Abdul Latif is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s Legal & Constitutional Bureau deputy chairman.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.