Shafee’s lawyer accuses AG of not practising full disclosure in contempt of court proceedings

Lawyer David Thomas Mathews is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 23, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Lawyer David Thomas Mathews is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court May 23, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s lawyer today accused Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas of failing to practise full disclosure towards the court when presenting facts over a contempt of court case involving Shafee himself.

David Thomas Mathews, when presenting his submission today, argued that it was not made known to the court that Shafee’s words that were being scrutinised were actually an answer to a question posed by a journalist.

He pointed out the responsibility of the plaintiffs to practise full disclosure when bringing forward the facts of the case, saying matters deemed negative to their case should also be presented in court.

“It would be deemed incurably ineffective and fatal if there is a breach in duty (in full disclosure),” he said before High Court Judge Datuk Mohd Firuz Jaffril.

Mathews then explained how Shafee’s statement was a response to a journalist’s question asking about how he felt about his chances of winning the cases involving Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Mathews pointed out how the AG’s initial application had not included the fact that the statement was a response to a question, arguing such facts were imperative to the case and the court when judgement is made.

“It was an answer to a question; it was a statement of opinion on his chances of success.

“It was not a pre-prepared statement, and you could say off the cuff, just outside the courtroom,” he said.

“The question of ‘what are your chances’ is conspicuously absent from the statement. These materials should have been properly placed within the statement so that My Lord can fairly decide,” he said referring to the plaintiff’s initial application documents.

Mathews claimed that the stance of the AG, who he said saw Shafee’s statement on the judges’ level of impartiality as being able to affect the public’s perception on the judiciary system, as an invalid position as it referred to an incident yet to happen.  

“The public perception would depend on the eventual outcome of the case involving Datuk Seri Najib, whether positive or negative through him either being convicted or an acquittal.

“The important point is this, that it hinges on the eventual outcome of the case; when the statement was made, it cannot be contempt of something that may or may not happen,” he said.

On March 1, Mohd Firuz allowed the AG’s application for leave to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Shafee.

In the motion, Thomas said Shafee was an advocate and solicitor representing former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who had been charged with several offences related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

He said that on February 7, 2019, Muhammad Shafee was interviewed outside the High Court after a court proceeding involving Najib.

Thomas claimed that the defendant knew or ought to have known that the offensive statement (reportedly made during the interview) was contemptuous to the judge and would undermine the administration of justice and public confidence in the judicial system in Malaysia.

Today’s proceedings were part of Shafee’s application to strike out the leave granted by the Mohd Firuz.

Later on, Mathews alleged the contempt case was only brought against Shafee as a sign of the AG retaliating towards the lawyer’s comments during the same media interview.

He explained how previous sections of the interview saw Shafee express frustration at the practices of the prosecution team in Najib’s SRC International Sdn Bhd case which were also in response to questions posed by reporters.

“I dare to speculate, this application was largely brought about because they are unhappy about the comments made against them, the prosecution,” he said.

Proceedings then stood down, where Mohd Firuz then set proceedings to continue on Monday at 2pm, with Mathews to present the rest of his submission.

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