Shafee’s lawyer speaks up for government lawyer, says judge did not ‘chide’

Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 27, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex May 27, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s defence lawyer today stood up to clear the air on news reports that were “unfair” to senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan.

Shafee’s lawyer David Thomas Mathews referred to news reports that had reported High Court judge Datuk Mohd Firuz Jaffril to have “chided” Shamsul, clarifying that he did not think the judge had meant to chide the lawyer from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

“I do not think My Lord made the remarks in that manner,” he told the court, referring to the judge.

“I feel compelled to say this because I believe it casts my learned friend (Shamsul) in a bad light. I feel compelled to speak up for him.

“I think it’s quite unfair for an upstanding lawyer, upstanding person... I hope in fact the media would be more mindful of the choice of words used,” Mathews added.

Mohd Firuz then told Shamsul that he had not intended to land the latter into trouble with his words or directive in court.

“It was not my intention. I do regret that it was reported in such a manner,” the judge told Shamsul.

There were news reports last Thursday that described the judge as having “chided” Shamsul for not having given certain court documents earlier, with the judge reportedly saying that it would have otherwise given him time to read the written arguments presented by both sides.

The judge had then pushed the hearing from Thursday morning to Thursday afternoon in order to “start on a clean slate”.

Today was the second day of hearing for Shafee’s application to set aside the leave granted to initiate proceedings to cite him for contempt.

Before the actual hearing started today, Mathews also highlighted that the bid to have Shafee cited for contempt of court was brought by the office of attorney general and not its current position-holder Tommy Thomas as an individual, noting that Shafee’s response is also to the attorney general.

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

The Attorney General had referred to Shafee’s reported remarks on February 7, 2019, describing the latter as having done so as the lawyer for former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over several offences linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Part of the remarks that Shafee had made in a press conference in response to a reporter was highlighted to be: “If you leave the judge alone, do not influence the judge, if the judge is straight, if the witnesses are not coached and not fabricated evidence, we should win. Ok?”

The attorney general claimed that Shafee knew or ought to have known that the his remarks “were contemptuous to the judge and would undermine the administration of justice and public confidence in the judicial system in Malaysia”, and “would clearly place the trial judge in embarrassing situation and create a state of uncertainty about the fair and just determination of the case”.

Shafee was also claimed to have knew or ought to have known that his statements were deliberately uttered “with intent to pressure and influence” the court’s decision.

Shafee’s lawyers presented their arguments last Thursday and today to assert that the High Court should reverse its decision to allow the attorney general to proceed with the contempt of court proceedings.

The Attorney General’s Chambers is expected to present its own arguments at the next hearing, which is scheduled for June 14.

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