KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Following the Federal Court’s firm reminder to lawyers against distorting facts on ongoing court cases, the Kuala Lumpur Bar also agreed that those involved in court cases should not make “misleading” remarks to the public.
Alvin Oh Seong Yew, chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee that represents lawyers in the capital city, voiced support for Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat’s warning during a Federal Court hearing of a case challenging the constitutionality and validity of 18 provisions in a Kelantan Shariah state law.
Oh said the chief justice had made observations regarding certain statements — allegedly made publicly by a lawyer for one of the parties involved in the court case — that “may be untrue or have failed to disclose all the material facts”.
“The Kuala Lumpur Bar is in agreement with the Federal Court’s observations that parties ought to refrain from discussing or making misleading statements on pending cases in public forums, especially where sensitive matters such as race and religion are involved.
“It is imperative that the rule of law and due process is upheld such that legal and constitutional disputes are resolved by a Court of Law and not by the Court of Public Opinion,” Oh said in a statement today.
Earlier today, Tengku Maimun said the nine-member panel at the Federal Court had to take the unusual step of making the observation that many remarks made about the case were a “distorted version” of the real issue being heard in court.
The chief justice pointed out that the Federal Court had previously already stated on August 17 when hearing began for the case that the issue in this court case “is not about undermining the position of Islam or the Shariah court”, but whether the Kelantan state legislative assembly had the competence to enact the provisions in the state law that was being challenged.
This came after the Federal Court was informed this morning that Yusfarizal Yusoff — a lawyer who was holding a watching brief for the Terengganu Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Maidam) in the case — had allegedly made comments on the case in a public event a few months ago.
In remarks published by PAS party’s outlet HarakahDaily, Yusfarizal allegedly claimed that the ongoing court case was the end before the powers of the Shariah courts would purportedly be buried in Malaysia.
When Tengku Maimun asked Yusfarizal if he had made the remark, the lawyer replied by saying he needed time to check the transcript and was unsure of the exact wording said.
But the chief justice said the remark on Shariah courts being “buried” is untrue and proceeded on behalf of the Federal Court to “remind lawyers that you are bound by the ethics of your profession and you know very well that it is not appropriate to discuss pending cases at a public forum, more so when you failed to disclose the full facts of the case.”
Tengku Maimun also reminded everyone to “uphold the rule of law and not to incite the sentiment of the public”.
After hearing the case, the Federal Court said it would deliver its decision on the constitutional challenge on a later date.
Other judges on the nine-member panel today are President of the Court of Appeal Tan Sri Amar Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim, Chief Judge of Malaya Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Sebli, Federal Court judges Tan Sri Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Mary Lim Thiam Suan, Datuk Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal, Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais.
Later in a press conference, Yusfarizal reportedly said none of the lawyers who appeared at the Federal Court hearing this morning had incited the public to commit unrest, and said the lawyers are committed to upholding the rule of law.
On May 25, 2022, Kelantan-born lawyer Nik Elin Zurina Nik Abdul Rashid and her daughter Tengku Yasmin Nastasha Tengku Abdul Rahman filed the constitutional challenge at the Federal Court, naming the Kelantan state government as respondent.
Through the court challenge, the two women are seeking for the Federal Court to declare that 18 provisions of Kelantan’s Shariah Criminal Code (I) Enactment 2019 are invalid, arguing that the Kelantan state legislative assembly had overstepped its powers or had no powers to make such laws.
Citing the Federal Constitution, they argued that it is the federal government instead which holds the powers under the Federal Constitution to make laws via Parliament on such crimes, and that the 18 provisions in the state law are already covered in federal laws made by Parliament.