The release of Nik Raina

MARCH 4 — To say that it had been an emotional morning would be an understatement. The judge had just delivered his ruling and Nik Raina’s head had turned sharply to the back to glance at her boss. Everyone in that courtroom pretty much expected an application by the prosecutor for another lengthy six-month sojourn of the Nik Raina-Borders case to be granted, depriving her yet again of reprieve and justice.

Discharge of the charges was certainly not what anyone expected to hear that day in the Shariah courtroom.

Just a moment before, everyone had heard the response from the prosecutor to lawyer Rosli Dahlan’s impassioned plea on behalf of Nik Raina for compassion, kindness and understanding from the court. To correct an injustice which had been inflicted and sustained for three years.

It was her problem, the prosecutor responded, if she felt that she had suffered humiliation, embarrassment and anguish as a result of this case. 

He continued by saying that her decision to take the case to the civil court amounted to disrespect of the Shariah court system and that her actions resulted in the prolonging of the case. Basically that it was Nik Raina’s own fault that it had come to three years since that fateful day in 2012.

JAWI was determined to continue the case to the highest court in the land. If the words and actions of the Shariah prosecutor were anything to go by, in the case of Nik Raina, they just wanted to win the case or to at least say that they had exhausted absolutely all avenues in their crusade to do so.

It is rare, for me at least, to hear words of compassion, understanding and most importantly, empathy in these settings. But I heard them that morning.

I heard the judge, Mohd Amran Mat Zain, emphasise on the need to adhere to the spirit of fairness and justice in which the civil court and the Shariah court are grounded, as well as respecting the Federal Constitution.

The Honourable Judge emphasised that he had considered the fact that the very accusation and the charge itself have been deemed suspect and doubted. He considered that JAWI’s actions had been chastised and were found by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal to be not only illegal but unconstitutional and done in bad faith. He recognised and empathised with Nik Raina’s suffering as a result of this case and spoke of how he considered that the circumstances of injustice could cause kemudaratan.

Amidst the gasps of surprise and disbelief, sharp intakes of breath and the loud slapping of a forehead (a member of the prosecution team), the judge ordered the charge be dropped.

Just an hour earlier, all of those present had been wondering whether the day’s outcome would be any different than others before. There had been too many disappointments. This outcome caught everyone totally off guard.

An emotional Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz speaks to members of the media after the Court of Appeal ruled in her favour, dismissing JAWI’s contest against a High Court ruling. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
An emotional Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz speaks to members of the media after the Court of Appeal ruled in her favour, dismissing JAWI’s contest against a High Court ruling. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

An emotional Rosli then requested permission from the court to permit his client to step out from the dock, as she was no longer under the shadow of a criminal charge, and be allowed to address the court. In a halting voice filled with much joy and fighting back tears, Nik Raina thanked the judge for his ruling.

There were very few dry eyes after that. Everyone shed tears, even the normally unflappable Rosli.

In a statement made to the press outside the courtroom, Nik Raina stated that she fought for the right of all Muslims in Malaysia to work without fear of harassment or persecution. “I stand here today not only for myself, but for all my colleagues, especially the Muslims who could face the same action by the religious authorities for merely doing our jobs.”

Because of this case, Nik Raina has become an inspirational role model for so many young women and men. I wish her the very best and I am happy for her that she is able to continue on with her life with this whole episode behind her.

I do hope that the Attorney General’s Chambers will take heed of the learned judge’s judgement and emphasis on needing to uphold the Islamic principles of fairness and justice. There is no longer a need to defend JAWI’s unlawful actions. Let it end here.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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