The Trial of Lim Guan Eng

Even if I fail and have to go to jail, I have no regrets. I have no regrets of going down fighting for the principles of truth and justice. And pursuit of human rights, especially women's rights. There can be no women's rights if women rape victims are considered equally responsible, and even detained, whilst the accused remain free. -- Lim Guan Eng

There are injustices in the law which are mind-boggling ... The lesson is clear - choose your rapist carefully ... As a woman, especially a Muslim woman, I am angry, disgusted and ashamed ... As a mother, I now have real fears for my daughter. What protection can we hope for our daughters if, in the interests of politics, a minor can so easily be sacrificed? -- Marina Mahathir, daughter of the Malaysian Prime Minister

Lim Guan Eng is a Malaysian opposition politician who spoke out against the rape of a schoolgirl by a government minister. For speaking out Lim Guan Eng was sentenced to three years imprisonment, the schoolgirl to three years 'protective custody', the minister has so far not been charged. [The Choice, Radio 4, BBC, May 1998]

No one familiar with the authoritarian regime that rules Malaysia with an iron rod will be surprised, though they may be shocked by the severity of the sentences.

Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik was Chief Minister of the State of Malacca. He raped a 15-year old schoolgirl. Because of the rape accusation and pending corruption charges he was forced to resign. To date, no charges have been brought against him for the rape, the corruption charges have been dropped.

The 15-year old schoolgirl was initially detained for 10 days without parental consent. She has subsequently been sentenced to 3 years 'protective custody' in a house for 'wayward girls'. At the subsequent trial of Lim Guan Eng the girl gave evidence that she had a sexual relationship with the minister (under Malaysian Law, under age sex constitutes Statutory Rape).

Lim Guan Eng raised the anomalies of the case, after the girl's grandmother (the girl's guardian), one of his constituents, brought the case to him and sought his help. On 28 February 1995, Lim Guan Eng was charged under the Sedition Act for prompting 'disaffection with the administration of justice in Malaysia'. On 17 March 1995, an additional charge was brought under the Printing Presses and Publications Act for 'maliciously printing' a pamphlet containing 'false information', specifically that he had used the term 'imprisoned victim' to describe the rape victim.

At his first trial in 1997, Lim Guan Eng was convicted on both counts and fined RM 15,000 (US $6,000). The State appealed to the Court of Appeal against the 'leniency' of the sentence. At a subsequent hearing before the Court of Appeal (1 April 1998), the sentence was increased to 3 years imprisonment. A consequence of the sentence is that Lim Guan Eng will be automatically barred as a member of parliament and is likely to be declared bankrupt.

The sentence is currently pending an appeal. Should the sentence on Lim Guan Eng be upheld and enforced by a higher court, Amnesty International will list him as a 'prisoner of conscience', for expressing his political views. If enforced, this will be the second time Lim Guan Eng has been imprisoned for expressing his political beliefs. In 1987, in a crackdown on government opponents and activists, he was imprisoned for 18 months without charge or trial.

The persecution of Lim Guan Eng is seen as not just an attempt by the government to silence a prominent critic, but also to serve as a warning to others. His constituents have been denied representation in parliament.

Freedom of expression and respect for democratic institutions and human rights does not exist in Malaysia. The Prime Minister justifies his iron rule as necessary to keep Malaysia on the path of economic success. The so called Malaysian economic miracle now lies in ruins. In a histrionic outburst, Mahathir bin Mohamad, desperate to blame others for his own shortcomings and failings, blamed foreign speculators and agents of foreign powers. In addition to the Draconian and repressive Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act, Malaysia also uses the Internal Security Act (which grants the power for indefinite detention without charge or trial) to silence critics.

December 1996, non-government organisations attempted to hold a forum to discuss abuses of police powers. The organisers of the forum were threatened with detention under the Internal Security Act, the forum has been suspended indefinitely.

Those concerned with the treatment of Lim Guan Eng and the lack of fundamental human rights within Malaysia should raise their concern with Malaysian diplomats in their own country, and also raise the matter with

	Mahathir bin Mohamad		Datuk Mohtar Abdullah
	Prime Minister			Attorney General
	Jalan Dato'Onn			Jabatan Peguam Negara Malaysia
	50502  Kuala Lumpur		Tingkat 20, Bangunan Bank Rakyat
	Malaysia			Jalan Tangsi
					50512  Kuala Lumpur
	fax	+603 298 4172		Malaysia

					fax	+603 293 2021
					fax	+603 298 4989

Boycott of Malaysian goods should be considered. Governments should impose sanctions.

Malaysia is currently seeking funds from the West to bail out its failed economy. In addition to the usual economic strings, conditions on the reform of the democratic and judicial systems should be attached.

Amnesty International has adopted Lim Guan Eng as a Prisoner of Conscience.

Sources of information

The Choice, Radio 4, BBC, May 1998

Malaysia: The trial of opposition parliamentarian Lim Guan Eng, Amnesty International

Malaysia: Opposition parliamentarian faces three-year prison sentence for speaking out for women's rights, Amnesty International

Malaysia is to introduce passports that will contain an embedded electronic ID chip and an antenna. This will enable tracking and identification of the passport holder.

In the closing stages of one of the most disastrous ever Commonwealth Games, the recently fired deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was arrested (20 September 1998). The deputy prime minister had been fired a few weeks earlier (2 September 1998) after charges of corruption had been levelled at the Prime Minister. The PM retaliated by running a vicious smear campaign against the fired deputy alleging perverse homosexual practices. Following the arrest, thugs loyal to the PM brutally cleared protesters off the streets. Several days later (29 September 1998), the ex-deputy PM appeared in court badly beaten, according to his lawyer he had been beaten into unconsciousness, then left for five days without any medical attention. Amnesty International has adopted Anwar Ibrihim as a Prisoner of Conscience.

Women's rights activist Irene Fernandez has been charged with publishing 'false news' about the ill-treatment of detainees in camps for migrant workers.

Opponents of the corrupt Prime Minister are making full use of the Internet to co-ordinate their opposition and to inform the world of the brutal regime. Malaysia is following the path of Indonesia, institutionalised brutality, lack of democracy, with the majority of the population wishing to see the downfall of a corrupt leader. The people are expected to take to the streets until the corrupt Prime Minister is removed from office.

More information on Lim Guan Eng may be obtained from:
Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, LONDON WC1X 8DJ, England
tel +44-171-413-5500 / fax +44-171-956-1157

Alternatives ~ Anwar Ibrahim ~ Irene Fernandez
(c) Keith Parkins 1998-1999 -- January 1999 rev 7
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