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Lim Guan Eng's acquittal

  • The AG's Chambers must come out with a statement explaining their decision as soon as possible.

By Azmi Sharom

I am pleased to see that Lim Guan Eng has had the corruption charges against him dropped because my feeling is that the charges were politically motivated. He obtained a full acquittal from the High Court.

Before we go on, allow me to quickly explain what this means.

When you are acquitted this means that you have been released unconditionally. There is another possibility where you can be discharged not amounting to an acquittal. This means that you are free to go but there is a possibility that the case will be reopened in the future.

This normally happens in cases where the prosecution faces some problems, for example witnesses have gone missing. But in Lim's case, he is now a free man totally.

Obtaining an acquittal is not uncommon. Normally a defendant's lawyer will write to the prosecutor (in this case the Attorney General), with a request that their client be acquitted. This letter will have a list of reasons why this is so. Normally it is because the prosecution's case is weak.

This is what happened to me when I was charged with sedition. At the end of the day the prosecutor agreed to drop the case after a request from my lawyers. This act is totally within the discretion of the AG's Chambers.

Until today I do not know why the AG's Chambers agreed to do so. I am not complaining mind you. I am very happy that I did not have to go to jail.

I do not think there is any obligation on the AG to give his reason as to why a defendant was acquitted which is why I am still in the dark. However, in the case of Lim, I think the AG's Chambers should come out with an explanation why this has happened.

This is because this is a very high profile case and it is a case with high public interest. The new AG and the new government have said time and again that they believe in the rule of law. One of the important elements of the rule of law is that all are equal before the law. This includes the powerful.

This being the case, when a minister is freed without any trial, it is vital that it is all above board and the people are confident that there has been no abuse of power.

For this reason, I sincerely hope that the AG's Chambers will come out with a statement explaining their decision, in sufficient detail as soon as possible. This is a new government; it should not be tainted with the same kind of doubt that surrounded the last government. They must be clean and honest and they must be seen to be clean and honest.

(Azmi Sharom is a law lecturer at Universiti Malaya.)


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