Friday, January 1, 2010

Hallelujah – But Behold!

We all know that our judicial system has a peculiar tendency. By this I mean that decisions that tend to go against the regime’s position often, on appeal, tend to turn out to be in its favour. One most recent high profile example of this was of course the battle of the mentri besars of Perak. If you’ve followed that saga, you know how we went from one High Court judgment that was a victory for Mohammad Nizar only to find a stay on the judgment and a subsequent reversal of the initial ruling upon appeal by the government.

The recent case of the High Court’s ruling on the government’s ban on use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims and especially The Herald, while clearly a sensible decision will only be, I’m afraid, a temporary victory for The Herald. Given the sentiment being reported that the government is likely to appeal the decision, I’m afraid this saga is also going to play out in the all too familiar verdict.

So while I can understand the elation in some quarters – especially among those of us who do care about preserving the constitutional protections on religious freedoms, I wouldn’t go so far as Lawrence Andrew of The Herald to claim that this High Court ruling “shows that we are truly living in a '1Malaysia', not two Malaysias."

Don’t you think that’s going just a bit too far all too prematurely? Surely, Lawrence and his lawyers know all too well that this process has a long way yet to go. And before we jump to such grandiose conclusions based on one specific partial episode, we should perhaps sit back contemplate about the judicial road travelled by Anwar or Mohammad Nizar in their respective court battles with the regime.

Indeed, I have a creepy feeling that this decision also will find the same eventual fate as the High Court’s favourable ruling last May for Mohd. Nizar in his battle as MB of Perak. I recall the jubilation in his face at that time – not unlike what we see now with Lawrence Andrew.

So while this sounds like I’m raining on The Herald’s moment in the sun, I’m only just actually blowing some rain clouds to produce some overcast.

The rain will be self-evident when the regime appeals this ruling all the way up the judiciary system. That’s when the cards will be really stacked, as in the Nizar and Anwar cases, againstThe Herald, against religious freedom, and against the Constitution.

And by the way, it’s self-evident too, is it not, that the government’s zealous pursuit of this case just goes to show how much it is determined to play the religious card.

G. Krishnan