Malaysia

Sarawak Christian woman’s appeal pushed to May 9

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — A Sarawak Christian woman’s appeal against the High Court decision to disallow cross-examination of former Home Minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar has been postponed to next month.

The Court of Appeal, sitting at the Kuala Lumpur court complex here, set the next hearing for May 9 to allow government lawyers time to respond to the request for discovery of documents by Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s lawyers.

Jill, an ethnic Melanau, is challenging the Home Ministry’s decision to confiscate eight of her CDs which contain the word “Allah”.

Deputy public prosecutor Arik Sanusi Yeop Johari said the arguments of Jill’s written submission had been confined to the issue of cross-examination, and “did not particularise issues of discovery”.

Annou Xavier (picture), acting for Jill, pointed out that the appeal was against High Court’s judge Rohana Yusof’s “entire... decision”, including her alleged failure to consider Order 53 Rule 6 of the Rules of the High Court 1980, which dealt specifically with document discovery.

Jill’s lawyers had requested documents the government relied on in concluding that use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims could cause confusion and was a threat to national security.

The three-man panel of judges also said the postponement today would allow Jill’s lawyers to clarify who had the discretion to disclose the documents in question as their submission had been made against a former minister.

“The suit is against the... then-minister. Today, we have a different minister the then-minister will not have access to documents of the current minister,” Justice Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail said.

The other two judges on the panel were Datuk Ramly Ali and Datuk Clement Allan Skinner.

Annou told reporters later that he would submit to the Court of Appeal that all the documents pertaining to this case could be obtained through the Chief Secretary to the Government.

“All documents can be accessed through one person... and that would be the Chief Secretary, whether it’s a former minister, current minister or ministers that held office many years ago,” he said.

The High Court dismissed on July 12 last year Jill’s application to cross-examine Syed Hamid Albar for issuing orders to confiscate her religious CDs three years ago.

Rohana ruled that opportunities to cross-examine witnesses were only granted in “rare cases” and that this case did not fall into that category.

She said that Syed Hamid’s affidavit was sufficient for use in the trial as the CDs were confiscated in order to safeguard national security.

Jill filed her application for judicial review on August 20, 2008 and was given leave to challenge the Home Ministry’s seizure of her religious CDs on May 4, 2009.

She is seeking a certiorari order to quash the ministry’s decision and a mandamus order directing the minister to return the CDs.

She is also seeking a declaration that she has legitimate expectation to exercise her right to use the word “Allah” and to continue to own as well as import such materials.

The disputed materials were confiscated from Jill’s possession after disembarking at the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in Sepang on May 11, 2008 upon returning from a trip to Indonesia.

The CD titles include “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Cara Menggunakan Kunci Kerajaan Allah”, “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

Jill, a Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) member, contends that she uses the word “Allah” in all her prayers, worship and religious education, and that the CDs were for personal consumption.

Besides Annou, Lim Heng Seng is also acting for Jill, while the government was also represented by Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud.

 

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