By Hafiz Yatim | Malaysiakini
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur today allowed the government’s application to adjourn hearing the habeas corpus applications of six Parti Sosialis Malaysia leaders who have been held under the Emergency Ordinance since July 2.
The six detained include Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar.
Before the start of proceedings PSM members, supporters and family members of the six staged a protest outside the Jalan Duta court complex, calling for the release of the detainees.
About 70 supporters later camped at the already full courtroom, with the public seating originally designed for only 50. Others waited patiently outside.
Justice Su Geok Yiam fixed Aug 5 to hear the applications.
In allowing time for the prosecution to file its affidavit, Justice Su said she was bound by a Federal Court ruling to give parties time to reply to the affidavits.
She noted a novel point raised by lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah that the authorities’ affidavit stated the six were detained as they seemed to be the movers of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally for electoral reform.
That period (July 9), Sulaiman said, had already elapsed.
Sulaiman also pointed out that the Bersih was the only point raised by the government in detaining the six, and that all the points or reasons for holding them under EO should be stated conclusively in the first instance.
He feared that the additional period to reply would result in them hunting for more reasons.
The other detainees are M. Sukumaran, A. Letchumanan, Choo Chon Kai, M. Sarasvathy, and R. Saras Babu.
The government, along with the inspector-general of police and home minister, who were named as respondents, applied for a postponement after 15 additional affidavits were filed in support of the habeas corpus applications three days ago, as well as yesterday.
The 15 additional affidavits included the six applicants who were finally allowed to see their counsel, but only for a brief 15 minutes, and the other eight were from those initially arrested with the six on June 24.
The final affidavit was from Bersih 2.0 steering committee member Subramaniam Pillay, denying that the six were members of the coalition.
When first arrested on June 24, the police said that they were being held on the grounds of waging war on against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and reviving communism.
Time is of the essence in EO applications as after 60 days, the minister can order a two-year-long detention.
Judge asked about withdrawing affidavit
Earlier, during the proceedings, Justice Su asked Sulaiman, heading a team of almost 20 lawyers, whether they intended to withdraw the 15 affidavits before the hearing began.
However, Sulaiman insisted on the affidavits being admitted as there was no need for the respondents (government, IGP, and minister) to reply for the only reason cited to detain them, the Bersih 2.0 rally, had elapsed.
Besides Sulaiman, others in the team include Edmund Bon (left), Baljit Singh Sidhu, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Maha Balakrishnan, K Arumugam, and Andy Yong.
Senior federal counsel Othman Yusof told the court that they had to submit an affidavit in reply in response to the claims made.
“We have submitted 37 affidavits and they had filed in another 15 affidavits. Surely we must be given an opportunity to reply. I apply that a period of three weeks be given,” he said.
Sulaiman insisted before the packed courtroom that the court should not allow postponement as the liberty of the six people was at stake.
Following this, Justice Su fixed two weeks from today to hear the habeas corpus application.
Sulaiman then stood up again and said if this was the case, the lawyers were now offering to withdraw the 15 affidavits filed.
However, Othman objected, saying the ruling had already been made.
Sulaiman reiterated the court should allow this as his colleagues were not sure what the court’s stand would be as the applicants had strongly objected to the postponement.
“Hence, we move that the hearing be held straightaway,” he said.
Lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, who was present as observer on behalf of the Bar Council, supported Sulaiman in saying that justice delayed is justice denied.
However, Justice Su fixed Aug 5 for hearing the application and ordered the respondents to file their reply by Aug 1.