PETALING JAYA: The public must place faith in the courts as judges are sensitive to public grievances against the state, said lawyers involved in public interest cases.
They say at times litigants lose their suits only because they cannot furnish sufficient evidence which may be in the possession of the government.
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said the aggrieved parties must turn to the judiciary as judges were more aware of the principles of judicial review against public authorities.
“Moreover, they are many lawyers who are prepared to take up cases pro bono or at reduced legal fees as the cases touch on public interest,” he said.
Syahredzan said this in response to a call by senior lawyer Ambiga Sreenivasan to the opposition and civil society to continue filing suits to reveal the shortcomings of the government.
The former Malaysian Bar president said this was also to create awareness among the people about the issues at hand.
Speaking at the “Save Malaysia” roundtable conference, initiated by the DAP, held at a private club here on Tuesday, she said the evidence would be out in the open even if the decision was not in their favour.
She said there were also times litigants won their cases against the government.
In support of Ambiga, Syahredzan cited the case of voters in the Setiawangsa and Segambut parliamentary constituencies who brought court action against the Election Commission(EC) for not following the law in redrawing boundaries.
He said the EC refused to hold local inquiries as the minimum 100-voters requirement to lodge a complaint was not complied with.
“They went to court and the suit was withdrawn as the EC agreed to hear their complaints,” he said.
Lawyer Mohamed Hanif Khatri Abdulla said the aggrieved parties were prepared to fight it out in court as judges were willing and well-equipped to hear public complaints.
“The authorities sometimes do not want to hear or address genuine complaints. So the affected parties turn to the courts to arbitrate the dispute.”
He said the courts sometimes dismissed suits against the government and ministers basically because the litigants could not furnish sufficient or admissible evidence, which was usually with the authorities.
Hanif said, whatever the outcome, every public interest case, given extensive coverage by the media, had the effect of educating the public.
He said litigants may lose their cause in the court of law but would have won in the court of public opinion.
“It is also a message to those in power that members of the public are becoming more aware of their rights and all actions of public authorities must be in accordance with the law,” he said. -FMT