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Wednesday, August 15, 2012
BN must take full responsibility for Evidence Act amendment
By Gobind Singh Deo
August 15, 2012
AUG 15 ― Barisan Nasional must accept and acknowledge that the amendments to Section 114A of the Evidence Act were a mistake.
The prime minister has in a tweet said he has asked the Cabinet to discuss Section 114A. He said, “whatever we do, the people must come first”.
With respect to the prime minister, whilst the voice of the people plays a significant role in the matter and must be given due regard and respect, he should also reflect upon why and how it is, if the people came first, his government allowed this law to be passed in the first place.
The Bill was debated in Parliament and it was none other than Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who responded to concerns raised by members of parliament.
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz is himself a lawyer. He is said to be the de facto law minister.
The concerns over reversal of burden were put by me and other MP’s squarely to him during the debate. He was made well aware of the problem but chose to do nothing about it.
As BN parliamentary whip, he could have stopped it, but as in the case of all other Bills, it was pushed through.
And now when there is public outrage, we see BN MP’s, including the PM, joining in the call for reviews. This is good but, really, and with the greatest of respect to them, it makes a complete mockery of Parliament.
What we see is a failure on part of BN to understand and properly acknowledge issues when debating bills in Parliament, a failure on part of BN to respect and take seriously the views and concerns of members of parliament.
Perhaps we ought to reconsider pushing through Bills in the middle of the night, stopping the clock, and relying on the might of Parliamentary majority to pass anything tabled, whatsoever it is.
The Attorney-General should advise the Cabinet properly this time.
The rationale behind presumptions ought to be re-evaluated.
It is where the facts that need proof are within the knowledge of the accused and beyond that of the state that presumptions are applied.
So where the information is within the personal knowledge of the accused, the presumption will be invoked and it would be upon the accused to provide proof of facts showing he is not guilty of the offence.
This is what we call the reversal of burden as the burden of proof is ordinarily on the part of the prosecution in criminal prosecutions.
The state has all the resources and information required to prove those matters sought to be presumed under Section 114A. As such, Section 114A loses its purpose. There is really, therefore, no need to depart from the norm here. There is no need for a reversal of burden.
Its existence, on the other hand, opens very many innocent persons to prosecution.
It is, to my mind, unfair and unnecessary and must therefore be repealed as soon as possible.
* Gobind Singh Deo is the member of parliament for Puchong