An Augustine Event
By Dream Weaver
It was to be a gala occasion, a grand event attended by dignitaries and luminaries of the legal fraternity. Federal Court judge Augustine Paul was to be feted and awarded the prestigious "Mahathir Award for Judicial Excellence". In addition to this distinction, he will be the first recipient of the newly created "Most Obedient Performing Judge" award for outstanding service to the government. And as if this is not enough, the Royal Malaysian Police will be presenting him with an impressive sounding "Medal Gullibo et Stupido" for the unusual tolerance he has shown towards the police force. Not to be outdone, the Attorney-General Office hastily cobbled together an award it called "Justice Prejudis La Extraordinaire" in recognition of Paul's unwavering loyalty to the cause of the prosecution.
The guest of honour was none other than Dr. Mahathir himself who will be giving away the distinguished awards. Expecting a huge crowd, the largest hall in the famous Putra World Trade Centre with a seating capacity of four thousand was pressed into service. Practically everybody of any note in the judiciary and law enforcement fraternity including lawyers, prosecutors, judges, lawmakers and police officers were invited as were the entire Cabinet. Balloons and tinsel decked the hall giving it a festive atmosphere. Television crew and journalists stood by to record this august event.
As the time drew closer to the official opening, something was not quite right. The huge hall was not filling up as expected. In the seats reserved for the A-G and distinguished judges, there was the Attorney-General Gani Patail looking regal in the front row but disappointingly only the judges from the Perak power grab cases such as judge Ahmad Maarop, Md. Raus Sharif, Zainun Ali, James Foong, Nik Hashim and the one-man appeal panel judge Ramly Ali had shown up. Retired Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin was among them, but where was the new Chief Justice Zaki Azmi? He could be so disrespectful to stay away could he? Ariffin Jaka who presided over Anwar’s sodomy trial was sitting by himself, his eyes downcast and sullen looking as if the honour should have been his. He had only shown up because he was promised a consolation prize.
The police force was represented by IGP Musa Hassan and famous black eye ex-IGP Rahim Noor and they seem lonely sitting among the empty seats. As for government ministers, only Law Minister Nazri Aziz, the ever-obedient Koh Tsu Koon, the yes-man Ong Tee Keat and the rabidly loyal Rais Yatim were holding the fort. The space reserved for lawyers had one lone attendant, a bewildered looking Muhammad Shafie who had gained famed by his lawsuits against the Raja Petra sitting uncomfortably by himself. A few wives were with their husbands but on the whole the VIP gallery looked sparse and forlorn.
The public seats were looking better. A team of students from the Augustine Paul School of Puppet Judges filled a sizeable pocket. The Samy Vellu School of Ball Carriers sent a delegation of ten students but their headmaster was away on a foreign trip. Special guest Shaiful Bukhari whose lavish clothes and heavy gold jewellery could not hide his new wealth was spotted listening intently to his effeminate looking Uncle Pet. Among them a few unidentified people sat impassively.
Mahathir was due anytime soon and the organisers were getting frantic. They picked up the phone and screamed at whoever was unfortunate enough to be at the other end of the line. "Where's Umno Youth? Where's MCA Youth? Where's Wanita Umno? What about Puteri Umno? Get Zaki Azmi here pronto! Didn't you pay for college students and factory workers to come? Get ANYBODY here, please! Even Lim Kit Siang!!…aaiiyohhh…" And the torrent of frenzied yelling and pleading rose audibly above the muted whispers in the carnivorous hall.
But it was too late. The great doors opened and in swept the Mahathir’s entourage, bringing with it the din and commotion of noisy crowd outside. Was this the crowd which would fill up the hall and save the day? But they were yelling "Reformasi!" and "Ketuanan Rakyat!" The doors were hastily closed and bolted.
When the dignitaries were seated the master of ceremony welcomed all those present and apologized for the poor turnout. He postulated that many guests were afraid to attend this event due to fear of the opposition demonstrators who may be armed with mortars, molokov cocktails and rocket launchers. At this a titter went through the audience who no doubt found this amusing. However the speaker put on a brave face and began to recite the accomplishments of Augustine Paul. They were long and numerous from Anwar’s corruption trial to ISA detainees to the Perak lawsuits and the latest Kg. Buah Pala case which he had ruled for the government. Then he called for the guest of honour to give his speech.
Dr. Mahathir looking grim faced and tired stared down the vast hall past the sparse pockets of people to the endless tiers of empty seats beyond. He began his speech by blaming the opposition parties for the poor turnout. "The opposition must be threatening and bribing people not to attend this event", he thundered. Then he went on to praise Augustine Paul for being a good judge with who should be emulated. "Here is an exemplary judge…he dispenses justice with the interests of the government in mind…if at all he has any fault, it is that sometimes his judgements are not too logical…but this is due to his extraordinary desire to please…someday all judges will be made this way". As he droned on, the audience clapped politely at key points with Koh Tsu Koon standing at times to show his enthusiasm.
Then it was time for Augustine Paul to give his speech. The loudspeakers blared the tune from Waltzing Mathilda as he made his way to the rostrum. When the music faded he thanked Mahathir profusely for his high praise for "this unworthy pimp". He said, "The judiciary must have complete and total trust in the wisdom of the Executive. Anybody charged with anti-government activities MUST be convicted. The Executive has the unquestionable right to detain people without trial. It is sacrilegious to question this right…Suhakam should shut-up…Tun Mahathir is God's gift to the nation" On and on he his fawning speech went as an embarrassed silence filled the hall. He concluded by declaring emphatically, "Ask not what you can do for the public, ask what you can do for the government!" As he made his way back to his seat strains of Waltzing Mathilda floated through the hall again.
The monotony of speeches was broken by some light entertainment in the form of a puppet show. This featured a puppet wearing a judicial wig and judicial robes dancing and jerking to his master's tune. Then students from the Augustine Paul School of Puppet Judges presented a skit depicting highlights from the Anwar corruption trial to show the finer points of Judge Paul's handling of this troublesome case. Cries of "Irrelevant! Irelevant! Irrelevant! " punctuated the air. The point was driven home again and again of how judge Paul bravely and single-handedly fought tooth and nail against the avalanche of truth and facts to bring the trial to the desired conclusion. The entertainment ended with a solo recital in which part of the judgment of Paul during the Anwar trial was recited like a Shakespearean play.
Then it was time to present the awards. Amid polite clapping and light cheering, each award was unveiled and presented to a beaming Paul. The PM's Award for Judicial Excellence featured two bronze kangaroos supporting a gold painted crown on which the words MAHATHIR were boldly emblazoned. The award for ‘Most Obedient Performing Judge’ came with a bronze figure in judicial robes holding a gavel which could cleverly bow its head and bend its knees controlled by silver strings. When a hidden button was pressed, it could even intone the words "Irrelevant" sternly and the gavel would pound on a head which popped up. The police's ‘Medal Gullibo et Stupido’ was a large silver medal on which was inscribed the head of Goofy, the Disney stupid dog with tongue hanging out. On its reverse side the words "In Police We Trust, No Questions Asked" were engraved. The Justice Prejudis La Extraordinaire was an object of clever symbolism with Lady Justice holding a unbalanced scale in her left hand and the forefinger of her right hand held to her lips in a ssshhhh gesture. Instead of a blindfold, she wears an eyepatch over one eye to denote how justice can be selectively blind or seeing. A sash with the words "IRRELEVANT" completed her attire.
So Augustine Paul was the picture of rapture as he came up to receive award after award from Mahathir with the flash of photographers and television cameras recording his most dazzling moment. So overcome was he with emotion that he did an impromptu jig with lots of bowing, scraping, groveling and knee-bending as Mahathir watched in amusement and television cameras recorded his ridiculous gyrations for posterity. People were to comment later that it was a fair representation of how the Judiciary has become a servile clown of the Executive.
Then it was time for Ariffin Jaka to receive his consolation prize. Mahathir had a few choice words for him, calling him "a twit who should have protected the Executive from embarrassment and exposure even though he gave the right judgement in the end". His award was a sculpture of three monkeys, one with its hands covering its eyes, another with its hands over its mouth and the third with its hands pressed against its ears. Made of cheap plastic and painted silver, it was a fitting reminder to the judge on the relationship between the judiciary and the Executive.
There was also a surprise award for judge Ramly Ali who had bravely and single-handedly stayed the High Court’s decision to reinstate Datuk Nizar as MB of Perak at lightning speed. His award was a Certificate of Gratitude from the office of the Attorney-General hastily designed and printed from an inkjet printer with a RM100 bill stapled to a corner. Some remarked that the haste which his award was cobbled together mirrored the haste which he disposed of the Perak case.
When the event ended journalist crowed around Augustine Paul to interview him. Among the exchange were:
"Sir, do you believe in the justice you dispense?"
"Look at me mister, do I believe in breathing air?"
"Judge, how do your peers and your friends view you now?"
"They can go to hell. I now have many new and powerful friends in high places".
"As a Catholic, what about your relationship with God and your position in the afterlife?"
"Ha! I will cheat the Devil. I will convert to Islam and repent just before I die".
"Judge, how can you sleep at night?"
"People count sheep, I count money"
Then the doors were opened and Augustine Paul was escorted out into the bright sunshine. As he appeared into public view, the cries of “Reformasi” turned to shouts of "Pariah judge! Pariah judge!" A variety of impromptu missiles were thrown his way including shoes, slippers, drink cans and even rotten eggs. He was hastily bundled into his car and driven away before things got uglier.
You may also be interested to read:
“I Watch the Sparrows Fly” in which judge Paul regrets in old age.
“The Hell of Augustine Paul” in which judge Paul receives his just punishment in hell.