Unprecedented proceeding in election case.
The Special Elections Court here today sentence the returning officer for the Rembau parliamentary constituency, Amino Agus Suyub, to three months’ jail after he was found guilty of disturbing the administration of justice.
Judge Datuk Azimah Omar handed down the decision after Amino and a witness, Daing Muhamad Rahimi, testified in court.
In the judgment, Azimah said Amino Agus’ action in sending a message through the WhatsApp application to Daing a day before Daing was supposed to appear in court to testify as a witness was a serious action and could be regarded as contempt of court.
Daing was the assistant returning officer for the Rembau parliamentary constituency during the April 28 nomination day for the last general election.
The message sent by Amino through his personal line reads: “As Salam… Lepas ni kau akan jadi saksi… hati-hati… teruk den (saya) kono (kena) soal dalam court… lebih baik cakap tak tau…” (Salam… After this you’ll be the witness… be careful… I was terribly questioned in court… it’s better to say (you) don’t know).
Amino, in his defence submission, said the WhatsApp was an expression of his feelings and not intended to teach Daing on how to testify in court.
“I cannot accept your explanation that you did not intend to coach your subordinate to give evidence in this petition,” she said.
Azimah said the petitioner, Dr Streram Sinnasamy, made a serious accusation that he was denied entry to the nomination centre as he did not have an entry pass.
She said it was clear that Amino was Daing’s superior on nomination day.
Amino also said he did not know that he could not communicate with other witnesses when proceeding of the case was still in progress.
Azimah said Amino knew and had knowledge that Daing was to appear in court as a witness on October 4, on the day after the WhatsApp was sent.
Azimah said, as district officer, Amino was also a second-class magistrate who could issue remand orders.
“You are no ordinary layman,” she said.
“In this matter, the court is of the opinion that the posting sent by Amino contained instruction on how to answer questions in court when testifying.
“The action in teaching a witness is a serious offence and can be taken lightly. Amino should know the consequence and effect of his action will affect the fair trial of this petition case,” she added.
Amino, who took the stand, profusely apologised to the court and said he had no intention of interfering in the proceedings.
However, the judge refused to accept his explanation.
Lawyer G Rajasingam, representing Amino, requested the court not to impose the prison sentence as his client, who is a civil servant, could face termination of service if sentenced to jail.
He also said Amino was the sole breadwinner of the family, comprising an elderly mother, a wife who is not working and seven children, with the youngest suffering from a hole in the heart.
“His action was impulsive but he has learnt his lesson,” the lawyer said, pleading that the court tamper justice with mercy.
Azimah said the act by Amino in teaching a witness was a serious offence.
“It is also not a normal civil case. As a returning officer. Amino should realise the seriousness of this petition case.
“On the seriousness of Amino’s action, the court hands down a three-month imprisonment to be served from today,” she added.
She also said the court must send a strong message that the general election or by-elections must be conducted in a free and fair manner.
“You lacked integrity and this court must impose a sentence to achieve justice,” she said.
The judge, however, allowed a stay of the sentence following Rajasingam’s request to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Streram had brought the action against Amino, the Election Commission (EC) and Mohamad Hasan, the incumbent assemblyman for Rantau.
He said Amino and the EC had denied him his right to contest the Rantau seat in the May 9 general election.
Streram told the court that he had paid RM8,000 in election deposit at the Seremban EC office.
He said he was never informed by the EC or its agents that name tags or entry passes were required to enter the Dewan Sri Rembau nomination centre.
The Rantau state assembly seat was won uncontested by Mohamad, the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar and assemblyman for the constituency since 2004.
Streram wants the election court to declare Mohamad’s victory illegal and that a by-election should be held.
He said the EC had breached provisions in the Election Offences Act 1954 and regulations when its officers did not order the police to allow him, his proposer and seconder into the nomination centre.
As a result, he said, although he was qualified, he was denied the constitutional right to contest in the election.
“The voters in Rantau were also not given the chance to cast their ballots,” he said.