Teoh El Sen
The government has withdrawn its legal action against lawyer Haris Fathillah Mohamed Ibrahim, who was initially named as a party in the government’s suit seeking damages for the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28.
Senior Federal Counsel Azizan Md Arshad told FMT that the government, through the Attorney-General’s Chambers, had filed a notice of discontinuance against his client via e-filing yesterday.
Both sides have agreed that there would be no order as to costs. The government also has no further liberty to file a similar claim against Haris, said Haris’s lawyer David Mathews.
Haris had previously filed to strike out his name as a party to the suit, as he was no longer a member of the Bersih steering committee when the civil action was filed.
Due to the AG’s withdrawal, the hearing of the application, which was fixed to be heard before High Court judge John Louis O’Hara, will also be withdrawn.
Haris, in his statement of defence filed previously, had denied that he was an organiser of the Bersih 3.0, saying that he had resigned and was no longer a member of the joint communique known as the Bersih steering committee with effect from Aug 9 last year.
Meanwhile, the government today also raised preliminary objections to the application by Bersih 2.0 co-chairperson A Samad Said and five other steering committee members to intervene in the government’s suit against nine of their colleagues.
The six – including Yeo Yang Poh, Hishamuddin Md Rais, Ahmad Syukri Che Razab, Subramaniam Pillay and Liau Kok Fah – are seeking to be parties to the suit as they claim to be current steering committee members of the coalition.
O’Hara fixed Aug 28 for the government and the six applicants to submit their written submissions and Sept 18 for the hearing of the application.
Azizan said that he was raising his objections as their application to intervene contravenes with oreder 15 (6) of the Rules of the High Court 1980.
“If you apply to intervene, you must show that you have legal interests. That whatever is decided by the court will affect you,” said Azizan.
He said that the court will need to settle with interlocutory matters before the hearing proper can begin.
A violent twist
Last month, the six steering committee members applied to intervene in the case on grounds that they too were involved in organising the mammoth April 28 rally for electoral reform.
Earlier this May, the government filed a civil case against Bersih co-chairperson S Ambiga and the electoral watchdog’s steering committee members over the damages suffered during the April rally, seeking general and special damages amounting to RM122,000.
It also sought declaration that Bersih violated the Peaceful Assembly Act.
The government’s writ of summons had said that the defendants were offered alternatives but refused. It claimed that the rally turned violent because the participants breached the barricades and caused damage to properties.
The plaintiff stated that according to Section 6 (2)(g) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, the defendants had the responsibility of, among others, ensuring that the rally did not result in the damage of properties.
Among the list of damaged property included police vehicles, including two water cannon trucks that were pelted with hard objects during the rally.
Other negligence on the part of the defendants included: bringing a huge number of participants but failing to provide adequate protection, failing to employ adequate steps to ensure that the rally proceeded peacefully, failing to appoint sufficient people to ensure that the rally took place in an orderly manner.
The Bersih 3.0 rally was held to call for free and fair elections. However, it took a violent twist when the barricades at Dataran Merdeka were breached, resulting in the police firing tear gas and water cannons.
For several hours, the city centre was enveloped in chaos as protesters clashed with the police, resulting in many, including policemen and media representatives, being injured.