Malaysia: RPK in hiding

Popular Malaysian blogger and editor of the Malaysia Today website, Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK), failed to attend his sedition trial on April 23, 2009. As a result, the Sessions Court in Petaling Jaya issued a warrant of arrest against RPK. News reports state that Sessions Judge, Rozina Ayob, issued the order after prosecutor, DPP Shahidani Abd Aziz, applied for the warrant due to his absence. DPP Shahidani was reported to have said that the prosecution had no choice but to get the order to proceed with the trial.

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Counsel for RPK, J Chandra, was reported to have told the court that he could not contact his client, and had not been informed as to why the blogger was absent from court. However, he noted that RPK had posted his reason on Malaysia Today on the same morning. According to RPK's post:

I wish to explain why I am not going to be present in court today, 23rd April 2009. Firstly, it involves my recent dispute with the Selangor Palace. This dispute was due to my open letter to the Perak Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, which I wrote on 2nd March 2009 in response to the ongoing Perak Constitutional Crisis. My family said I had acted in a treasonous manner and they wanted me to issue a public apology to the Sultan of Perak.

I refused to comply with my family’s demand and instead wrote two articles condemning the Perak Palace for violating the Federal Constitution of Malaysia and for ignoring the wishes of the rakyat. My opinion is no different from that of NH Chan, the former Court of Appeal judge, which you can read in the addendum below.

The Sultan of Selangor was very angry and that triggered a conflict between our two families. My family told me I had brought shame to the family name and they demanded that I attend a family meeting to discuss the matter. However, I did not attend that family meeting and this aggravated the situation. 

My family then gave me an ultimatum. I was to either make that public apology or else my family would insert an advertisement in the mainstream newspapers practically distancing itself from me, which could be interpreted as disowning me. My response to that was, and in accordance with the normal action to be taken against a member of the kerabat who durhaka, I went into exile outside Selangor.

 

RPK's lawyer Chandra was reported to have told the judge, “You have to bear in mind that he is a member of royalty and this self-imposed exile is a punishment he has handed out to himself.” Judge Rozina's response was that RPK had not produced a written order over the matter.

RPK, is charged with publishing a seditious article entitled “Let's Send Altantuya Murderers To Hell” on the Malaysia Today website in April 2008. In the same year, he was detained without trial for the same reason. The charge, under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948, carries a maximum fine of RM5,000 (USD1,390) or three years’ jail, or both, upon conviction.

Judge Rozina also issued a show cause notice for RPK's wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, as his bailor, for failing to inform the court about the non-attendance.

Earlier in April, RPK was ordered by Kuala Lumpur High Court Senior Assistant Registrar to pay the treasurer of Malay political party, UMNO, RM1 million, for publishing libellous articles on Malaysia Today. The judgment was brought about because of RPK's non-attendance at court.

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