May Day For Justice

by Tun Mohamed Salleh Abas, Former Lord President, Supreme Court of Malaysia, with K Das


We do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws. -- G. K. Chesterton. All Things Considered, 1908.

The general public's temporary loss of interest in the attack on the Judiciary was understandable because the newspapers had obviously more harsh news to report. The Judiciary's plight was completely lost in the political uproar in which it seemed the racial fires were being deliberately stoked to create the impression of an impending cataclysm.

But as we all know, the "disaster" was prevented by the simple expedient of cancelling the half-million man rally.

Whoever switched on the panic, now switched it off.

The public's serious concern about the Judiciary became clear only very much later when it was known that I was actually to be removed from office. Until then there was more a sense of incredulity than fear that something untoward might happen to the judges in this country.

When the public peace appears to be in jeopardy because of reckless politics, people do not need any uncertainty about the integrity of the legal system as well. It seemed that ordinary people would rather not think about it. The thought was simply too terrifying. But the voices of the more intelligent, the more courageous and the more articulate were loud and clear.

One of the earliest to express his alarm was the Leader of the Opposition, Encik Lim Kit Siang, even if he was himself overwhelmed by his own political problems connected with Chinese education. The Star of 8 October, 1987, reported him as follows:

    "The DAP calls on Dr. Mahathir to give Malaysians an assurance that the Government’s commitment to the Independence of the Judiciary has not changed.

    "Dr. Mahathir should do this as he seemed to be more critical of the Judiciary that he had been in the past during his recent tour of the various states."

There was no official response to this call.

Meanwhile, to add further to the tensions, there were strong rumours that the Constitution was about to be amended, specifically to circumscribe the independence of the Judiciary.

In the middle of October another urgent call was made, this time by the President of the reform movement, Aliran, and a well known scholar of politics and the social sciences, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. He addressed his appeal to the Acting Prime Minister, Encik Abdul Ghafar Baba, the Prime Minister being away in Canada attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar was obviously concerned with the political tensions that were building, but he was clearly also aware that judicial independence was more vital than ever in those tense and uncertain days. He appealed for political sobriety on the one hand, but addressed himself thoughtfully on the Judiciary as well:

    "The public is concerned about the persistent rumours that the Government is planning to amend the Constitution to curb the Independence of the Judiciary and that Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament will be tabling a substantive motion to censure one of our most respected judges, Datuk Harun Hashim.

    "These rumours have been circulating for at least three weeks now. Aliran hopes that the Acting Prime Minister, Encik Abdul Ghafar Baba will either deny or confirm whether these moves are being contemplated or not.

    "If there are such moves to curb the Independence of the Judiciary, or to table a censure motion against Datuk Harun or any other judge the Government should give Parliament and the people ample time to discuss the issue thoroughly.

    "It would be morally wrong to whisk through Parliament amendments affecting the integrity of the Judiciary. It would be ethically reprehensible to surprise the Dewan Rakyat with a censure motion against a judge."

This appeal was made on 16 October, 1987. As with Encik Lim's call, there was no response to Dr. Chandra's either.

On 17 October - the day of the washed out UMNO Youth rally - Dr. Chandra made another statement on the Independence of the Judiciary.

With the knowledge of what happened soon afterwards, his comments might be usefully recalled here. It was a very long and erudite statement and I reproduce only a small part of it.

    "There is a widespread misconception among a lot of educated people that the concept of an Independent Judiciary is a Western import, that it is alien to our cultures and traditions. Some influential individuals have been trying to exploit this misconception to delegitimise any defence of the principle of an Independent Judiciary. They allege that those who uphold this and other such principles are 'slavish worshippers of the West.'

    'Though some of the institutional characteristics of the concept of an Independent Judiciary developed in the West in the last two centuries, the idea itself can be found in other civilisations. Using Islamic civilisation as an example, one discovers that the Quran itself contains a number of references to judges, the importance of equity and the danger of attempting to influence judgements. Sura AI-Nissa, line 58, emphasises why one should judge equitably while Sura AI-Maa'idah, line 8, stresses that judges should not be influenced by enmity or other subjective feelings in making their judgements. Most of all Sura AI-Baqarah, line 188 warns it is wrong to tempt judges with bribes which may affect their independent judgement.

    "Out of this Quranic background emerged one of the clearest expositions of the position of the Judiciary and its relationship to the Executive. It came from the pen of one of Islam's most illustrious sons, the righteous fourth Caliph, Ali Abu Talib (the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law). In a famous letter to Malik-eAshter, the Governor of Egypt, one of the provinces of the Islamic Empire at that time, he noted, "Let the Judiciary be, above every kind of Executive pressure of influence, fear or favour, intrigue or corruption." Judges will also be happy to learn that he advised his Governor, to "pay them handsomely so that their needs are fully satisfied and they are not required to beg, borrow or resort to corruption."

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar went on to give examples of upright judges who feared no dangers to themselves or flinched from punishment by the powers of their time, and he also cited examples of great rulers who cherished the Independence of the Judiciary.

These thoughts were expressed, it should be noted, as soon as rumours began to spread of the Government’s planned legislation to curb the judges. In the article this former academic was actually pleading with the authorities to consider with care the implications of damaging the integrity and image of the Judiciary. He concluded his statement with these words:

    'Indeed, an independent Judiciary is one of the things which distinguishes a civilised society from an uncivilised one.'

But as far as the authorities were concerned the learned man was speaking into a vacuum. In fact it appeared for a while that after his own speech of 2 October in Kota Bharu, the Prime Minister had lost interest in the subject altogether. But that, unfortunately, was only an illusion.

After the violence of his speeches, it only appeared that he was not going to pursue the matter further, for nothing was heard about the Judiciary for two whole months, including that intervening period of police action on several articulate opposition groups (about which I shall come to shortly).

The Prime Minister's silence was rudely broken in Parliament on 3 December when he moved a Bill to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. Then again he indulged in what can only be described as a wide-raging tirade against the Judiciary by the use of crude innuendoes which struck unmistakably at the integrity of Malaysian judges. He could not have heard or taken to heart the internationally respected social reformer and scholar who had carefully explained that:

    "... it is repugnant to Islamic values and principles to attack judges especially if they have done no wrong. Any attempt to curb or control the independence of the Judiciary would be a betrayal of the spirit of Islam. It was to protect this independence that AI-Mawardi who lived in the 11th Century regarded the office of a judge as 'so sacred that when a man has been appointed as a judge he should neither be dismissed nor should he ordinarily resign his post."'

I am well aware that simply citing examples of Islamic law, exegesis and custom was enough for my adversaries to create the farcical allegation that I was advocating a sudden change in our legal system which would cause fear and dismay among my non-Muslim countrymen. It was such an absurd suggestion that in ordinary circumstances it would have hardly been worth refuting. But I must admit it was too shocking to ignore altogether.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, of course, was not advocating any such change. He was merely saying there was little point in beating the "Islamic" drum while ignoring true Islamic values and principles. The parliamentary assault on the good name of judges was hardly in keeping with the ordinary norms of civilised behaviour, let alone those clearly enunciated Islamic principles and values.

This academic and reformer who has been a fearless crusader in the cause of a better Malaysian society was not only not heeded by the authorities but had actually been impeded a great deal in his work. (Ten days after that public-spirited statement, in fact, he was incarcerated under the ISA and held without trial, for 52 days.)

As part of the background against which the amendments to that "Press" Act was made, the Asian Wall Street Journal of 30 December, 1987, made the following comments which I think are relevant, particularly as they also directly concerned Dr. Chandra Muzaffar's reform work:

    "Another legal setback for the Government occurred in September [1987], when the social reform group Aliran won a High Court decision overturning the Government's refusal to grant it a license to publish a Malay language edition of its English language [magazine called Aliran] Monthly. The Government is appealing [against] the decision to the Supreme Court.

    "'If someone wants to say something in two or four languages and is prepared to pay for it, it is up to them,' High Court Judge Harun Hashim ruled. He added that 'a permit to publish a newspaper should be granted as a matter of course and the attitude should be, publish and be damned. If you do it wrongly, then you are punished."

The voice of Aliran, according to the authorities, or so it seemed, must not have a Malay accent. Justice Datuk Harun Hashim obviously disagreed. But Aliran hardly had time to test the Harun Hashim judgement before the Executive axe fell.

I should observe here that Justice Harun's remark - "A permit to publish a newspaper should be granted as a matter of course" - axiomatic though it may be in all modern democracies, did not go down well. The authorities in Malaysia maintain that granting of permits is a sign of what it calls its "liberalism" - and the more permits on the market, the more liberal the government. The liberal gesture, however, was a privilege to be dispensed by the Government. Justice Harun's perceptions, of course, were very much at odds with this strange "liberal" view.

In his 3 December speech moving the Bill to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Dr. Mahathir made his own perceptions and preoccupations on the matter, not to mention his intentions, abundantly clear. They did not exactly coincide with the "publish and be damned" philosophy:

    "Section 13B clarifies that the opportunity to be heard will not be given to whosoever with regard to his application for a license or permit or relating to the revocation of a license or permit which has been issued to him under this Act. With this Section 13B, the opportunity to be heard under Section 13 needs to be removed. The appropriate amendment is made to Section 13 through Article 8.

    "This absolute power is given to the Minister because in most cases information given to him, if made public, might jeopardise national security and interest. If such cases are tried in open court, the court may be turned into a political arena. If the Minister abuses the political Power that is given to him, the people can decide on action against him through the democratic processes practised in this country.

    "The amendments are made because of the need to define Government powers in written laws. These amendments become more important because of the inclination of certain sectors to use unwritten laws to obstruct the functions of the Government. It is difficult for the Government to recognise unwritten laws because the Government may not know what it can do and what it cannot."

Later in his speech he enlarged upon on his peculiar, not to say bizarre, theories about the law and the practitioners of the law, and remarked:

    "Yet there are interested parties who say the purpose of any law made by the Dewan Rakyat has nothing whatsoever to do with the enforcement of the law. Those who interpret the law do not have to weigh the reasons for the drafting of the law. These so-called legal experts say, what is necessary is for the interpreter of the law to interpret the words found in the laws. The word is more important than the interpretation behind it, even though it is clear that certain aims lie behind the creation of the laws."

Apart from making a travesty of some of the most cherished concepts in law, there were, in that speech, imputations of severe moral turpitude among those who "interpret" the law. Who are these "interested parties" the Prime Minister refers to, who say the law made by Parliament has nothing to do with the enforcement of the law? He did not say, but in the same breath he spoke of the "interpreters" as if they were the same people. Now as for who the interpreters of the law are, Encik Param Cumaraswamy, I think, left no doubt in the public mind about that when he said in September, and I may repeat him usefully here:

    "The power to interpret the Constitution was vested in them [the judges], and by the nature of their oath of office they are to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."

Unfortunately the Prime Minister seemed to have concluded that "interpreting" the Constitution was largely a matter of applying what he calls unwritten laws. From his speech one gathers that he means by "unwritten laws" the material drawn from precedents established by obscure judges, at home and abroad in the Commonwealth, and that, too, is a sad travesty of the truth. There is more to unwritten laws, of course, than obscure precedents and esoteric rulings.

As if to demonstrate the extent to which it is possible for him to distort the workings of the Malaysian Legal and Judicial system, he went on to say, according to the The New Straits Times:

    "'Natural justice"' may be given various differing interpretations according to the discretion of the judge concerned. In the past in Britain a man who stole a goat could be hanged. Now even a murderer cannot be sentenced to death. If we think in a natural and logical way, the true 'natural justice' is 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."'

Having completely distorted the meaning of "natural justice" which has nothing to do with revenge or acting according to brute instincts or primitive urges - the Prime Minister descended into addressing the gallery in the most extraordinary terms both of good manners and logic:

    "We know that at one time homosexual relations was regarded as a crime in Britain. But now that is not a crime between consenting adults. Maybe this is regarded as ‘natural’ nowadays. Similarly with the 'common law wife' which has caused cohabitation in Britain to be regarded as a 'natural' situation acceptable to society. But this kind of thinking is not seen as 'natural’ in Malaysia. This being so, we actually do not need to use this British concept of natural justice. It is not natural for us. It is better if we hold true to our own written laws."

The logic there, to say the least, was as bizarre as the knowledge informing it was deficient. The current British laws on homosexuality have nothing to do with what is regarded as "natural" behaviour any more than cohabitation outside marriage is condoned because it is "natural". The British people as a society do not, by any means, heartily approve of homosexuality or living out of wedlock. These laws have nothing to do with "natural justice". Natural justice involves considerations of universal humanistic Principles from which modern legal canon is derived. It involves the recognition of certain natural rights of the individual like the right to be heard and to be tried in open court. It is certainly not a matter of making ad hoc or instanter decisions based upon "natural" or "obvious" solutions of the "an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for- a-tooth" kind.

Having shown that he did not understand the concept of natural ,justice, he did the same for the principle of judicial review, suggesting very strongly that judges were somehow involved in the political struggle of the day:

    "Judicial review empowers the interpreters of the law with unlimited scope such that they can deny the effectiveness or smooth enforcement of whatever law. No one can predict the results of a review of a judge because the end result depends on maintenance of this relationship is that the Judiciary will decline to his discretion. Having arrived at the decision that anyone can bring the Government to court, the Government can no longer decide anything with exactitude. Each decision can be challenged and perhaps be rejected. So the Government is no longer the Executive power. Other parties have taken over the task."

The number of illogical ideas compressed in so short a paragraph is mind-boggling. The "interpreters" (in Dr. Mahathir's language, it should now be clear, meant the judges) somehow get enormous powers when they review a case, that is, when they hear appeals against decisions reached in lower courts.

Where that strange notion comes from I cannot say. It is true that higher courts have more judicial power, but the power is only judicial. The judges may impose higher sentences or lower them. They may reverse judgements or vary them. They only "review" judgements. They do not create new laws. And they certainly do not have "unlimited scope" to do anything, let alone "deny the effectiveness or smooth enforcement of whatever law." As 1 noted at the beginning of this book, "the Judiciary will not strike down an executive action unless it is not supported by law and the Constitution." That does not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent any "unlimited scope" for action.

As for no one being able to predict the outcome of a review, how else should any court of law function? Indeed how did any adjudicator, including Sang Kancil (the Brer Rabbit of Malay tradition) or King Solomon himself, ever function?

If the outcome of an appeal was so easily forecast, without the judges examining the evidence, surely the litigants would not bother to go to court, and waste both time and money? Indeed, how would a higher court itself predict the outcome of a case until it had examined the evidence and heard all the arguments? The Prime Minister then says it is a matter of the "discretion" of the court, as if this "discretion" represented the mere whims and fancies of judges. Apart from anything else, this crude and contemptuous view was patently insulting to judges who are sworn to defend the Constitution.

Further insult was added by the Prime Minister when he suggested that somehow it was the law courts themselves which had made it possible for anyone to take the Government to court. That was really a fanciful, not to say a rococo notion. It is a basic fact that it is the Constitution which guarantees the citizen the right to go to court and seek relief if the Executive exceeded its powers. Indeed, each decision of the Executive can, under the Constitution, be challenged, if the citizen feels the decision was wrong. Whether he wins or not is quite another matter.

But Dr. Mahathir gave the impression in his wonderful Parliamentary dissertation that the courts were interfering and encouraging litigation! Indeed, he seemed to glory in the belief that any Executive decision, once made, somehow became sacred.

But he even went further. He suggested that if a decision was challenged successfully in court, it meant the Government's executive power has been usurped! And by -whom? His fantastic conclusion was that it was usurped by the Judiciary!

But he conveyed the notion by thinly veiled innuendo, for he declared: "Other parties have taken over the task." After that obviously flawed lecture on the disabilities of "natural justice" and "judicial review", the Prime Minister launched, and this should be noted well, and remembered, a direct attack against the judges. It was not done, however, before he reduced their Lordships to something less than learned judges:

    "This Act is amended because the Government which represents the people is of the opinion that it is dangerous for the administration of the nation to be interpreted according to the discretion of two or three people."

The two or three people, obviously represent the Supreme Court (commonly formed of a coram of three). The tone of the speech clearly suggested that these "two or three people" would be quite ordinary men and women with no special skills, no special training or experience to make very complex and far-reaching decisions. Dr. Mahathir underscored this when he said:

    "However wise they are, as ordinary human beings they have feelings which can influence their thinking and their stand. It is not impossible that an interpretation is made not independently but because certain values and beliefs belong to and influence the interpreters of the law concerned."

This was another unerudite, and rather sly dig at the Judiciary. Judges are of course human, as are doctors, engineers, priests, accountants, bankers, and high-wire acrobats. They are all influenced by their backgrounds, education and upbringing. But they are also professionals with appropriate training and experience to qualify them for their work. These people are not given responsibilities lightly by simply picking them off the street. They are carefully selected because of their peculiar talents, qualifications and experience. If they err, there are checks and balances to make amends as far as is humanly possible. Their mistakes can also be fatal.

Need I add here, that of all the professionals, judges are some of the very few who are chosen, or ought to be chosen, because of their "wisdom?" And what is wisdom without discretion? And need 1 further add that judges are ultimately chosen for appointment by the Executive?

To try aid legislate away the discretionary powers of professional people is not only absurd but also extremely dangerous. Can human society as we know it function at all if discretion cannot be exercised by its professional men and women - be they doctors, bankers or judges - in making important decisions? Indeed, if discretion were not called for, surely any police constables would do, to do the work of judges?

On second thoughts, no, because even for a policeman to arrest a speeding motorist he would have to interpret the law and then use his discretion to make the arrest. He must at least be sure that he is not knocked down and run over - and then prove that the driver had indeed exceeded the speed limit.

Without the right to exercise his discretion the judge can only function like a robot. And Dr. Mahathir suggested in Parliament that this discretionary powers must be somehow circumscribed because of the alleged "inclination of certain sectors [meaning judges] to use unwritten laws to obstruct the functions of the Government. "

This was to strike rudely at the very basic principles upon which. judicial integrity rests, that is, never to obstruct the legitimate business of the Executive, but on the contrary, to enhance it in every lawful way so as to preserve, protect and defend the integrity of the Constitution.

The enormity of the allegation was breathtaking. The vast self-assurance of the Prime Minister brings to mind the Latin phrase ipse dixit which means the dogmatic assertion made by the unsupported authority of the speaker. It is an old problem. The origin of the Latin phrase goes back to the ancient Greeks. The story is that the followers of Pythagoras used to back their pythagorean arguments by saying, "ipse dixit", meaning "He himself said it." The authority lay exclusively in the fact that the speaker said so!

And so we were faced with a devastating law backed by completely untenable, and really hopeless arguments. And the Attorney-General was to claim later that the Prime Minister was entitled to criticise judges!

But of course he is. Nobody can deny that. Anybody and everybody is entitled to criticise judges! They have been criticised in so many forums over the years.

But the question we are concerned with is, was this performance in Parliament a mere criticism of the Judiciary? Is criticism the same as severe censure, castigation and contempt? Was the Parliamentary attack not more like a prolonged raining of nasty blows upon the Judiciary? I shall return to this question later in this book.

Now, one of the obvious questions at this point is, "Why were there no vigorous protests against such a law backed by such feeble arguments, being introduced by the Prime Minister in Parliament in December 1987?"

There have been many serious protests in the last few years against laws which many public-spirited persons found insupportable. In fact on 15 August that year there was a vigorous attack on the Judiciary by a lawyer and an academic for not doing justice vis-a-vis the Constitution because, they said, the Judiciary had allowed "numerous" amendments to be passed since 1960. (And the judges, I may note, did not react angrily to this criticism.) The lawyer and the academic both criticised the Supreme Court because it was "steeped in the British tradition of Parliamentary supremacy which has no legal basis here." The Constitution, they said, was supreme in Malaysia.

This is not the place to evaluate the Judiciary's position in this particular debate, but the seminar itself showed that the quarrel was with Executive excesses and the need for a review of the Constitution. In fact that seminar caused something of a furore and upset the Prime Minister because it concerned itself with what it considered a long overdue review of our basic law. I say the obvious when I say that the seminar was a healthy sign of public involvement in vital aspects of national life. Citizens were questioning, as they indeed must, the basis of the country's laws and administration.

Yet, less than four months later, both the Prime Minister's speech, and the Act which curtailed that same freedom of the citizen, slid through Parliament almost without any public debate. Lawyers would have noted, too, that the Prime Minister was set upon institutionalising Parliamentary supremacy by simply brushing aside every Constitutional inhibition.

Yet there was no public debate, no outraged voices.


First of all members of the Judiciary, though they were thoroughly alarmed by the virulence of the attack by the Prime Minister, could not react. As Lord Denning put it, ". . . from the nature of our office, we cannot reply to their criticisms. We cannot enter into public controversy. Still less into political controversy . We must rely on our conduct itself to be its own vindication."

But what about other members of the public who were under no such constraint? Why were they not as vociferous as usual when something was so very "ill done?" Where were those very articulate critics, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar and Encik Lim Kit Siang? The answer was both painful and simple:

By December there was no public forum for debate left. And the two famous gentlemen were behind bars.

In that period between the two notorious speeches by the Prime Minister, on 27 October, 1987, the Government launched the so-called Operation Lalang during which at least 106 people were arrested and detained (without trial) under the ISA.

In the first groups to be arrested, by a not too remarkable coincidence, were Encik Lim Kit Siang and Dr Chandra Muzaffar. They had been the ones to call upon the Government very early to give the country assurances about the independence and integrity of the Judiciary.

Also, four of the most outspoken - or should I say rather, the least sycophantic - of our newspapers (The Star, The Sunday Star, Watan, and Sin Chew Jit Poh) had their publishing licenses suspended in the same operation.

The official reason for the arrests and the suspensions was that a highly dangerous security situation had arisen.

How dangerous that "security situation" was has been seriously questioned elsewhere. In fact the notion is not so much strongly disputed as treated contemptuously as nothing but a shameless fabrication. I do not propose to enter that argument here. But regardless of those arguments, the fact is that the people arrested included the most serious and well-informed (not to say well-intentioned) critics the Government has ever known.

Among the notable detainees under "Operation" was a member of the Opposition and a leading lawyer, Encik Karpal Singh, who had a number of sensitive cases lying before the Supreme Court. The most important of these cases was the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM) case in which the Government was accused of partiality in awarding a tender for a highway building contract ultimately worth tens of billions of Malaysian dollars.

With these able critics and outspoken newspapers now incapacitated, the public was severely handicapped. If there was disappointment, disapproval or resentment, these could not be made manifest as they should be in a democratic society. Naturally it raised in the public mind the point Sultan Azlan Shah made on 19 September: "an independent Press and a lively media can prevent any movement towards autocracy."

Even those critics who were not incarcerated under the ISA perhaps because there were simply too many of them to be all accommodated at once - had no proper forum to express themselves.

The then President of the Bar Council, Encik Param Cumaraswamy, was suddenly prohibited from entering the Republic of Singapore at this point, together with other outspoken critics of the Malaysian Government. They were the President of the Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia (EPSM), Encik Gurmit Singh, a leading figure in the Institute of Social Analysis (Insan), Dr. Jomo K. Sundrarn, and the man already under detention, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar. These men have wide international connections and often travel - to study, do research and lecture - necessarily through Singapore because of the superior public conveniences available in its thoroughly mechanised culture. The island lies in the path of many important air-routes. Being obliged to circumvent the Republic with all its modem conveniences, therefore, was a nuisance.

It appeared that if they could not be locked up in the country, they were somehow to be inconvenienced so that their work would became more difficult. Naturally, given the timing, the action by the Singapore Government gave rise to serious questions about our neighbour's interest in our internal affairs. This vital question was not publicly debated either.

Now the public had to rely upon rumours and those infamous surat layang or poison-pen letters which flourish mightily in Malaysia at such times. The public - in this information vacuum - was also subjected to an avalanche of defensive arguments by the Government through the now totally cowed and demoralised mass media. All kinds of apologists including one allegedly learned academic - were paraded through the media to explain the Government action. There was of course no vestige of any "independent Press" left in the country, let alone a "lively media".

There were, however, still some bold spirits who would not be discouraged. They made known their views to a narrow but important circle of people, through such devices as private newsletters and private discussion groups. This brave band quietly nurtured its own integrity and moral strength. On the other hand, a sense of hopelessness and "deja vu" had descended upon the country generally.

Of course Emmanuel Goldstein in George Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four would explain that the situation was ideal, for was not one of the great mottoes of Nineteen Eighty-Four, "Ignorance is Strength?"

And now we had the right climate for creating an information vacuum and nurturing ignorance. John Berthelsen and the Asian Wall Street Journal became irrelevant. All inconvenient news could now be made to vanish, at will, into the "black hole" of history. The foreign press was not going to be a substitute of any significance.

It was in this information vacuum which obtained after the October 27 Affair, after the press and mass media were rendered useless, and public debate effectively ended, that the attack on the Judiciary took the most ominous turn.