KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — Hearing for Umno politician Datuk Lokman Noor Adam who is accused of showing contempt for court in allegedly calling a police officer “stupid” during the corruption trial of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has been postponed again to August 3.
This is because Lokman's lawyer K. Balaguru wants to call deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran — who is asking the High Court to cite Lokman for contempt — as a witness.
Hearing scheduled for last Monday was postponed because Lokman was not able to get a lawyer of his choosing then.
At the start of the contempt of court proceedings today, Balaguru pushed to have the case heard in front of another judge instead of Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
The defence lawyer claimed the case was premised on “triple hearsay”, and related the chain of events started when the police officer told the senior assistant registrar that Lokman used the word “stupid” on him in court last Thursday after being told to stop playing with his handphone, and that the message was then conveyed to Raja Rozela who informed the court of the supposed insult.
But Sequerah replied that Raja Rozela was only asked to assist the court in the contempt proceedings after the incident happened, and that the police officer would be the principal complainant.
The judge added that another lawyer had also heard the remark.
“So in that sense, it is not triple hearsay,” Sequerah said.
But Balaguru argued that what Raja Rozela heard from the senior assistant registrar was contentious as Lokman claimed he remarked that “the law is stupid”.
Sequerah then referred to an apology letter written by Lokman to the court.
“He apologised, again that's why I told my client, 'do not apologise for something you have not done wrong'. He wanted the matter not to escalate, sir,” Balaguru replied.
“He actually said he didn't call the policeman 'stupid', he called the court SOP 'stupid', because he said they are using the handphone, why can't I do it? He called the system 'stupid',” the judge told the defence lawyer.
Balaguru then said he was ready to proceed with the contempt hearing even as he continued to ask for the case to be adjourned to be heard before another judge.
Balaguru also argued that the incident last Thursday did not disrupt Ahmad Zahid's trial, but the judge did not appear convinced.
“But you can't allow members of the public to come here and make their own rules while the case is going on or impede policeman from doing their job which is emanating from instructions I gave them,” Sequerah said.
Balaguru then suggested that the use of handphones while the court is in session should be reviewed.
Sequerah noted that Lokman told the court he was actually taking down notes of the court proceedings but asked: “What business has he to take down when he is not a court reporter?”
Balaguru also questioned why a “member of the Bar Council” was taking down notes during Ahmad Zahid's trial, but the judge pointed out that the lawyer was holding a watching brief.
Deputy public prosecutor Izalina Abdullah asked the court to dismiss Balaguru's request for a change of judges, arguing that Sequerah had the right to hear the case as it happened in his courtroom.
Izalina also sought to shift focus back on the crux of the contempt issue.
“About the issue of the use of handphone, I think the contempt today is not purely involving the use of handphone, actually it involves respect to the judicial system that was in proceeding in a case.
“The court is trying to protect the public interest, but when that court is administering the function to deliver justice, so when we enter a place, there are rules to be followed to ensure proceedings go on smoothly, but when someone cannot follow orders to not use handphone, that is considered a contempt.
“What is wrong when we go to someone's place, we follow the rules,” she said, also highlighting the matter was about the use of the word “stupid”.
Sequerah ruled that he is best suited to hear the case, explaining that the alleged offence was committed before him.
After confirming that Lokman is claiming trial to the contempt case, Balaguru said he intends to have Raja Rozela called in as a witness as he wants to cross-examine her about what she had informed the court.
Balaguru even said that he would move for contempt against Raja Rozela if she had misled the court over the incident.
Izalina objected to having Raja Rozela called in as a witness, saying there was no need to do so as the court could call the police officer directly to verify what Lokman had actually said.
Balaguru insisted that there was a need to call Raja Rozela as a witness as the High Court, and said he would apply for a subpoena of her as a witness.
In light of Balaguru seeking to subpoena Raja Rozela, the judge then fixed August 3 as the hearing date, having noted: “We can't proceed today, so we have to fix for another date.” This is not the first time that Lokman has found himself on the back foot against allegations of having committed contempt of court.
Sequerah previously found the 49-year-old self-described blogger guilty of contempt for action amounted to threatening a prosecution witness in former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2019 trial involving the misappropriation of over RM2 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s funds.
On July 15, 2021, Sequerah sentenced Lokman to one-month jail. Lokman has appealed against the jail sentence, which is pending at Court of Appeal.