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Response from Fairuz likening
proposal for an independent judicial commission on appointment and promotion
of judges as akin to nudity rather than transparency ill-advised, in poor
taste and reflect badly on the office of Chief Justice
(Parliament, Thursday) : The response of Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim likening proposal for an independent judicial commission on appointment and promotion of judges as akin to nudity rather than transparency is ill-advised, in poor taste and reflect badly on the office of Chief Justice.
Ahmad Fairuz may be unhappy with the proposal of an independent judicial commission to oversee the selection and promotion of judges, but he should realize that this proposal pre-dates his appointment to the top judicial post in the land and meant to enhance public confidence in the system of justice and in that context, there is nothing personal against any personal holder of the office.
Ahmad Fairuz should not have questioned the motives of those who had made the proposal, such as the Bar Council and several prominent lawyers, posing the rhetorical question: "Are we to allow whoever has cases in court and who lost to decide on the fate of judges?" He ignores the support of retired judges for the proposal.
While claiming to welcome any memorandum on the proposed independent judicial commission, Ahmad Fairuz made clear his opposition when he told the New Straits Times in Kota Baru after chairing a meeting with Kelantan judges yesterday:
"I started (as the Chief
Justice) in 2003 with accountability and integrity. We have been
In the first place, it is absolutely wrong and inapt to categorise the proposal of an independent Judicial Commission as an exercise in nudity rather than transparency, especially when this judicial reform had been adopted by other countries such as Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Secondly, the proposal for a Judicial Appointments Commission was not made only during Fairuz’s tenure as Chief Justice.
I for one had been calling for a new system of judicial appointments to ensure transparency, top-quality judges and a world-class justice system since the nineties – ever since the country was plunged into a series of crises of confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the system of justice lasting for over one-and-a-half decade since the 1988 arbitrary sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and two Supreme Court Judges, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Datuk George Seah.
My arguments for judicial reforms especially in the system of appointments are as valid today as when I made them since the nineties, viz:
When the United Kingdom introduced a new system of judicial appointments which is open to public scrutiny in recognition that the confidence of both the public and the legal profession in an independent judiciary is of the first importance, nobody least of all the UK judges objected to the indignity of being subjected to an exercise in “nudity”.
Apart from the statutory qualifications for judicial office, two fundamental principles underpin the new UK system of selecting candidates for judicial appointment, viz:
Chief Justice Fairuz should demonstrate he is reform-minded and not just supporter of reform in rhetoric by leading judicial reforms with a new judicial appointment process which is more transparent and is open to public scrutiny to restore the confidence of both the public and the legal profession in an independent judiciary.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman