Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling
Jaya on Friday, 10th October 2008:
Abdullah forewarned not to plunge the
nation into a new era of judicial crisis which could erupt in a week’s
time if an Umno Chief Justice is appointed for the first time in the
nation’s 51-year history
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi reiterated yesterday that he would concentrate on five
initiatives he wanted to see through in his final five months in office,
viz: to table three bills in Parliament to strengthen:
(i) the judiciary; and
(ii) the anti-corruption enforcement;
(iii) increase the effectiveness and integrity of enforcement
(iv) to enlarge the social safety net to ensure aid to all who
needed it; and
(v) to hold a Barisan Nasional convention to improve inter-racial
and inter-religious relations.
Abdullah must be realistic enough to know
that the overwhelming majority of Malaysians are skeptical that he could
accomplish any meaningful institutional reform in his last five months
in office when he was helpless and impotent in the past five years.
The outgoing Prime Minister does not have the luxury of time – as he
could be put to the test whether he has found the resolve to implement
reforms he promised two days ago in a matter of a week, particularly on
In fact, Abdullah should be forewarned not to plunge the nation into a
new era of judicial crisis which could erupt in a week’s time if an Umno
Chief Justice is appointed for the first time in the nation’s 51-year
The present Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad is set for compulsory
retirement on 18 Oct 2008.
The Conference of Rulers will be meeting in Kuala Terengganu on October
15 and 16, 2008.
Article 122B of the Constitution provides that the Chief Justice shall
be appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the
Prime Minister, after consulting the Conference of Rulers.
Will the new Chief Justice be appointed after the Kuala Terengganu
Conference of Rulers?
For the past two decades, the country had been plunged into prolonged
judicial darkness, rocking from one judicial scandal to another, making
the Malaysian judiciary an international laughing stock.
One of the reform pledges of Abdullah when he became Prime Minister five
years ago was to restore national and international confidence in the
independence, impartiality and integrity of the Malaysian judiciary to
However, nothing was done until the March 8 “political tsunami” when he
appointed Datuk Zaid Ibrahim as Minister in the Prime Minister’s
Department with the specific task to implement judicial reforms.
But Zaid resigned as Minister after less than six months in office in
disgust and protest not only over the abuse of the Internal Security Act
but also at the resistance he faced in the Cabinet when pushing for
reforms to the judiciary especially the setting up of a meaningful
Judicial Appointments Commission.
So far, the only “accomplishment” in the judicial field is the ex gratia
payment to the former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas and five other
Supreme Court judges who were victims of the “mother of all judicial
crisis” of 198 - the Mahathir sacking of Salleh Abas and two Supreme
Court judges, Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman
However, the country has not been able to fully turn the corner to start
the arduous process to restore national and international confidence in
the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary because of
ongoing judicial blots and scandals like the still unresolved Lingam
Videotape scandal, the selective and malicious prosecution/victimization
of Opposition leaders and the fast-track appointment of a long-standing
Umno activist, Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi to the bench, firstly - the triple
jump to become Federal Court judge in September last year without ever
being High Court or Court of Appeal judge and the quadruple jump three
months later up the judicial hierarchy to become the Court of Appeal
Will Zaki make quintuple jump to be appointed Chief Justice of Malaysia
after a year’s elevation to the bench when Abdul Hamid retires from the
topmost judicial post in eight days’ on Oct. 18?
It is this possibility which holds the seeds of plunging the country
into a new judicial scandal and crisis. Will this be the valedictory
scandal of the Abdullah premiership?
This is why the Bar Council President Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has said
it is imperative that the new Chief Justice to be appointed should have
the necessary qualities to set the tone of the Judiciary and guide its
I endorse her statement when she said:
"This is all the more critical at this time when the nation faces many
political challenges. An independent judiciary stands above the fray,
giving the nation's citizens a sense of security and stability that
justice will continue to be administered in accordance with the rule of
law, no matter what the circumstances."
The Bar Council President’s advice should be given full consideration by
the Prime Minister in the appointment of the new Chief Justice,
especially as a Judicial Appointments Commission has not been set up in
violation of an implicit undertaking that the new Chief Justice would be
appointed under the new regime of judicial reform.
Article 127 of the Constitution restricted parliamentary discussion of
conduct of judges when it stipulates that “The conduct of a judge of the
Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court shall not be
discussed in either House of Parliament except on a substantive motion
of which notice has been given by not less than one quarter of the total
number of members of that House, and shall not be discussed in the
Legislative Assembly of any state”.
If next week, the new Chief Justice or new acting Chief Justice is Zaki
Azmi, then this constitutional provisional is likely to be invoked for a
full parliamentary debate on a substantive motion into his suitability
and qualification based on a scrutiny of his conduct and public record
particularly as Umno legal adviser, chairman of the Umno's election
committee and deputy chairman of Umno disciplinary board of appeal.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor