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Abdullah should clarify whether there was a formal Cabinet decision to reject snowballing calls for review of the 1988 judicial crisis on the sacking of the Lord President and two Supreme Court Judges.

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Monday) :  The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should clarify whether there was a formal Cabinet decision to reject the snowballing calls for review of the 1988 judicial crisis on the sackings of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and Datuk George Seah as Supreme Court judges, which plunged the country into the abyss of national and international infamy of a crooked judicial system from which it had not yet fully recovered.


After the Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said that the Cabinet had decided against a review of the 1988 judicial crisis and endorsed his position that the judicial sackings would only be revisited when “new and important” information about the case emerged.


Nazri said that the important issue of the review of the 1988 judicial crisis was not on the Cabinet agenda but was discussed following newspaper reports highlighting the former Lord President’s call for a review of his sacking and that of his fellow judges.


This is a most cavalier, summary and irresponsible treatment of a very important matter by the Cabinet.


If the Cabinet is to take a decision on the issue, it should have called for the pros and cons for a review of the 1988 judicial crisis to be fully and properly presented, rather than just listen to the one-sided account  of the de facto Minister for Law.


The first question that the Cabinet must decide is whether it is the correct position to take that unless “new and important” information emerged, like “If any one of the  five judges says he was instructed to act in a certain way”, as this is tantamount to holding that  the travesty of justice of the two kangaroo judicial tribunals in 1988 would remain sacred and inviolate?


Aren’t there adequate facts pertaining to the two kangaroo judicial tribunals in 1988 which warrant their review so that justice could  be done to restore the honour and integrity of the victimised judges as well as to right the wrongs done to the judicial system itself?


In his study of the 1988 judicial crisis in his book, “Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia”, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim  argued that the First Judicial Tribunal which sacked Salleh Abas  should have been “vitiated” (i.e. declared invalid, unlawful  and unconstitutional) for violating “one of the  cardinals of natural justice, i.e. the rule against bias” caused by having as chairman  of the tribunal Tun Hamid Omar, who had just taken over Salleh’s position as the Acting Lord President who was  in line to succeed as Lord President  in the event of Salleh’s dismissal. (p. 345)


Was Rais and other justice-minded Ministers at last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting allowed and able to participate in the Cabinet deliberations on what position it should take on this matter – or was it just Nazri reporting to Cabinet on the developments on the issue  without the benefit of a  full and proper discussion by   Cabinet Ministers on what should be the right and proper position for the Cabinet to take?


If it is the latter, then it is another instance vindicating the critique of former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad of a “half-past six” Cabinet.

In view of its importance, the Prime Minister should schedule a full and proper Cabinet meeting inviting a full presentation of the pros and cons to deliberate and decide on whether there should be a review of the 1988 judicial crisis.  As Rais had gone on record to denounce the travesty of justice perpetrated by the two judicial tribunals in 1988, the Prime Minister could designate him to marshal arguments to present the case  for  review as against Nazri’s “no review” position.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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