Abdullah must be mindful that
a greater constitutional crisis than the one that will erupt with the
extension of Ahmad Fairuz’ term as Chief Justice from Nov. 1 will be the
appointment of an UMNO Chief Justice, namely Tan Sri Zaki Azmi
by Lim Kit Siang
There is growing concern that
to avoid a grave constitutional crisis that will erupt with the extension
of Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim as Chief Justice after Nov. 1, the
country may be plunged to another equally grave crisis of confidence in
the independence and integrity of the judiciary – the appointment of an
UMNO Chief Justice for the first time in the 50-year history of Malaysia,
namely Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi.
The appointment of Zaki as Federal Court Judge in early September, which
involved an unprecedented “triple jump” without first serving as judge of
High Court and Court of Appeal, was the first in the nation’s 50-year
history, raising the question whether the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was paving the way to appoint Zaki as a future Chief
Nobody questions the legal qualifications and capabilities of Zaki but
there are many legitimate questions as to the suitability of his judicial
appointment, in particular as Chief Justice.
Is the country going to start the second half-century of nationhood with
an UMNO Chief Justice, when for five decades, there had never been any
judge who could be said to be an UMNO judge in terms of his party
membership and his long services to UMNO as a political party.
For the past 22 years, Zaki was an active UMNO member and lawyer,
representing UMNO in many controversial and even dubious UMNO cases,
culminating variously as head of UMNO legal advisor; head of UMNO
disciplinary committee panel and in 2001 as Deputy Chairman of UMNO
Disciplinary Board of Appeal.
Is Zaki still an UMNO member? If he had resigned from UMNO, when did he
resign from UMNO?
Even if Zaki had resigned from UMNO, at a time when the greatest challenge
of the judiciary is to restore national and international confidence in
the independence and integrity of the judiciary after two decades of
erosion and devastation, will Zaki’s further elevation in the judiciary to
become the Chief Justice be conducive to such an uphill task which had
been the bane of Malaysia’s world standing and international
After his appointment to the Federal Court in early September, Zaki said
that he was given less than 24 hours to decide whether he would accept the
appointment, and he described it as a “national service”.
What is even more important is whether public perception, both national
and international, will regard it more as “UMNO service” rather than
In the circumstances, it would be a major faux pas of the Prime Minister
to plunge the country from one judicial crisis of confidence to another,
re-opening anew the urgency for the establishment of a Judicial
Appointments and Promotions Commission to remove extraneous considerations
and factors in judicial appointments which could only undermine public
confidence in the judiciary.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman