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Protocol wise, Chief Justice is No. 11 between the Prime Minister (No. 6) and Parliament Speaker (No. 13) – how did Nazri (No. 16 for Cabinet Ministers) become Minister for Ahmad Fairuz?
(Parliament, Friday) : Malaysia is still reeling from the many shocks reverberating from the expose of the Lingam Tape – confirming what had been widely talked about concerning the perversion of the course of justice in the fixing of judicial appointments and court judgments but also from the responses from the Executive and Judiciary.
Both the Executive and the Judiciary had come out of the Lingam Tape scandal with their reputation in tatters.
The thunderous ten-day silence of the Chief Justice, Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim has completely drowned out the puny denial which the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had made on the Chief Justice’s behalf.
In the 50-year history of the nation, one top judicial officer had been sacked from his office but he retained national and international respect for his honor and integrity. However, two other top judicial officers who completed their term of office did so under a black cloud and nobody would have thought there would be a third top judicial officer who would be exiting from office in ignominy.
The Executive on its part had brought the whole system of democratic governance into a tragic-comedy of errors – not least of which was the decision to set up a so-called “Independent Panel” to investigate into the authenticity of the Lingam Tape and headed by someone who is tainted by his role in the “mother” of all judicial crisis in the past 19 years, the 1988 Judicial Crisis.
Even now, the term of reference of the so-called “Independent Panel” into the Lingam Tape has not been fully made public. What is there so secretive that its actual term of reference is still being kept a secret?
But it is Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law and justice, who has wrought the greatest harm to the system of governance in Malaysia.
Nazri publicly claiming that he is “Minister” for the Chief Justice when one of the five Prime Ministers in 50 years ad dared to make such a claim shows how lowly the judiciary had fallen and the contempt meted out to the doctrine of separation of powers.
Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the three branches of government, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are independent and do not infringe upon each other’s rights and duties – providing an important check and balance for democratic good governance to avert any form of tyrannical government.
In this system, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Speaker of Parliament are meant to be independent and almost equal status as respective heads of the three branches of government.
This is why in the official protocol list as gazette, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are listed as No.6 and 7 respectively after the Yang di Pertuan Agong, Sultans and royal dignitaries, while the Chief Justice is No. 11, the President of Senate No. 12, the Dewan Rakyat Speaker No.13 while Cabinet Ministers are placed No. 16.
It is therefore most outrageous for Nazri to claim that he is the Minister for the Chief Justice when even the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, placed on a higher level than the Chief Justice protocol-wise, and cannot make any such claim.
Protocol wise, the Chief Justice is No. 11 between the Prime Minister (No. 6) and Parliament Speaker (No. 13) – how did Nazri (No. 16 for Cabinet Ministers) become Minister for Ahmad Fairuz?
What is shocking is that Ahmad Fairuz is now so subservient to an ordinary Cabinet Minister, who is seven places below him in the official protocol list, that he dared not even bleat a protest to uphold the dignity of the office of Chief Justice and the independence and integrity of the Judiciary from any Executive interference or encroachment!
However, Nazri had not only wrought great damage to the public standing of the judiciary, the de facto law Minister had also gravely undermined the credibility of the government with his tirade against the Bar Council and Malaysian lawyers for their historic march for justice on Wednesday from the Palace of Justice to the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya and his comment: “There is no crisis in our judiciary. No crisis, no problems. I don’t see any scandal.”
Is Nazri seriously suggesting that when some 2,000 lawyers could be so moved as to be involved in a March for Justice express their long-held and deep-seated concerns about the rot in the system of justice, Nazri is completely blind and deaf to such concerns?
And is Nazri typical of all the Cabinet Ministers in the country – for if so, then the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was being very kind in dubbing them as “half-past six Cabinet”!
The 50th Merdeka anniversary has seen many knotty nation-building problems surfacing in public – including the long-standing rot in the judiciary. The question is whether the 50th Merdeka anniversary will see the beginning of a new national resolve to right these generational and historic wrongs or their further aggravation.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman