Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on
Friday, 17th October 2008:
Is appointment of Zaki as Chief Justice the
last nail in the coffin of Abdullah’s pledge of judicial reform?
When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi finally
bowed down to irresistible pressures in UMNO to scuttle his mid-2010
power transition plan and announced on October 8 that would not defend
the post of Umno President, he said he would complete three reforms,
including judicial reform, before he steps down
as Prime Minister next March.
Is the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Azmi as the Chief Justice to take
over from Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamed, who retires compulsorily tomorrow,
the last nail in the coffin of Abdullah’s pledge of judicial reform?
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s
Department after the March 8 general election by Abdullah to shepherd
the reforms into reality, had implied that the appointment of a new
Chief Justice to replace Hamid would be made under the new reform format
and regime of a Judicial Appointment Commission.
But this is not to be and Zaid had resigned as the de facto Law Minister
last month not only over the undemocratic abuses of power in the
arbitrary use of the Internal Security Act to detain a senior woman
Parliamentarian Teresa Kok, a senior Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Ching
and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin but also at the “resistance” he
encountered in Cabinet when trying to translate the promises of judicial
reform into legislative reality.
Was Abdullah completely unaware of the Cabinet “resistance” to judicial
reforms which dogged Zaid’s efforts, and if not, what did he do to
smoothen and facilitate the passage of the necessary legislation for
judicial reforms in the six months after the March 8 “political
With Abdullah’s promise that judicial reform would nonetheless be pushed
through into fruition as it was his original pledge and not Zaid’s, one
would have thought that the appointment of the new Chief Justice would
be in the spirit of reformist consultation with the relevant
stakeholders under the promised regime of judicial reforms.
This is not only not so, the Prime Minister has shown utter disregard
and contempt for the widespread objections of the legal community and
civil society to the appointment of the first Umno Chief Justice in the
51-year history of the nation!
In the circumstances, it is most regrettable and deplorable that
Abdullah had stuck to his guns that Zaki be appointed the new Chief
Justice, despite being forewarned that it would plunge the country into
a new judicial crisis of confidence and a new era of judicial darkness.
Is Zaki capable of providing the necessary judicial leadership to ensure
that Malaysia can rise above the past two decades of judicial darkness,
plunging from one judicial scandal and crisis of confidence to another,
and which reduced the Malaysian judiciary from its previous high
international standing into a laughing stock for lack of independence,
impartiality and integrity of the judiciary?
Pakatan Rakyat MPs must now decide whether to invoke Article 127 of the
Malaysian Constitution which empowers the tabling in Parliament a
substantive motion to debate the suitability and the merits/demerits of
Zaki as the new Chief Justice provided it has the support of at t least
a quarter of the Members of Parliament, i.e. 55 MPs.
If such a substantive motion is presented in Parliament, it would be the
first time in Malaysian parliamentary and constitutional history.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor