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Will Abdullah’s 4th anniversary as PM next week be marked by his biggest constitutional crisis with the country without a Chief Justice for the first time in 50 years?

Media Statement (2)         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Friday): The question uppermost in many minds is whether the fourth anniversary of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi next week will be marked by his biggest constitutional crisis with the country without a Chief Justice for the first time in 50 years.

It is open secret that the application by Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim for a six-month extension as Chief Justice from November 1 has catapulted the country to the precipice of a national crisis, as it is not only opposed by the Bar Council and the civil society but also by the Conference of Rulers.

In his 55 months as Chief Justice, Ahmad Fairuz had chalked up a catalogue of failures of judicial leadership, particularly:

• His failure to build on the efforts of his predecessor Tun Abdullah Dzaiddin take the country to another critical level to restore national and international confidence in the independence, integrity and quality of the judiciary in the tradition of the three distinguished Lord Presidents of the country, Tun Suffian, Tun Raja Azlan Shah and Tun Saleh Abas;

• His mishandling of the appointment of a new Chief Judge of Malaya to succeed Tan Sri Siti Normah Yaakob on 5th January 2007 after a six-month extension, resulting in a seven-month stand-off with the Conference of Rulers and a most deplorable situation where the country was left without a proper and lawful Chief Judge of Malaya for over seven months;

• His embroilment in the Lingam Tape scandal to the extent that the Chief Justice has become a “fugitive” from the media and the public, with the Hari Raya party of the judicial and legal service yesterday declared completely “off-limits” for the media just because the Chief Justice was attending and was afraid to be asked questions about his role and involvement in the Lingam Tape scandal!

There can be three scenarios after the meeting of the Conference of Rulers on Wednesday and Thursday:

• Ahmad Fairuz extended as Chief Justice, whether for six or two months from Nov. 1;

• A new Chief Justice appointed from Nov. 1; and

• No Chief Justice from Nov. 1, because of the constitutional deadlock with the Conference of Rulers raising objections to the application for extension by Ahmad Fairuz.

Will Ahmad Fairuz precipitate a second constitutional deadlock, first over the appointment of Chief Judge of Malaya and now over the Chief Justice, with Abdullah dragged into a second constitutional crisis because of failure of leadership of the Prime Minister?

I must remind the Prime Minister in the strongest possible terms that any extension of the tenure of Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim as Chief Justice from next month, whether for six or two months, will provoke a new firestorm of nation-wide protests from lawyers, the civil society and Malaysians, plunging the new crisis of confidence in the judiciary which had haunted the nation for the past month because of the Lingam Tape scandal, to its nadir.

This is an option Abdullah should reject in favor of appointing a new Chief Justice whose biggest challenge must be to restore national and international confidence in the Malaysian judiciary after nearly two decades of degradation and devastation of the judicial landscape.


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

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