Press Statement (2) by Karpal Singh in Kuala Lumpur on
Wednesday, 22nd October 2008:
Zaki as CJ - dangerous precedent
for the judiciary
The consent of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong,
Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, to the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Azmi as
Chief Justice is not a step in the right direction. This follows the
advice of the Prime Minister and deliberations of the Rulersí
Conference. In fact, it amounts to the setting of a dangerous precedent
for the judiciary. We operate on the doctrine of separation of powers
pursuant to which the judiciary must be independent of the executive.
It is important to take into account public perception over the disquiet
and concern over Zakiís appointment as Chief Justice. It is public
knowledge that Zaki was legal advisor to UMNO, the backbone of the
Barisan Nasional Government. He was also the deputy chairman of UMNOís
disciplinary board at one time. It will be difficult for him to
completely disassociate himself from that bond, however much he may try.
Zaki was practically catapulated to head the judiciary with his
appointment as Federal Judge last year, then within a short time
President of the Court of Appeal, and now Chief Justice. This has
certainly been a blow to judges who have risen from the ranks right up
to appointment to the Federal Court. The Federal Court, the apex court
in the country, should be free from any notion of influence by the
executive. It is for this reason that there should be a judicial
commission created as soon as possible for the appointment and promotion
of judges. Like Caesarís wife, judges must be above suspicion. The
Government should also not lose sight of the confidence of foreign
investors who give the highest premium to independence of the judiciary.
After the judicial crisis in 1988, there was considerable loss in the
independence and quality of the judiciary leading to foreign investors
opting for arbitration in disputes instead of resort to the judiciary.
Of late, the judiciary had gained, to some extent, its pre-1988
eminence. However, Zakiís appointment will certainly dampen any
enthusiasm towards independence of the judiciary in essence and spirit.
Zakiís appointment as Chief Justice however is now irreversible.It is
for. Zaki, in his judicial pronouncements, to efface any doubts over his
appointment to head the judiciary in the country. Zaki has to go the
extra mile to convince the country that he deserves his appointment as
Chief Justice. Further, Zaki has to win the confidence of his fellow
judges who may have felt being marginalized, and rightly so, with him
being given the mantle of Chief Justice. The eyes of international
jurists will be on Zaki. The ball is now in Zakiís court. It is for Zaki
now to demonstrate his judicial wisdom to erase any doubts upon his
appointment and, thereby, prove his critics wrong.
* Karpal Singh, DAP National Chairman & MP for Bukit