Call on Ahmad Fairuz to
continue with Dzaiddin's uncompleted task to restore public confidence in
the judiciary and to establish a public commission with tripartite
participation of judges, lawyers and lay persons to propose far-reaching
by Lim Kit Siang
Twenty-seven months ago, in
December 2000, the nation and the world had high expectations that Malaysia,
under the new Chief Justice of the Federal Court Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin
Abdullah, would start the difficult but important task to restore public
confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary,
especially as Dzaiddin had courageously declared on assuming the highest
judicial office in the land that this would be his first priority.
completes his term of office, to be succeeded by the President of the Court
of Appeal, Tan Sri Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim as the Chief Justice of
the Federal Court.
How had Dzaiddin
fared in his own declared first priority to restore public confidence in the
This is an issue which should be the focus of national attention and
discussion, and should in fact be the subject of a special parliamentary
debate to review and assess the accomplishments and failings of the Dzaiddin
tenure - not to engage in an exercise of personal flattery or attack but a
sober assessment of the challenging tasks facing the judiciary and the
system of justice under a new Chief Justice.
On Dzaiddin's appointment as Chief Justice in December 2000, I had said that
apart from the very important issues of restoring public confidence in the
independence, impartiality and integrity of judges, an open and transparent
process of judicial appointments and restoring amicable Bench-Bar relations,
Dzaiddin should also focus on how to make the system of justice relevant to
the people and the times, including:
How, with other
institutions, as well as civil society, discharge the important function to
hold the other branches of the government accountable for their actions, in
particular how to ensure an effective judicial review of public officials'
How to provide all
citizens, particularly the poor, with access to justice, which must be
regarded as a priority agenda for judicial reform.
How the judiciary
could become one of the essential institutions in fighting corruption -
including corruption in the judiciary.
How to foster free
speech and an independent media in particular and human rights in general as
both cause and effect of an improved rule of law to provide a check on
government, generate support for reform and foster citizen participation.
How to respond to
the demands of the 21st century to ensure efficiency, integrity and fairness
in court performance and law enforcement by police and prosecutors.
I believe it can be
said without fear of challenge that Dzaiddin has stopped the rot in the
judiciary which had progressively worsened for the previous 12 years.
However, there is still a long way to go before anyone can say without fear
of contradiction that there is in place a system and programme of judicial
reform which could prove the former Lord President Tun Suffian wrong that it
would need some two generations for the judiciary to recover from its
protracted crisis of confidence.
Is Ahmad Fairuz fully committed to continue the long and hard task ahead of
restoring public confidence in the independence of the judiciary?
Malaysians await his first pronouncements and his vision of the judiciary he
would lead for the next four years.
One weakness of the Dzaiddin tenure was the absence of public involvement in
judicial reform, as it is not only the judges but legal practitioners and
all concerned Malaysians who should fully participate in this process as the
system of justice should not be the mere concern of judges and lawyers.
DAP calls on Ahmad Fairuz to continue with Dzaiddin's uncompleted task to
restore public confidence in the judiciary and re-establish a just rule of
law by setting up a public commission with tripartite participation of
judges, lawyers and lay persons to propose far-reaching judicial reforms.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National