Abdul Malek’s appointment as Court of Appeal president will be the first bright spot  in more than 15 years in the bleak and desolate scene of the justice system which will be greeted with unalloyed joy by the legal fraternity and civil society

Media Conference Statement
- after the
opening the DAP Ipoh Timor parliamentary constituency service centre
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Saturday): The appointment of Federal Court judge Datuk Abdul Malek Ahmad as Court of Appeal president will be the first bright spot in more than 15 years in the bleak and desolate scene of the justice system which will be greeted with unalloyed joy by the legal fraternity and the civil society. 

New Straits Times reported exclusively yesterday that the Conference of Rulers had endorsed Abdul Malek’s appointment as the Court of Appeal president. 

It speaks volumes for Abdul Malek’s ability, solidity, integrity, qualities and reputation as a judge and the depths plumbed by the system of justice for more than one-and-a-half decades that such a yet-to-be-confirmed  report could have the effect of lifting  the hopes and spirits of all Malaysians concerned about the restoration of a truly independent judiciary and a just rule of law in the country. 

If confirmed, it is hoped that Malek’s appointment as the Court of Appeal President will mark the first step of a long, hard  and uphill journey to restore national and international confidence in the justice system in the country, until it has reached the stage where its reputation for a truly independent judiciary and just rule of law will again be unbesmirched and  unquestioned. 

If Malaysia is to embark on such a journey to fully restore national and international confidence in a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary, systemic institutional reforms in the system of justice is necessary, for example, in the appointment and promotion of judges. 

Other “First World” countries have introduced structural judicial reforms and  developed mechanisms to ensure greater judicial accountability and transparency with regard to the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary – such as the  appointment of judges. 

Malaysia urgently  needs  a more transparent process of  judicial  appointment to ensure that the justice administered by the judges is  of superior quality because they are professionally qualified,  persons of integrity and   good character, independent and  courageous.

The present system, where the judicial appointments are decided by two persons, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, is most unsatisfactory. The flaws of the present judicial appointment process includes:

  • Selection and appointment procedure not transparent;
  • Consultative process is secretive; and
  • There is a lack of appraisal of the candidates against pre-determined criteria

Many Commonweath countries have carried out reforms to  modernise their system of  justice as in the introduction of transparency and competition in the  judicial appointment process.

Malaysia can benefit from the reforms introduced by some of these countries.  Canada for instance has established a Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee in each province, comprising  judicial and legal representatives and non-lawyers. Judicial appointments are confined to those approved as suitable for appointment by the committee.

In New Zealand, in response to criticism that the judiciary was remote and unrepresentative of  the community, a Judicial Appointments Board  was established comprising representatives from the bench and bar and lay members which makes a recommendation on judicial  appointment once a vacancy occurs. The Board advertises the judicial  position and reviews all applications. A ranked list of  at least two candidates is then given to the Attorney-General, who makes the final recommendation to the  Governor-General.

In 1997, the United Kingdom defined and made public the criteria against which candidates for judicial appointment would be judged and the selection process by which they would be appointed.

With so many countries which have carried out reforms in the modernisation of their system of justice, including the system of judicial appointments,  there should be no lack of reference materials for Malaysia to undertake its own reforms of our justice system – another step to transform Malaysia into a  nation with “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality and Culture”.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman