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Full support for Chief Justice’s pledge of “house-cleaning” in judiciary and call on Zaki to demonstrate his endorsement by taking three steps

Media Conference          
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Wednesday): The new Chief Justice of Malaysia Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad has made a courageous pledge of “house-cleaning” of the judiciary after being sworn in as the highest judicial officer of the land.

Abdul Hamid is the first top judicial officer to admit to the rot in the judiciary which has plunged national and international confidence in the system of justice to the lowest point in the 50-year history of the nation, and the rot in the judicial system is most vividly described by the Chief Justice when he said:

“I am aware that this appointment is a heavy burden on me. It is more so when it happens at a very challenging time, that is, when public perceptions of the judiciary are disturbing, when the integrity of the courts in the administration of justice is doubted, when appointments and the behaviour of judges and their commitments in the discharge of their duties, are all being questioned.”

Describing the judiciary as the last frontier of a nation, he said: “When the people no longer have confidence in the courts, there will be chaos.

“The independence of the judiciary means giving decision in a case based on law and evidence adduced in court without being influenced or pressured by any party.”

I wish to express my full support to Abdul Hamid’s bold admission of the rot in the administration of justice and his vow to “house-clean” the judiciary.

I do not doubt Abdul Hamid’s sincerity, honesty or seriousness of purpose. However, I am very pessimistic at the prospect of success of such a “house-cleaning” by Abdul Hamid for two reasons:

Firstly, Abdul Hamid will create history as the top judicial officer of the land who will serve for the shortest period, as he will be Chief Justice for only four months, reaching his retirement age by 18th April 2008, and even with a six-month extension till 18th October 2008, the longest period Abdul Hamid will serve as Chief Justice will be 10 months.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to describe Abdul Hamid as an “accidental Chief Justice” as the powers-that-be had never intended for him to become Chief Justice – and he would not have ascended to the highest judicial post in the country if not for a combination of unexpected events outside the control of the powers-that-be.

Secondly, will Abdul Hamid get full support from the full bench of judge at all three tiers of the judiciary, Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court, for a root-and-branch “house-cleaning” of the judiciary?

In urging judges to support his pledge of “house-cleaning”, Abdul Hamid said the independence of judges in the discharge of their duties come from within themselves and if they are firm, honest and clean, no one would dare to approach them to influence or buy them out.

He said: “But, if we ourselves go about lobbying for appointment as judges or to be promoted, then, we are the ones who have compromised the independence of the judiciary.’

He posed a very important question to the judges: “The question is, is our character strong enough?”

The rot in the administration of justice and the crisis of confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary have a long and protracted history lasting 19 years.

Unless Abdul Hamid has the full support of the full bench of Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court judges, the Chief Justice will have very little chance of success in any “house-cleaning” and it will again be another tragic failure when one man is pitted against the system.

For this reason, all judges should give full support to the Chief Justice’s vow of “house-cleaning” and the strongest support should come from the No. 2 in the judiciary, the new Court of Appeal President, Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi who should set an example of judicial accountability, transparency and integrity by taking three steps:

Firstly, declaring whether he is still an UMNO member, and if he had resigned from UMNO, when did he submit his resignation.

Secondly, make full public disclosure of all corporate interests particularly those involving UMNO which he had relinquished on his “triple-jump” appointment as Federal Court judge in September and quadruple-jump as Court of Appeal President.

Thirdly, announce what steps he would take to assure the nation that he will be Court of Appeal President (and Chief Justice of Malaysia next October as expected) for all Malaysians and not for UMNO, and whether he would recuse from all cases involving UMNO corporate or political interests in view of his two-decade-long association with UMNO corporate and political interests whether as Court of Appeal President or Chief Justice from next October.


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

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