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Will the Altantunya murder trial be brought forward from March 2008 in line with the maxim that “justice delayed is justice denied” and Fairuz’s earlier statement that the March 2008 hearing date is “too far off”?

Media Statement   
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday) : Last week, when making his controversial, ill-advised and ill-considered comment likening the proposal for an independent judicial commission on appointment and promotion of judges as akin to nudity rather than transparency, the Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim claimed that he was both an advocate and practitioner of judicial accountability and transparency.

Ahmad Fairuz said:  “I  started (as the Chief Justice) in 2003 with accountability and integrity.  We have been transparent.”

I have three questions for Ahmad Fairuz concerning accountability and integrity of the Chief Justice.

Firstly,  will the Altantunya Shaariibuu murder trial set for hearing in March 2008 be brought forward in line with the maxim that “justice delayed is justice denied” as well as his earlier statement that the March 2008 trial date is “too far off”?

The Star in a front-page headline of 6th January 2007 March 7, 2008: Altantunya murder trial – TOO LONG A WAIT” quoted the Chief Justice: “The date is too far off. But we are appointing 16 new judges. Hopefully the trial can be brought forward.” 

Secondly, what has happened to his public undertaking  on his appointment as Chief Justice some four years ago in 2003 to recast the Judges’ Code of Ethics to restore public confidence in judicial independence, impartiality and integrity.

The Judges’ Code of  Ethics was promulgated in 1994 to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges and enhance public confidence in an independent, fair and competent judiciary to deliver justice to all Malaysians, but the chief wrecker of the 1994 Judges’ Code of Ethics was none other than its author, the then Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin, who violated and discredited  the Code of Ethics by his own   judicial misconduct  and impropriety, to the extent that he left the high judicial office in disgrace.

When he became Chief Justice, Ahmad Fairuz committed himself to recast the e Judges’ Code of Ethics but nothing has been heard about it although almost four years have passed.

I had in May 2003 called on the Chief Justice to initiate a nation-wide debate as to why the Judges’ Code of Ethics had failed in the previous nine years to enhance public confidence in the independence, fairness and competence of the system of justice in Malaysia  and how it could be revamped.

In keeping with the principle of public accountability of the judiciary, I had also asked that  Malaysians be told as to how the Code of Ethics had worked or failed to work in the previous  nine years, how many complaints had been  received each year under the Code of Ethics, the number of judges who had been investigated and the outcome of such investigations.

I had stressed that the recasting of the Judges’ Code of Ethics must deal with its three major defects: 

  • Absence of  satisfactory and accountable  mechanism for public complaints of breaches of the Judges’ Code of Ethics; 

  • The Code of Ethics had not been satisfactorily formulated so as to deal in a more comprehensive manner with all instances of  judicial improprieties and misconduct as illustrated by the many judicial controversies and scandals; and

  • How breaches against the Judges’ Code of Ethics could  be invoked against the Chief Justice himself.

Has the Chief Justice reneged on his commitment to recast the Judges’ Code of Ethics to fully restore public confidence in the  independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary?

Thirdly, why the post of Chief Judge of Malaya had not been filled for nearly two months since the retirement of Tan Sri Siti Normah on 5th January 2007.

The excuse that it will take some time to fill the position of the Chief Judge of Malaya because the name of the candidate had to be forwarded to the Prime Minister who would advise the Conference of Rulers on the appointment and that the Conference only meet once in three months is completely unacceptable, as it is known at least six months in advance when the position would definitely fall vacant – when Siti Normah was given a six-month extension (which cannot be further extended) when she turned 66 on July 6 last year.

It reflects poorly on the efficiency and professionalism of the Chief Justice that he cannot ensure a smooth transition for high judicial appointments so that a new Chief Judge of Malaya was able to take over from Siti Normah on her retirement on 5th January 2007.

At present, Ahmad Fairuz is the Acting Chief Judge of Malaya. Is this proper and even constitutional?  Will Malaysia one day have a Chief Justice who even trebles up as Acting President of the Court of Appeal as well as Chief Judge of Malaya?


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

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