(Seremban, Sunday): The Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah yesterday urged judges to be mindful of their conduct in public in the light of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 which came into force on Jan 8.
He asked judges to ensure their conduct had no conflict of interest with their official duties, and did not breach their Code of Ethics or the graft law.
He said judges should refrain from accepting free or honorary membership to golf and private recreational clubs as it could give the public a negative perception.
"Judges should also refrain from getting involved in gambling -- like playing poker, horse racing or betting at golf," Mohtar said.
He said that in golf sessions with those in the private sector, judges invariably tended to win big sums of money when betting and that would affect their credibility.
Mohtar said that such conduct was frowned upon, and it could erode society's confidence in the judge in question and the judicial institution in general.
The speech by Attorney-General is most unusual and shocking to say the least. Firstly, while what Mohtar said is right that judges should not be in any position of conflict of interest to breach the Judges’ Code of Ethgics, is it right and proper for the Attorney-General to be making strictures about the conduct of judges, when this should be the province of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court as the highest judicial officer in the land - unless the Chief Justice has proved incapable of performing his duties to uphold the good name of the judiciary in the country by ensuring that all judges conduct themselves properly whether in public or private life.
What Mohtar said about the need for judges to "refrain from accepting free or honorary membership to golf and private recreational clubs", "getting involved in gambling - like playing poker, horse racing or betting at golf", and most astounding of all, the revelation that "in golf sessions with those in the private sector, judges invariably tended to win big sums of money when betting", strike at the very core of public confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
For what Mohtar had said was an admission that such irregularities and malpractices are still prevalent, despite the gazetting of a Judges’ Code of Ethics for more than two years.
DAP calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the failure of the Judges’ Code of Ethics in the past two years to the extent that the Attorney-General had to give the judges a lecture on their proper public conduct, which has rendered grave and probably irreparable damage to public confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary in the country.