Yesterday, Anwar objected to Mokhtar as one of the three judges in the Court of Appeal. Anwar said he had represented the Prime Minister at a Conference of Rulers meeting regarding the intention to cancel Mokhtar’s promotion from High Court to the Court of Appeal.
Anwar said he asked the Malay Rulers to postpone the decision to allow him to bring the matter to the Prime Minister for his assessment and to investigate further. When the meeting began, the Rulers’ only decision was to delay the appointment, upon his advice, without stating any reasons.
According to The Star, Anwar told the court yesterday: "I am only raising this issue because the case that I am currently involved in is already complicated without the additional pressure of Datuk Mohtar Sidin’s prejudice arising from my decision at the Rulers’ Meeting".
Lamin ruled this morning that "the decision made by Anwar has no bearing on this case."
"The content of advice (given by Anwar) has nothing to do with the hearing of this case," added Lamin, who also said that Mokhtar told him and panel member judge Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim that he had nothing against the appellant.
Lamin said: "He (Mokhtar) has given an assurance that he will perform
his task without fear or favour."
Although Lamin has made the decision and Mokhtar had given the assurance that he would perform his task without fear or favour, Mokhtar should reconsider whether he should personally withdraw from the Court of Appeal hearing over Anwar’s appeal to uphold the maxim "Justice must not only be done, justice must be seen to be done".
This case should focus public attention on the need for a more transparent system of judicial appointments.
The United Kingdom has introduced a new system of judicial appointments as the Lord Chancellor Lord Irving - the British Cabinet Minister responsible for the administration of justice - has recognised that the confidence of both the public and the legal profession in an independent judiciary is of the first importance. He has accordingly placed great importance on maintaining the quality and integrity of the judiciary by introducing a system of judicial appointments which is open to public scrutiny.
Apart from statutory qualifications for judicial office, the Lord Chancellor had announced three fundamental principles which underpin his policies in selecting candidates for judicial appointment:
(a) appointment is strictly on merit.
(b) part-time service is normally a pre-requisite of appointment to full-time office.
(c) significant weight is attached to the independent views of members of the professional community (and others) as to suitability for judicial appointment.
In applying the third principle, the Lord Chancellor regards the knowledge, experience, and judgment of the professional community (judges and members of the legal profession) as the best available source of informed opinion on the relative merits of applicants for judicial appointment. Before and during judicial service, views and opinions about applicants and their work are collected on a structured and systematic basis, in terms of the criteria for appointment, from a wide range of judges, senior practitioners from both branches of the profession and others who are in a position to assess the candidate's work and abilities.
The time has come for Malaysia to have a more transparent process of judicial appointments which is open to public scrutiny to restore the confidence of both the public and the legal profession in an independent judiciary.