A fortnight ago, when opening the 5th National Civil Service Conference on "Good Governance: Issues and Challenges" in Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi embraced the concept of "good governance" which he said was most accurately defined at the 1999 World Conference on Governance in Manila as "a system that is transparent, accountable, just, fair, democratic, participatory and responsive to the people’s needs".
He said that this is an ideal that all states strive for and "it is certainly a vision of governance that Malaysia continues to endeavour to realise".
Unfortunately, the vision of good governance which Abdullah commits the government does not appear to extend to the judiciary as highlighted by Rais’ evasion of the controversy over the Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin, violating the Judges’ Code of Conduct when it was brought up in the Dewan Rakyat by the Keadilan MP for Kemaman, Abdul Rahman Yusof, in an adjournment speech.
Rais took refuge in Article 127 of the Malaysian Constitution to avoid the principle of good governance and judicial accountability. Article 127 stipulates: "The conduct of a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court shall not be discussed in either House of Parliament except on a substantive motion of which notice has been given by not less than one quarter of the total number of members of that House, and shall not be discussed in the Legislative Assembly of any State."
This has put both Rais and the Malaysian Parliament in a ludicrous situation. For instance, Rais is saying that there was nothing wrong when he commented to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Canberra in May on the Internet photographs about the Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin holidaying with lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam in New Zealand in December 1994, or in his interview in ABC where he said that "such socialising shall I say is not in keeping with the proper behaviour of a judicial personality and we have intimated to the chief justice that this is a behaviour improper and this has been intimated to him in no uncertian terms."
However, he cannot say the same thing in Parliament because he is prohibited by Article 127 of the Malaysian Constitution unless there is a substantive motion supported by at least one quarter of the total number of MPs.
In fact, Rais repeated his Canberra comments in Jelebu a few days after the Kuala Lumpur High Court issued an injunction on June 22, 2000 stopping the Malaysian Bar from holding an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to discuss and pass resolutions arising from the conduct of Chief Justice Tun Mohd Eusoff Chin, including calls on the Prime Minister to make representations to the Yang di Pertuan Agong to set up a judicial tribunal or alternatively a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate Eusoff’s conduct and "its implications on the judiciary" and to make recommendations to restore full confidence in the judiciary, and Eusoff’s suspension pending the outcome.
There are people who say the law is sometimes an "ass" but it has still to be enforced, but Rais appears to be telling Malaysians that the Constitution is also an "ass" where he could say things about the Chief Justice inside and outside the country but which he could not repeat in Parliament.
This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs which is not calculated to enhance public respect either for Parliament or the Malaysian Constitution.
After the Kuala Lumpur High Court injunction against the Malaysian Bar holding an extraordinary general meeting relating to the judicial misconduct of the Chief Justice, Malaysians look to Parliament as the last resort in the country to uphold constitutional propriety and integrity and demand that Eusoff should give a full and satisfactory accounting of the many queries that have surfaced publicly of his violation of the Judges’ Code of Ethics, particularly with regard to his New Zealand holidays in December 1994 and the Internet photographs.
According to Article 127 of the Constitution, the controversy over the Chief Justice’s violation of the Judges’ Code of Conduct - his New Zealand holdiays with Lingam and whether he had publicly told a lie in his public explanation - can only be discussed in Parliament if there is a substantive motion supported by at least one quarter of the total number of MPs, i.e. at least 48 out of a total of 193 MPs.
At present, the total number of Opposition MPs comes to 45, i.e. 42 Barisan Alternative and three from PBS, still three short of the minimum required of 48 MPs for a substantive motion to be tabled in Parliament to demand open accountability from Eusoff Chin that he had violated the Judges’ Code of Ethics.
Are there at least three Barisan Nasional MPs with guts and who are fully committed to the principle of judicial accountability and independence so that Parliament could hold Eusoff Chin to account for his failure to clear the cloud of his judicial impropriety and misconduct
The whole country is watching and waiting to see whether there are at least three out of the total of 148 Barisan Nasional MPs who have guts and who are prepared to stand by their parliamentary oath of office to protect and promote the fundamental principle of judicial accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity.
Parliament would be failing in its duty if it ignores the great controversy
over the Chief Justice violating the Judges’ Code of Ethics. If there are
at least three out of the total of 148 Barisan Nasional MPs who have guts
and are truly committed to the fundamental principle of judicial accountability
and independence and are prepared to support a substantive motion to demand
that Eusoff Chin should give full accountability in the burning controversy
over his violating the Judges’ Codes of Ethics, then let them stand up
and be counted publicly!