Rais, who is Chairman of the Law Co-ordination Committee, said that although the government had ordered the report to be made, the committee is at liberty to decide the timetable.
I am very disappointed by Rais’ announcement. At the Second Australia-Malaysia Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra on May 25, 2000, attended by both of us, I had criticised the procrastination on the part of the Cabinet to address the criticisms and recommendations in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" which was a damning indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia.
"Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000", a joint report of International Bar Association, the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and the International Lawyers’ Union, was the latest in a series of adverse international reports since 1988 reflective of growing international concerns about a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary in Malaysia.
On 17th February 2000, the Malaysian Government was given two copies of the report through the Malaysian Permanent Mission in Geneva, but to date, the Cabinet had never addressed the criticisms and recommendations of the report.
In his response at the Canberra conference, Rais said he would shortly be presenting the report to the Cabinet.
This has not been done, but instead, Rais has pushed the date for presentation of a report on the administration of justice to the Cabinet to the end of the year.
Rais should explain whether he is waiting for the retirement of Eusoff
Chin as Chief Justice on December 18, 2000 before presenting a report
on the administration of justice to Cabinet.
After the Canberra conference, before Rais could present a report on the administration of justice to Cabinet, there was the Eusoff Chin-Rais Yatim spat in early June over the Minister’s comments in Canberra about the Chief Justice’s impropriety in "socialising" and holidaying in New Zealand with lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam. In the public spat, Eusoff ridiculed Rais as merely a Minister for "tables and chairs" for the courts.
On 19th June, 2000, Eusoff was given a six-month extension as Chief Justice on reaching the age of 65 despite his inability to clear the cloud of impropriety over his head in connection with his New Zealand holiday in December 1994.
It is a very sad commentary on the deplorable state of governance, the rule of law and the system of justice in Malaysia when the Cabinet Minister responsible for the portfolio of law and justice is not only publicly ridiculed by the Chief Justice as merely in charge of "tables and chairs" but had to defer presenting a report to the Cabinet on the adminstration of justice until the incumbent Chief Justice had finally retired from office on 18th December 2000.
The restoration of national and international confidence in the just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary in Malaysia has been too long delayed and denied and there should be an end to such procrastination. If Eusoff Chin is standing in the way of a revamp and rejuvenation of the judicial system, then he should be asked to step down immediately as Chief Justice, especially as he should not have been given a six-month extension of his office in the first place.