Eusoffe Chin should respond to the terrible indictment on the system of justice in Malaysia in "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" as the events took place under his tenure as chief judicial officer of the country

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Malaysians cannot but wonder why the Chief Justice of the Federal Court Mohd Eusoff Chin could respond to the comments by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Rais Yatim about his "improper behaviour" in socialising with a lawyer who appears before him, while he has kept a long silence on the recent report of the international judicial and legal community, entitled "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000", which was released worldwide in early April.

"Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" is 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,  based on a visit to the country in April last year  by three top judges/jurists, namely Lord Abernethy from Supreme Court, Scotland, Justice N. J. McNally, Apellate Judge of the Supreme Court, Zimbabwe and Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, Senior Advocate and a Commission member of the International Commission of Jurists, India.

The fact-finding mission was asked to examine:

  1. The legal guarantees for the independence of the judiciary in Malaysia and whether these  guarantees are respected in practice. The mission was to use as its yardstick the 1985 UN  Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
  2. The ability of lawyers to render their services freely. The  mission was to use the 1990 UN  Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers as a yardstick.
  3. Any impediment, either in the law or in practice, that  jeopardises the proper administration of  justice.

When launching the report in London, leading lawyer Lord Goldsmith, co-chairman of the International Bar Association, said that the "dismal catalog of the many ways the rule of law in Malaysia has been eroded" has raised widespread concern that judges did not act independently where government interests were at stake.

"Running through the report is the threat of the power of the executive and its effect on justice, not by any means in all cases, but in the few but high profile cases where government interests are at stake," Goldsmith said.

As the report  is a terrible indictment on the rule of law and system of justice in Malaysia, Eusoff Chin, should respond to it as the events leading to the report’s damning conclusion took place under his tenure as the chief judicial officer of the country.

The image that the Malaysian judiciary has given to the nation and the world is that it did not care for national and international opinion, however adverse about  its independence, impartiality and integrity, whether such opinion are legitimate or baseless, which is clearly not conducive to the vaunted government objective to transform Malaysia into a K-economy and  one of the top IT superpowers by attracting the world’s cream of talents to Malaysia.

The 143-page report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia in 2000" concludes that the
extremely powerful Executive in Malaysia has not acted with due regard for the essential elements of a free and democratic society based on the rule of law,

It finds that in the vast majority of cases which come before the courts at whatever level there is no complaint about the independence of the judiciary. However, in cases which are considered of political or economic importance to the Executive, there are serious concerns that the Judiciary is not independent and this perception is also held by members of the general public.

The report sets out a series of court cases which it says show that the legal system is being manipulated for political ends, including cases where lawyers have been charged with contempt of court or sedition while defending clients. It said problems with the independence of lawyers and judges had only arisen since Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  came to power in 1981.

Among the cases reviewed and referred to by the report are those involving Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim,  Lim Guan Eng, Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, Karpal Singh, Zainur Zakaria, Tommy Thomas and Irene Fernandez.

In its report, the four organisations urged the Government of Malaysia to recognise the independent constitutional position of the judiciary and not to interfere with  this independence in any way.

The Judiciary should  respond to the terrible indictment on the justice system in Malaysia by the international legal community, focussing in particular on its many  recommendations for a truly independent judiciary, including:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman