Mahathir’s statement on the controversy over Eusoff Chin most outrageous,  the height of irresponsibility and the latest blot on government’s lack of commitment  on a   just rule of law by refusing to support the principle of judicial accountability

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Subang International Airport yesterday on his return from Japan that he did not see any need for the setting up of a tribunal or Royal Commission to investigate the conduct of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tun Eusoff Chin and alleging "a political agenda" to "strip" Eusoff of his post is most outrageous, the height of irresponsibility and the latest blot on the government’s lack of commitment on a just rule of law by refusing to support the principle of judicial accountability.
Either Mahathir genuinely does not understand or pretends not to understand that the controversy over Tun Eusoff Chin’s holiday and "socialising" with lawyer Datuk V. K. Lingam in New Zealand in December 1994 involves the important principle of judicial accountability, which is critical to the  maintenance of public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity  of the judiciary.

The Prime Minister is no stranger to making outrageous statements and allegations but what he said yesterday must rank as  his  most outrageous statement  in his 19 years as Prime Minister,  when he said he "believed   there were attempts to create friction within the Government machinery out of the quarrel between the Prime Minister’s Department and the Chief Justice", that "those behind the attempts were hoping that judges would become disillusioned, leading them into making unfavourable rulings against the government", and that there were "political motives behind this,  with the intention of putting judges and the Government at loggerheads" so that "when judges get angry, they will make ruling that will not benefit the Government".

By making such a statement, Mahathir  was not only haunted by the "ghost" of Anwar Ibrahim, but  making a blatant and unashamed call to judges to rule in favour of the Government regardless of the principle of judicial accountability.

Mahathir had  blithely ignored the fact that it was the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Rais Yatim who sparked off the controversy over Eusoff Chin’s "improper judicial conduct" when judges are prohibited even from engaging in "appearances of impropriety". Even more serious, the Prime Minister had chosen to disregard the fact that no attempts had been made by Eusoff Chin to give a full and proper public accounting of his New Zealand holiday although photographs of him and Lingam had surfaced on the Internet since early 1998, leaving many questions antithetical to the principle of judicial accountability unanswered.

In fact, in the October Parliament last year, I had tabled a substantive motion about serious allegations of judicial impropriety for debate but the government refused to give it time.

My substantive motion had read:

Although my substantive motion was not allowed to be debated, no action had been taken by any quarter to respond and answer these serious charges of judicial  impropriety.

Mahathir’s dismissal yesterday of the call for a judicial tribunal or a Royal Commission of Inquiry even before the Cabinet could meet today is a sad commentary on Cabinet impotence and irrelevance on the 19th year of Mahathir as Prime Minister of Malaysia.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman