This must be most distressing news to Malaysians who had expected an end to developments detrimental to public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary, as Eusoff Chin had not been able for the past week to rebut or even respond to very serious allegations in the printed and electronic media that he had not told the truth about his New Zealand holiday with lawyer Datuk V.T. Lingam in December 1994.
Eusoff Chin had said that he had "coincidentally bumped" into Lingam in New Zealand while Malaysiakini and Asian Wall Street Journal had reported that Eusoff and Lingam flew together with their families for their Christmas holiday in Auckland and Christchurch from Singapore to New Zealand and back to Kuala Lumpur.
Eusoff Chinís silence in the face of such contradictory reports is not conducive to the restoration of public confidence in judicial accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity.
It in fact throws into question the effectiveness, utility and even relevance of the Code of Ethics for Judges which was announced by Eusoff Chin himself on December 19, 1994, four days before he flew off with his family for his controversial New Zealand holiday.
Eusoff Chin had said at the time that the code of ethics to regulate the conduct and performance of judges was "for their own good, to protect and remind them of their duties". Probably what is needed is a specific Code of Conduct for the Chief Justice!
As the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct over the Chief Justice will be another blow to the tattered reputation of the system of justice of Malaysia, the Conference of Rulers should hold an emergency meeting to consider whether it is appropriate to give Eusoff Chin a six-month extension as Chief Justice when he is unable to clear the allegations of judicial impropriety and misconduct surrounding his New Zealand holiday.
Article 122B(1) of the Constitution provides that "The Chief Justice of the Federal Court, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judges of the High Courts and the other judges of the Federal Court, of the Court of Appeal and of the High Court shall be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, after consulting the Conference of Rulers."
Article 38 (2) (c) stipulates that "The Conference of Rulers shall exercise its functions of © consenting or withholding consent to any law and making or giving advice on any appointment which under this Constitution requires the consent of the Conference or is to be made by or after consultation with the Conference".
It is clear from both these constitutional provisions that the appointment and the extension of service of the Chief Justice must be made after consultation of the Conference of Rulers and that the Conference of Rulers is constitutionally mandated to give "advice" on these appointments.
The Conference of Rulers should take note of the vital importance to restore national and international confidence in the accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary which had suffered grievous setbacks as evidenced by the adverse recent report "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" by the international legal and jurist community and the latest finding of the Political and Economic Risks Consultancy (PERC) and exercise its constitutional oversight functions to ensure that the six-month extension for Eusoff as Chief Justice must be on the strict condition of his first clearing the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct arising from his New Zealand holiday.