The 9,000 members of the Malaysian  Bar  should  launch a mass  signature campaign in the legal profession to petition for full judicial accountability by Eusoff Chin over his New Zealand holiday in December 1994

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Kuala Lumpur High Court yesterday issued an injunction stopping the Malaysian Bar from holding an extraordinary general meeting  (EGM) today 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.

Justice Dr. R. K. Nathan granted the injunction on  "one basic preliminary issue"  without  going into the merits of the application by lawyer K. Raja Segaran that the Bar had committed sedition and contempt of court in convening  the EGM after he had asked counsel for the Bar whether it had confirmed that Datuk Rais Yatim, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had in fact made the statement he was purported to have made about the Chief Justice.

Ruling that  the Bar’s exhibit of a newspaper report allegedly containing Rais’ allegations was "hearsay evidence", Nathan said:

Nathan said:

In granting the injunction, the judge ruled:

Malaysians who are deeply concerned about upholding the principles of judicial accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity are disappointed that the EGM of the Malaysian Bar had been aborted on a technical point, without a full canvassing of  the  substantive merits as to whether such an EGM was seditious and contempt of court as contended by  the applicant.

This is particularly the case as the veracity of Rais’ statements in his interview with ABC Radio which was broadcast on May 29, 2000 had never been a bone of contention in the court of public opinion.

Neither Rais nor Eusoff had queried the veracity of the statement made by Rais on ABC Radio in connection with the photographs which had been posted on the Internet about Eusoff’s New Zealand holiday with lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, where he said: "Certainly 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."

The transcript of Rais’ interview with ABC Radio broadcast on May 29, 2000 is  available on the internet, and I have just accessed it.

Rais had never intimated that he had been misquoted or that his remarks were taken out of context. In fact, he  subsequently publicly confirmed his statement with ABC Radio when he defended himself after he was "taken to task" by Eusoff on 6th June 2000. Eusoff  also never doubted that  Rais had made the statement concerned and questioned the accuracy of Rais’ account, claiming that Rais had never met him to discuss anything on the judiciary but instead chose to talk to the press.

In The Sun of 8th June 2000, Rais went even further to confirm  the veracity of his interview with ABC Radio when he  explained "how the Australian media had asked him to comment on several photographs, in particular the one of  Eusoff with lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam".

The Sun reported:

Rais’ comment raised the question as to why the Internet photographs were only brought to the "attention of the relevant parties at that time itself" when they had been posted on the Internet for more than two years since early 1998, but this question could be deferred until later.

Rais also confirmed in the same Sun  report that he and Eusoff had spoken over the phone in the past, but he did not see the need to touch on personal issues as "I think that for someone in such a high position, there is no need for me to advise on such matters".

The High Court injunction stopping the Bar from holding an EGM today has brought into greater focus the problem as to how society can uphold the principles of judicial accountability and independence, and in particular, how the Chief Justice could be made to comply with the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994  which he had formulated himself.

The Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, recently said that the people can make their views known if they think that judges have erred, that although the judiciary is independent, judges should not think that they cannot be criticised.

The Malaysian people are now confused and would want to know how they could legitimately criticise judges for misconduct or who failed to  avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their activities when the legal profession is not able to hold an EGM on the matter.

Eusoff himself should make clear that he and the judiciary uphold and respect the right of the public to criticise judges, not for their court decisions, but for their misconduct or failure to avoid impropriety or the appearance of impropriety in all their activities.

With the injunction against the holding of an EGM, may be the  9,000 members of the Malaysian  Bar  should  launch a mass  signature campaign in the legal profession to petition for full judicial accountability by Eusoff Chin over his New Zealand holiday in December 1994, including an appeal to the Prime Minister and the Yang di Pertuan Agong for the establishment of a Judicial Tribunal into Eusoff’s controversial New Zealand holiday and that until Eusoff had cleared the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct over him, he should abstain from exercising the powers of the Chief Justice - whether in personally hearing cases or appeals or exercising the administrative powers over judges in distributing or rostering cases.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman