He said that this is an ideal that all states strive for and "it is certainly a vision of governance that Malaysia continues to endeavour to realise".
Unfortunately, the vision of good governance which Abdullah commits the government does not appear to extend to the judiciary as highlighted by the recent unresolved controversy of the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct hanging over the Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin.
Last Thursday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court issued an injunction to stop the Malaysian Bar from holding an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to discuss and pass resolutions relating to Eusoff, 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.
In granting the injunction, Justice R. K. Nathan said the Malaysian Bar should have accorded the Chief Justice the right to be heard before calling for an extraordinary general meeting to discuss his conduct.
In actual fact, for the past three weeks, since Eusoff’s public statement on 6th June 2000 disputing that there was any impropriety with regard to his New Zealand holiday in December 1994 and that he had merely "coincidentally bumped" into lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, I had issued almost a media statement a day to remind Eusoff of both his right and duty to respond to reports which contradicted his claim - in particular reports in Malaysiakini and Asian Wall Street Journal 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.
I had repeatedly stressed that Eusoff’s silence in the face of such contradictory reports was not conducive to the restoration of public confidence in the accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity of the Malaysian judiciary as with these reports and allegations unrebutted, Malaysians will be under the impression that the Chief Justice had told lies in public.
Justice Nathan made it clear when granting the injunction that he was doing so 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 - that the counsel for the Bar had not satisfied him that Rais had in fact made the allegations against the Chief Justice, as the the Bar’s exhibit of a newspaper report allegedly containing Rais’ allegations was "hearsay thrice compounded."
Five days after Nathan’s judgement, Rais again confirmed that what he had said about the Chief Justice in his interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 30th May 2000 was true and correct.
The Star yesterday (27th June 2000) under the headline "My comments
were taken out of context, says Rais" with the byline Hah Foong Lian
"’They were just comments after a paper I had delivered. So they should not be blown up by anybody and no aspersions were intended of anyone,' he said yesterday after launching the International Islamic University foster child programme at Kampung Tohor, about 50km from Kuala Klawang, an orang asli settlement.
"Dr Rais explained that his comments were made specifically after he had delivered a paper on Civil Liberties in Malaysia but it was not mentioned in the ABC interview.
"’To me, they were normal comments. I feel they have been taken out of context. Perhaps some quarters did not take it that way. That is too bad,' he said, adding that his comments were devoid of any personal references.
"He said the ABC interview had nothing to do with any particular issue at hand.
"Apart from his comment that any segment of the Government, be it the Executive, parliamentary or judiciary, must be in a position to renew itself from time to time, he said he used the special word--rejuvenation--which was reported.
‘’Dr Rais said when he was asked in reference to the photograph which had been on the Internet two years ago, he could not say that he did not know because he did.
"His reply, he said was that the judicial icon in any country, not only in Malaysia, should be careful and circumspect in socialising so that no odium would be cast upon them.
"Dr Rais said he did not expect the judicial icon to react and that he did not expect that his comments would be the subject of a court case.
"Now that they had come to the fore, he said he had nothing to hide and he still held the view that the Malaysian judiciary must subject itself to the people's perusal as what was happening in countries like Britain, New Zealand and India."
It is very clear that Rais stood by every word he said in his interview with ABC, the transcript of which is available on the ABC website (http://abc.net.au/ra/asiapac/archive/2000/may/raap-30may2000-1.htm) under the heading: "MALAYSIA'S LAW MINISTER RAPS CHIEF JUSTICE OVER KNUCKLES"
He said that his statement in the interview had been "taken out of context", not by the ABC, but obviously by the Chief Justice.
It is most unfortunate that without clearing the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct, Eusoff had been extended for six months as Chief Justice.
It is now left to Parliament to uphold constitutional propriety and integrity and demand that Eusoff should give a full and satisfactory accounting of the many queries that have surfaced publicly about his judicial conduct as having violated the Judges’ Code of Ethics, whether about his New Zealand holidays in December 1999, the two-and-a-half-year delay in the judgment of the Federal Court on the MGG Pillai defamation case as well as why it was necessary to extend his term as Chief Justice for six months to enable him "to put things in order before he retired" (as explained by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad) when efficiency and competence would not have created such a situation.
The whole country is watching and waiting for Parliament to meet on July 10 as Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, expect MPs, both from the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative, to be true to their oath of office and do their constitutional duty to adopt a resolution on the suspension of Eusoff Chin as Chief Justice unless Eusoff could clear the cloud of his judicial impropriety and misconduct.
MPs of the tenth Parliament should protect and promote the fundamental principle of judicial independence as an independent judiciary is indispensable to impartial justice under law. Judges should therefore uphold an exemplary judicial independence in both its individual and institutional aspects.
Judicial independence is not the private right of judges but the foundation of judicial impartiality and a constitutional and human right of all Malaysians. Independence of the judiciary refers to the necessary individual and collective or institutional independence required for impartial decisions and decision-making. Judicial independence thus characterises both a state of mind and a set of institutional and operational arrangements.
The former is concerned with the judge’s impartiality in fact; the latter with defining the relationships between the judiciary and others, particularly the other branches of government and the private sector, so as to assure both the reality and the appearance of independence and impartiality.
It would be best that the Parliamentary motion for the suspension of Eusoff as Chief Justice unless he could clear the cloud of judicial impropriety and misconduct hanging over his head should be jointly sponsored by MPs from all political parties represented in Parliament, both from the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative, and that this issue be treated as a strictly non-partisan one concerning the important constitutional principle of judicial accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity.
It would even be better if this motion be led by Rais as the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to show that on the constitutional principle of judicial accountability, independence, impartiality and integrity, Malaysians MPs regardless of party affilication can act as one.