(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Congratulations to Federal Court judge Tan Sri Mohamad Dzaiddin Abdullah on his appointment as Chief Justice of the Federal Court on the final retirement of Tun Eusoff Chin from the highest judicial post in the land on December 19, 2000.
Dzaiddin’s uneviable but most patriotic task as the new Chief Justice is to restore national and international confidence in the system of justice in Malaysia.
One reason why Malaysia plunged 57 places in the past six years in the 2001 Index of Economic Freedom from the 18th position in 1995 to the 75th position in the 2001 Index and slipped from "mostly free" to "mostly unfree" category is the multiple crises of confidence surrounding the judiciary, the rule of law and the integrity of government in the country.
This is not the only instance the system of justice in Malaysia has received adverse international assessment and scrutiny with grave consequences retarding Malaysia’s development process by undermining Malaysia as an international investment centre as well as the country’s plan to be an IT power - the very reason why Malaysia is lagging behind other countries in the region to attract foreign direct investment.
In June this year, the Hong Kong-based Political Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) ranked Malaysia as amongst the five countries with the worst legal systems in Asia.
The PERC survey, based on polling of more than 1,000 expatriate businessmen, mostly in the countries assessed, ranked the legal systems of Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong as the best in Asia, followed by Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand and South Korea. Malaysia headed the worst list followed by India, Vietnam, China and Indonesia.
This is the ranking of PERC Survey in June this year (0 is the best possible score and 10 the worst):
National and international confidence in the system of justice in Malaysia suffered the two greatest blows in the history of the nation’s judiciary in the first year of the new millennium, one international and the other internal.
The first was the terrible indictment on the Malaysian system of justice by the international judicial and legal community in the report entitled "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000".
More than eight months had passed since the report was first made available to the Malaysian authorities, and although the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim had promised the Second Australia-Malaysia Conference in Canberra in May that the report would be presented to the Cabinet, both the government and the judicial authorities have continued to be conspicuously mute on the indictment.
But it was Tun Suffian, the most venerated former Lord President, in one of his last public speeches before his recent death, who pinpointed the gravity of the loss of national and international confidence in the system of justice when he said in March 2000: