Mahathir appears to be suffering from a  terminal form of denial syndrome when he said that “if he was afraid of his boss”,  Justice Muhammad Kamil should have reported to him about the “telephone directive”

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad seems to be suffering from a terminal form of denial syndrome when he could say with a straight face that Justice Muhammad Kamil, when he had received an improper “telephone directive” from his judicial superior in September 1999, should have reported to him (the Prime Minister) “if he was afraid of his boss”!

Does Mahathir sincerely believe that this was a real option at the time for Justice Muhammad Kamil, when he received the “telephone directive” from the Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin, that he could report to the Prime Minister about the Chief Justice’s attempt to tamper with justice “if he was afraid of his boss”?

If Mahathir could believe this was a real option for Justice Muhammad Kamil at the relevant time, then his “denial syndrome” is even more terminal than I have thought.

May be, Mahathir should conduct a poll of all his Ministers at the Cabinet meeting  tomorrow, to ask them to vote by secret ballot whether they think that it was a real option for Muhammad to report to the Prime Minister after receiving such a “telephone directive” from the Chief Justice.

If the Cabinet Ministers, in a secret poll, could collectively or by a majority vote “yes”, then it is not only the Barisan Nasioinal government that is in trouble, Malaysia is in deep trouble, for the country clearly has a Cabinet whose Ministers who are  just not in touch with the ground.

I would even advice Mahathir to sack every Cabinet Minister who could vote “yes” in the poll, for such a Minister is no asset but a great liability in the country’s efforts to meet the challenges of national unity, globalisation, liberalisation and information and communications technology in the 21st century.

If Mahathir cannot understand that it was  no real option for Muhammad in Septebmer 199  to report to anyone -  whether in the judiciary, the police or even the Prime Minister -  against the Chief Justice’s “telephone directive”, then the country is faced with a very long and bleak road ahead just to fulfil the wish of the new  Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah to restore public confidence in the judiciary in his two-year tenure in office.

Mahathir was being most unfair in criticising Muhammad for not immediately lodging a report after receiving the telephone directive from his judicial superior - as there was simply nobody superior in any branch of government  he could trust to whom he could report to!

The Prime Minister may not agree, but this does not wipe out the fact that  1999 was one of the darkest periods of the judiciary, and no less a person than the present Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin
Abdullah  admitted to the  "unpalatable fact that public confidence in the judiciary has eroded in the last few years" at his  first meeting with 71 senior  judges on 13th January 2001 soon  after his appointment.

At the meeting, Dzaiddin acknowledged that "in reality, this negative perception has held back the country’s development as multinational corporations and foreign investors are reluctant to invest because they perceive there is no level
playing field", causing them to prefer arbitration outside Malaysia in the event of dispute.

In September 1999, when the  “telephone directive” was alleged to have been made, Eusuff Chin was riding high and no allegations, however serious, could touch him.

In fact, three weeks before Muhammad Kamil started the hearings on the Likas election petitions, I had on 5th September 1999 publicly called on Eusoff Chin to vacate his  judicial post as Chief Justice until he was  vindicated by an independent inquiry as he had not  responded to  very serious charges affecting his  integrity striking at the very root of judicial independence.

I had referred to the serious allegation about judicial impropriety alleged against him in court in the Asian Wall Street Journal  (AWSJ) defamation case the previous week, where the notorious Internet photographs and allegation that Eusuff Chin had placed himself in the debt of lawyer Datuk V.K.Lingam in having their families holidaying together in New Zealand in 1994 first surfaced publicly.

But Eusuff Chin just rode roughshod over the allegation, later claiming that he had “bumped” into Lingam during his holiday in New Zealand while on his way to a zoo -  when he met Lingam who tagged along and later posed for photographs with him!

In other countries, faced with such an allegation backed up with photographic and other evidence, the Chief Justice would have resigned, but in Malaysia, Eusuff Chin enjoyed such immunity that his tenure of office was extended another six months.

What did the Prime Minister do at that time to uphold public confidence in the judiciary?

In fact, up to now, there has neither  been any  satisfactory accounting nor known comprehensive investigation into Eusoff Chin’s holidaying with Lingam in New Zealand.

Is Mahathir now prepared to commission an inquiry into the serious allegations made against Eusoff Chin during his tenure as Chief Justice?

In fact, the Prime Minister should explain why the Attorney-General, Datuk Ainum Saaid had not  prosecuted  the former Chief Justice for obstruction with the course of justice on Eusuff’s own admissions alone about his telephone call to Muhammad to demonstrate that there is a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary where no one, including a Chief Justice, is above the law.

Eusoff Chin has admitted that he was the caller who telephoned Muhammad in September 1999, but denied that he had  “directed”  the judge to strike out the Likas election petitions without a hearing.

Eusoff said that he had called Muhammad Kamil “with good intentions, with the aim of getting the judge to speed up hearing the election petition” as the  Likas petition “was taking even longer than those filed much later, though it was a policy that election petitions should be given priority because of public interest”.

He said he drew  Muhammad’s  attention to two relevant cases decided in 1964 and 1966 by Tan Sri Steve Shim (now Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak) and Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamed (now Court of Appeal judge) respectively, which decided that the court had no jurisdiction to determine the correctness of the electoral roll.

As these two cases were the judgements of two High Court judges which were not binding on other High Court judges, and it is up to Muhammad  to decide whether to follow or to disagree with the two judgements, Eusoff had acted most improperly, tantamout to obstructing and tampering with the administration of justice in his telephone call to the election judge by his own admissions.

Or would Mahathir conduct a poll among all the over 70 serving judges to canvas their views as to whether Eusoff’s telephone call, on his own admissions, constituted unacceptable, improper and unlawful obstruction with the administration of justice?

Lest there be any attempts to create diversions by accusing me of expressing  death wish for  Mahathir when I said he appears to be suffering from a terminal form of denial syndrome, let me state I am  using the word in a political and not a physical sense. As the Oxford English Dictionary defines “terminal” as “(of a disease) ending in death, fatal”, a person suffering from terminal “denial syndrome” could be suffering a fatal political condition.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman