Most ridiculous for Mahathir to blame Muhammad Kamil for “tarnishing” the image of the judiciary when it was under his premiership that the judiciary suffered the  worst crisis of public  confidence

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim defended the right and “power” of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to reprimand the Kota Kinabalu High Court judge, Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang for tarnishing the image of the judiciary.

The question at issue is not whether a judge could be criticised for his judgement or action, but that it is most ridiculous for Mahathir to blame Muhammad Kamil for tarnishing the image of the judiciary when it was under his premiership that the judiciary suffered the worst crisis of public confidence, making it an international laughing stock and  from which it has not yet fully recovered.

This is why when Mahathir blamed  Muhammad Kamil for creating the problem of trusting the court, he was  stretching public credibility to the utmost limit that he was speaking with all seriousness and sincerity.

In defending the Prime Minister’s “reprimand” of the judge, Rais said Mudhammad Kamil’s comments had hurt efforts by his department and judiciary to restore the image of the judiciary.

Has the  Prime Minister admited in the first place  that the image of the judiciary has been seriously damaged in his 20 years at the helm of government  and that there is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Does Rais agree that  the Prime Minister’s allegation that as a result of Muhammad Kamil’s action, the country has the problem trusting the courts is most baseless and unwarranted?

Muhammad Kamil had rightly clarified that his castigation of the government service was obiter dictum, giving opinion from his personal experience and that he was not raising personal problems in his judgement.

While there could be argument  as to whether Muhammad Kamil should or should not make the obiter dictum giving opinion from his personal experience that many government departments did not respond to letters, why is Rais making a mountain out of a molehill out of this incident, unless Rais claims that it is proof that Muhammad Kamil’s judgement was biased,  unfair and defective?

While Rais disagrees that Muhammad Kamil should have given the obiter dictum based on his personal experience on government service, would he nonetheless agree that the judge was spot on and most correct when he expressed concern that  “a worrisome trend or culture not borne out of Malaysian culture has evolved, where public institutions or government departments do not seem to care to respond to letters or reports received from the public” and his remark that “this is the very antithesis to good governance”?

What Muhammad Kamil said reflected the frustrations of the ordinary  Malaysian men and women about an increasingly bureaucratic and unresponsive public service.

Why should such an obiter dictum be regarded by Rais as “politicking” or “anti-administration”?

Surely, the proper response should be for Rais to raise in Cabinet to ensure the the “worrisome trend” against good governance where government departments do not care to respond to public complaints is nipped in the bud instead of trying to gun down Muhammad Kamil, who should be commended for making a significant  contribution in the difficult task of restoring public confidence in the judiciary!

The silence of both Rais and the Prime Minister to the gross impropriety of the then Chief Justice, Tun Eusoff Chin to make the “telephone directive” to Muhammad Kamil, based on his own public admissions, which tantamount to obstruction with the administration of justice, and the selective attack on Muhammad Kamil, raise the question whether the Executive is really committed to the restoration of the image of the judiciary.

If the Prime Minister is really concerned about restoring the image of the judiciary, then he should not be making insinuations against the judiciary, as in his UMNO presidential speech last Thursday, where he said that the Malaysian judiciary, “at times in trying to prove independence, the Government is denied justice and loses” - which was most contemptuous of the judiciary.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman