Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported a speech by Court of Appeal judge Justice Datuk Shaikh Daud Ismail marking the first sitting of the Federal Court this year - eleven days before his retirement on January 20, 2001, (although his judicial term was subsequently extended for six months) where he spoke of his embarrassment as a judge.
He said the tinting of judges’ cars used to be for the security of judges but “now I say it is to hide my embarrassment”.
Pinning the slide of the judiciary as beginning in 1994, he said:
“All along people were confident that they could get justice in the courts but in the light of certain cases before the courts and certain going-ons in some courts, they realised that the courts have let them down.”
He also said that he was told by a prominent lawyer that litigants were very confident of winning “hopeless cases” as long as they were filed in “certain courts”.
He said that when he joined the judicial and legal service in 1963, the judiciary was a “beautiful and well-respected” institution. The judiciary was held in high esteem by locals as well as by foreigners, especially by those from the Commonwealth countries.
The situation now was that litigants and lawyers were concerned that when they appear in courts, they would be subjected to contempt proceedings for the slightest reasons.
He said: “Some judges think the independence of the judiciary means they can do whatever they like because they have the power and at a stroke of a pen they can send anyone to prison for contempt or other reasons. To me, these judges do not understand the actual meaning of the term independence of the judiciary.”
Shaik Daud advised his colleagues not to merely be a “yes men” but to be judges.
Shaik Daud hoped that the new Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah would be successful in bringing back the glory that the judiciary once had.
He said: “The judiciary must be put back in its right place. It must be respected and held in high esteem by all strata of society, including the executive. The independence of the judiciary must never be compromised.”
I feel great satisfaction to hear voices in the defence of the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary coming from all quarters, even from inside the judiciary, when in the past decade, Karpal Singh and I were the two lonely voices in Parliament espousing what was regarded as a subversive cause - a truly independent judiciary and a just rule of law.
Battle for justice, freedom and truth are never totally lost as even in the blackest hour, there are silver linings to keep the struggle alive until more conducive times.
The battle for the restoration for independence, impartiality and integrity
of the judiciary has not yet been won. Dzaiddin does not have much
time to restore the judiciary to its past glory as he has only two years
as Chief Justice.
To ensure that efforts are fully focussed and that no momentum is lost, there should be quarterly reports on judicial reforms to restore public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim said recently that the government will build a memorial for Lord Presidents and Chief Justices in honour of their services to the judiciary and nation, to be named "The Tun Suffian Memorial".
Probably the Memorial should have two different rooms to separate those who had upheld and enhanced public confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary and those who had undermined or subverted public confidence in judicial independence, impartiality and integrity.