Lamin was wrong and totally misguided to allege that Raja Aziz was guilty of launching an attack on the Yang di Pertuan Agong when everybody knows that Raja Aziz had no such intent as no democrat of the 21st century can make such an inference when all Raja Aziz wanted was only to raise the public interest issues of the propriety, accountability and transparency of judicial appointments.
I am reminded of the baseless allegation hurled against me by a senior Cabinet Minister in the seventies, accusing me of disrespect and questioning the integrity of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, when I sought to move an amendment in Parliament to a motion of Thanks to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for his Royal Address in order to highlight issues of grave national importance omitted in the government’s policy speech.
Such an amendment to a motion of thanks for the Royal Address is a common spectacle in other Commonwealth Parliaments but in Malaysia it was perversely regarded in the seventies as an assault on the integrity of the Yang di Pertuan Agong. At least, Cabinet Ministers and MPs are now more educated as not to espouse such undemocratic, feudal and outmoded notions - but it is shocking that such mentality are still very alive among Malaysian jurists, like the recently retired president of the Court of Appeal.
Is Lamin seriously suggesting that the Attorney-General should arrest and prosecute Raja Aziz for sedition or even treason for his article in the recent issue of Insaf, the Malaysian Bar journal?
In his article, Raja Aziz commended the Chief Justice Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah for paving the road to recovery for the judiciary and creating an atmosphere where now “judges are seen to perform their function with more confidence” but questioned the choice of Justice Datuk Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim as the Chief Judge of Malaya, suggesting that Justice Malik Ahmad should have been appointed instead based on both grounds of seniority and merit.
Raja Aziz referred to the “apprehension” felt by many members of the Bar that the improvement of the judiciary might be short-lived with the appointment of Ahmad Fairuz as Chief Judge, Malaya, and discussed the several controversial judgements made by or involving Ahmad Fairuz, including the Court of appeal decisions in the contempt cases of Murray Hiebert and Zainur Zakaria; the dismissal of the Malaysian Bar’s appeal against the decision of the High Court to restrain the holding of an extraordinary general meeting of the Bar on, among others, the ground that the Federal Constitution prohibited any discussion on the conduct of judges except in Parliament; and his decision as election judge in 1995 where, after nullifying the election of the DAP MP for Bukit Bintang on the ground of having been disqualified from standing as a candidate, returned the losing MCA candidate as Member of Parliament without requiring the process of holding a by-election to be gone through.
What Malaysia sorely lacks is the robust tradition of vigorous, trenchant but legitimate criticism of judicial decisions and conduct to maintain public confidence in the judiciary, and Raja Aziz must be commended for blazing the path to create such a tradition - rather than the reverse scenario of subjecting him to threats of charges of sedition or even treason to ensure a cowed Bar and a subservient judiciary.
Malaysians regardless of political beliefs should be concerned by Lamin’s attempt to undo the good work done by Dzaiddin to restore public confidence in the judiciary and Parliament, when it reconvenes next Monday after its Deepavali break, should schedule a special debate to repudiate the Lamin thesis that criticisms of judicial appointments are tantamount to sedition or treason for questioning the integrity of the Yang di Pertuan Agong.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim, who hitherto had been very quick-on-the-draw on legal controversies should be the first Cabinet Minister to repudiate the outmoded but dangerous Lamin doctrine.
In fact, the Bar, the legal community and the civil society should speak up loud and clear to repudiate the Lamin doctrine, as the last thing Malaysia should do in the first year of the new century is to lapse to the past of a governance, whether administrative or judicial, which is divorced from democracy, accountability and transparency.