the past five days, the legal and judicial community in particular and the civil
society in general were rocked by
the stinging retaliation of High
Court Judge, Justice Datuk R. K. Nathan to the caustic comments of Court of
Appeal Judge, Justice Datuk Gopal
Sri Ram, presaging an unprecedented public slanging match between two judges
unless they are stopped.
Saturday, the Bar Council called for a judicial tribunal under Article 125 of
the Federal Constitution to look
into the conduct of Justice Nathan, deeming his outburst against a superior
judge to be an abuse of judicial proceedings, which itself evoked strong
reactions by some lawyers who were “appalled by the alarming headlines” of
the Bar Council’s involvement in the fracas between the two judges.
Chief Justice, Tun Mohammad Dzaiddin will make a statement on the open
confrontation between the two judges on Tuesday and undoubtedly the unseemly
spat between Justice Nathan and Justice Sri Ram must be put to an end in order
not to further undermine public
confidence in the judiciary, especially as Dzaiddin is light-years from the
objective to restore public and
international confidence in the judiciary, which he declared as his first
priority on assuming office as Chief Justice in December 2000.
failure to fully restore public confidence in the judiciary is particularly
disturbing as he has only slightly over a month left before
his retirement date on September 16, unless there is a six-month
extension or even a one-year or two-year renewal of his tenure if Article 125 of
the Federal Constitution is amended in the budget meeting of Parliament
beginning on Sept. 9, 2002.
local, regional and international
judicial developments have put Malaysia in the spotlight as lagging behind other
countries in efforts to re-establish
public and international confidence
in our justice system and the long, hard and rocky road ahead
if we are to restore
national and international confidence that we have
a truly independent and impartial judiciary
and a just rule of law.
the Indonesian justice system was on international trial in the four-month
hearings in the Central Jakarta District Court in the case of the state versus
Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, the 40-year-old son of former president
Suharto. Although the court’s
verdict of 15-year prison term after finding him guilty of having masterminded
the contract killing of a Supreme Court judge as well as illegal possession of
firearms and fleeing justice was disappointing to the Indonesian general
pubic’s demand for justice, the Indonesian justice
system by and large acquitted itself well in the trial.
the United States, a federal court judge gave the Bush Administration 15 days
from last Friday to publish the names of most people being held for suspected
links to the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Justice Gladys Kessler ruled
in Washington that secret arrests are “a concept odious to a democratic
society and profoundly antithetical to the bedrock values that characterise a
free and open one such as ours”
as a whole, and not just human
rights activists, are asking
when the Malaysian justice system could approximate to such
assertion of judicial independence
Malaysia, although the 18-month tenure of Dzaiddin as Chief Justice has seen
some reforms, such as on mega defamation suits and contempt of court proceedings, they have all paled into lesser
significance and importance in the failure of the Federal Court to rise up to
its greatest test in the Anwar Ibrahim corruption appeal to redress gross
injustices – a failure with world-wide
reverberations and repercussions as it was the Malaysian case with the highest international profile.
would be most tragic if the Nathan-Sri Ram spat should distract public attention
from the most urgent task at hand – the full restoration of public and
international confidence in the justice system in Malaysia.
calls on Dzaiddin to convene
a national conference of judges, lawyers and concerned Malaysians to
reach a national consensus on the institutional reforms in the justice system to
fully restore public confidence in a truly independent judiciary and a just rule
of law, as this is a matter which does not exclusively concerns judges and
lawyers but the legitimate concern of the civil society as well.
sad that the Bar Council has not been able to provide the needed leadership in
the past 18 months to work with the judiciary under Dzaiddin to put in place
fundamental institutional reforms to the justice system to ensure that a truly
independent judiciary and a just rule of law is the right of every Malaysian.