Full support for Chief
Justice’s pledge of “house-cleaning” in judiciary and call on Zaki to
demonstrate his endorsement by taking three steps
by Lim Kit Siang
The new Chief Justice of
Malaysia Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad has made a courageous pledge of
“house-cleaning” of the judiciary after being sworn in as the highest
judicial officer of the land.
Abdul Hamid is the first top judicial officer to admit to the rot in the
judiciary which has plunged national and international confidence in the
system of justice to the lowest point in the 50-year history of the
nation, and the rot in the judicial system is most vividly described by
the Chief Justice when he said:
“I am aware that this appointment is a heavy burden on me. It is more so
when it happens at a very challenging time, that is, when public
perceptions of the judiciary are disturbing, when the integrity of the
courts in the administration of justice is doubted, when appointments and
the behaviour of judges and their commitments in the discharge of their
duties, are all being questioned.”
Describing the judiciary as the last frontier of a nation, he said: “When
the people no longer have confidence in the courts, there will be chaos.
“The independence of the judiciary means giving decision in a case based
on law and evidence adduced in court without being influenced or pressured
by any party.”
I wish to express my full support to Abdul Hamid’s bold admission of the
rot in the administration of justice and his vow to “house-clean” the
I do not doubt Abdul Hamid’s sincerity, honesty or seriousness of purpose.
However, I am very pessimistic at the prospect of success of such a
“house-cleaning” by Abdul Hamid for two reasons:
Firstly, Abdul Hamid will create history as the top judicial officer of
the land who will serve for the shortest period, as he will be Chief
Justice for only four months, reaching his retirement age by 18th April
2008, and even with a six-month extension till 18th October 2008, the
longest period Abdul Hamid will serve as Chief Justice will be 10 months.
In fact, it is no exaggeration to describe Abdul Hamid as an “accidental
Chief Justice” as the powers-that-be had never intended for him to become
Chief Justice – and he would not have ascended to the highest judicial
post in the country if not for a combination of unexpected events outside
the control of the powers-that-be.
Secondly, will Abdul Hamid get full support from the full bench of judge
at all three tiers of the judiciary, Federal Court, Court of Appeal and
High Court, for a root-and-branch “house-cleaning” of the judiciary?
In urging judges to support his pledge of “house-cleaning”, Abdul Hamid
said the independence of judges in the discharge of their duties come from
within themselves and if they are firm, honest and clean, no one would
dare to approach them to influence or buy them out.
He said: “But, if we ourselves go about lobbying for appointment as judges
or to be promoted, then, we are the ones who have compromised the
independence of the judiciary.’
He posed a very important question to the judges: “The question is, is our
character strong enough?”
The rot in the administration of justice and the crisis of confidence in
the independence and integrity of the judiciary have a long and protracted
history lasting 19 years.
Unless Abdul Hamid has the full support of the full bench of Federal
Court, Court of Appeal and High Court judges, the Chief Justice will have
very little chance of success in any “house-cleaning” and it will again be
another tragic failure when one man is pitted against the system.
For this reason, all judges should give full support to the Chief
Justice’s vow of “house-cleaning” and the strongest support should come
from the No. 2 in the judiciary, the new Court of Appeal President, Tan
Sri Zaki Tun Azmi who should set an example of judicial accountability,
transparency and integrity by taking three steps:
Firstly, declaring whether he is still an UMNO member, and if he had
resigned from UMNO, when did he submit his resignation.
Secondly, make full public disclosure of all corporate interests
particularly those involving UMNO which he had relinquished on his
“triple-jump” appointment as Federal Court judge in September and
quadruple-jump as Court of Appeal President.
Thirdly, announce what steps he would take to assure the nation that he
will be Court of Appeal President (and Chief Justice of Malaysia next
October as expected) for all Malaysians and not for UMNO, and whether he
would recuse from all cases involving UMNO corporate or political
interests in view of his two-decade-long association with UMNO corporate
and political interests whether as Court of Appeal President or Chief
Justice from next October.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman