PM promises bold judicial reforms but no apology

Nukilan Khairul Faizi bin Ahmad Kamil | 4/18/2008 01:06:00 AM | 2 Pandangan »

Malaysiakini - Beh Lih Yi Apr 17, 08 8:28pm
BOLD - this could best describe measures promised by the government to reform the judiciary as announced by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi tonight.

The prime minister said the government will establish a judicial appointments commission to identify and recommend suitable candidates for the judiciary to him. However, he did not name its composition.

The body is aimed to regain the trust within the legal fraternity after persistent complaints of the way how judges were appointed and promoted, where senior judges seen as critical of the government were often overlooked in the exercise.

Pak Lah also promised to review the judiciary’s terms of service and remuneration - another point of contention which has elicited loud calls for reform from many quarters, the legal fraternity in particular.

"There is a pressing need to set salaries and compensation to the right levels to ensure that the bench can attract and retain the very best of the nation's talent.

"This, and other measures which will be announced in due course, will form a comprehensive package of reform to strengthen the capacity and credibility of the judiciary," he explained.

Heartfelt, sincere gesture

In his speech at a dinner which lawyers dubbed the ‘Dinner for Justice’ at a Kuala Lumpur hotel tonight, the premier also spoke on the 1988 judicial crises and repeated his stance that the government would not tender an apology on the incident.

But tonight, he explained why. “It is not wise or useful to revisit this past decision as it would serve to prolong the sense of crisis - something our nation can do without”.

Sounding apologetic though, the premier said he acknowledged the pain and loss they (the affected parties) endured.

He announced that the government will make goodwill ex-gratia payment to the six judges implicated in the 1988 crisis, three of whom were later removed.

On the payment, Abdullah pleaded, “I do not presume to equate your contribution, pain and loss with mere currency but I hope you could accept this as a heartfelt and sincere gesture to mend what had been”.

Two of the six judges, former lord president Salleh Abas and Azmi Kamaruddin were present. It is reliably learnt that the premier himself has insisted on the presence of the four surviving judges of the 1988 debacle but George Seah and Wan Hamzah Mohd Salleh were indisposed. The other two, Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Eusoffe Abdoolcader had passed on. However, all of them were represented by their immediate family members.

At tonight’s event, Salleh was seated at the prime minister’s table - an honour that can best be described as long overdue for the former head of the nation’s judiciary.

The 600 high profile guests of top politicians, judges and lawyers present were generally appreciative of the contents of the PM’s speech titled ‘Delivering justice, renewing trust’ as many were seen nodding approvingly and applauding politely.

Making amends now

Observers are saying that the premier's latest move could be prompted by the serious blow suffered by the government at the March 8 general election.

Among the contributing factors to the dismal BN's electoral results was the declining confidence in the judiciary as its image was tarnished by claims of corruption, as well as political interference.

Last Thursday, Abdullah had said the government will not apologise to the judges removed in 1988 but revealed that the government will formulate a way to reinstate the status of the judges.

The request on the government to apologise to the judges was again brought up in recent days by lawyer-turned-de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim after his appointment to the post last month.

The judiciary has backed Zaid's proposal.

In 1988, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had convened a special tribunal to try Salleh on charges of misconduct and for questioning constitutional amendments that seriously eroded the powers of the judiciary. Salleh was subsequently sacked.

Supreme court judges Seah and Wan Sulaiman - who had ruled that the tribunal was convened unconstitutionally - were also sacked after being found guilty of misconduct by another tribunal.

Three other judges - Azmi, Eusoffe and Wan Hamzah were suspended.

Some have described the dismissal of the top judges from the Supreme Court - then the highest court, now renamed the Federal Court - as Malaysia's darkest hours in its judicial history.

Among the top guns present at the dinner tonight were MIC president Samy Vellu, Gerakan acting president Dr Koh Tsu Koon, MCA’s Liow Tiong Lai, Zaid Ibrahim and senior members of the judiciary and the Malaysian Bar.

Jeanne Abdullah accompanied her husband to the ‘Dinner for Justice' which was jointly organised by the Malaysian Bar, representing the country's 13,000 lawyers, and the government.

2 Pandangan

  1. Anonymous // April 18, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

    See Please Here

  2. 小针 // April 19, 2008 at 11:16 PM  

    Read my comment (in Chinese) abt the Judiciary Appointment Commission: