NEWS ANALYSIS BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
October 21, 2013
Time for some honesty. Twenty-five years ago when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismantled one of the most respected judicial institutions in the Commonwealth and destroyed the concept of separation of powers in Malaysia, how many Malaysians were truly upset with his interference?
Not disappointed or perturbed, but truly upset.
Think back to the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas in 1988 and the suspension of Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh and Datuk George Seah.
Think back to the constitutional amendments pummelled through Parliament by Dr Mahathir, changes which essentially divested the judiciary of some of its powers.
No shame in admitting that the incident called the judicial crisis of 1988 barely registered a blip on the radar of most Malaysians.
The Bar Council led the charge, often taking on the Mahathir administration single-handedly in seeking justice for the wronged justices.
Opposition veterans like Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang shouted themselves hoarse on the far-reaching consequences of that politically-motivated intervention by Dr Mahathir.
But few were interested in listening to them, or even reading the book by K. Das on the darkest day in the history of the judiciary.
To the average Malaysian, what was happening to Salleh Abas and friends seemed so far away, so remote, something which had little to do with their quality of life. Few thought about what would happen to this country with a compliant and lame judiciary.
Very few wondered whether years down the road they would be denied justice because of the executive’s involvement in the selection and promotion of judges.
Few even harboured the thought that the written judgments of Malaysian judges, once widely respected for clarity, competence and sense of fairness, would be caricatured as cut and paste jobs.
Perhaps, more Malaysians have been forced to finally think about the judiciary in the wake of the Court of Appeal’s decision on October 14 on the Allah issue.
Maybe now, Malaysians will understand why illustrious Malaysians like Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Mohamed Suffian Mohamed Hashim were deeply concerned about what happened back then in 1988. They understood the ripple effect it would have on society down the road. They understood how difficult it would be to repair an institution that has been dismantled and destroyed.
This is what the late Tun Suffian said many years ago. “I had predicted that our judiciary would take a whole generation to recover from the assault. Now more than 12 years have elapsed, I doubt if the judiciary would recover in a generation from today,” said the former lord president in 2000.
How prescient. Too bad only a few Malaysians were truly disturbed with what Dr Mahathir did to the judiciary in 1988. The rest of us just swallowed the spiel about stability, economic growth. – October 21, 2013.