Archive for October 31st, 2007

An Open Letter to Sultan Azlan Shah

Your Royal Highness,

Thank you very much for portraying the truth about the state of the country’s judiciary and your accompanying clarion call for major reforms in the judiciary during your opening address at the 14th Malaysian Law Conference recently.

You acknowledged with sadness that “there has been some disquiet about our judiciary over the past few years and in the more recent past… there have been even more disturbing events relating to the judiciary reported in the press”.

“We have also witnessed the unprecedented act of a former Court of Appeal judge writing in his post-retirement book of erroneous and questionable judgments delivered by our higher courts in a chapter under the heading ‘When Justice is Not Administered According to Law’.”

You highlighted “serious criticisms” against the judiciary such as delayed judgments and backlog in cases as a result of incompetence. You gave the example of a case of medical negligence involving a death of a lawyer which took 23 years to reach the Court of Appeal.

“Similarly there have been reports that some judges have taken years to write their grounds of judgments involving accused persons who have been convicted and languishing in death row.” (Like the judge who failed to deliver 35 judgments including four in which the convicted are languishing in jail despite being sentenced to death seven years ago?)

“Surely, such a situation cannot be tolerated in any progressive nation,” Your Royal Highness so very aptly concluded. The powers that be should therefore understand why the lawyers walked, the people talked and the rest blogged.

You have rightly pointed out that this is not the first time that you have expressed grave concern over the judiciary: “In 2004, I had stated that it grieved me, having been a member of the judiciary, whenever I heard allegations against the judiciary and the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary.” Read the rest of this entry »


Malaysia: The People Are Fed Up

By Farish A. Noor

At a recent Law Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, bluntly told the country’s lawyers that demonstrations and protests about the apparent mismanagement of the country will do little to change things but will only give the ‘wrong impression’ that ‘something is wrong in the country’, and that this will scare aware foreign investors. The Malaysian leader was alluding to a recent protest march organised by the country’s lawyers which saw more than two thousand lawyers march up to the Prime Minister’s office in the capital of Putrajaya demanding reform of the judicial process and serious enquiries into the conduct and election of judges in Malaysia. Perhaps the Prime Minister was also alluding to the planned march on 10th November organised by NGOs like BERSIH which have called for free and fair elections in the country, supported by opposition parties like the Peoples Justice Party (PKR), the Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) of Malaysia as well.

What began as a relatively small event has now grown into what may become a landmark moment in Malaysian history: The march’s organisers aim to gather 100,000 citizens at the Merdeka (Independence) Square of the city and then march on to the national palace to present their petition to the King (Agong) himself, calling for the Monarch to intervene and look into their complaints about the poor governance of the country on issues ranging from corruption to abuse of power by the leaders of the ruling UMNO party and the government. As Latheefa Koya of the People’s Justice Party notes: “BERSIH’s march marks a crucial point in Malaysian history where people from all walks of life, and not just political parties, demand free and fair elections in Malaysia. By doing so they are in fact calling for greater participation in the democratic process”. The King has already signalled that he is prepared to receive the petition, while other rulers such as Sultan Azlan Shah of the state of Perak have publicly bemoaned the state of the judiciary in Malaysia.

While it is true that Malaysia is not Burma, it is striking to note how intolerant the state is when it comes to popular expressions of the people’s will in the country. Predictably the Malaysian government has reacted to the proposed march on 10th November with the usual round of threats: Those who attend the demonstration will be regarded as trouble makers and due action will be taken, the government-controlled news agencies have already warned. Read the rest of this entry »