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.”

Your Royal Highness had in June 2004 warned that “the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary’s independence would ultimately lead to instability and remedying it would be a protracted and arduous task.”

But, very evidently, the tell-me-the-truth Government has not been listening (even though it claims to be open). After saying that you had given a “very good speech” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who is also the de facto Law Minister, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, told the press that the state of the judiciary that you had described was merely your “perception”.

Clearly contradicting the scenario that you had painted in your opening address, Nazri very proudly and loudly declared to the press that “there was no erosion of public confidence in the judiciary” (NST, 30.10.07).

You stressed in your opening address: “In matters concerning the judiciary, it is the public perception of the judiciary that ultimately matters. A judiciary loses its value and service to the community if there is no public confidence in its decision-making.”

When asked to comment on public confidence being an integral part of the judiciary Nazri said: “I agree but the public… what is the public? Does the public mean 1,000 or 2,000 people or the whole nation?” It was just as good as him saying “Does the public mean the voice of one Sultan?”

Your Royal Highness, if we were to apply and follow Nazri’s arguments and the twisted logic which he had used to arrive at his arguments, which appeared in a NST interview (28.10.07), your grave concerns would be deemed as “a false allegation”, a “perception created by some people… who are unhappy, make a lot of noise… ” Yours (according to the Minister) will be a view of the “minority”.

Nazri had also insisted that there isn’t a crisis in the judiciary and that “(c)risis means it involves the whole country but nobody talks about it. I even asked my fellow members of parliament (MP) but nobody talks about it. So, what crisis are we talking about? The crisis is in the minds of those who created it.”

The NST interview caused Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang to ask: “Will the de facto Law Minister, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz dismiss Sultan Azlan Shah’s increasing “disquiet” about the crisis of confidence in the judiciary as a “false” perception and baseless allegation of one person, in the way he dismissed the concern of Malaysian Bar on the ground that it is no “big deal” as only 1,000 out of 13,000 lawyers or 26 million Malaysians had taken part in the “Walk for Justice” to the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya?”

It now appears that the independence and future of the judiciary in our beloved country depends very much on the perception of one man — Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. He had even made it very clear (last year) that we have to ‘convince’ him first if things are to improve significantly in the judiciary.

Perhaps Your Royal Highness could educate the minister with what you had written in the postscript to your book “Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance” (pp 399 — 401) in April 2004:
“… statements made as to its independence (of the judiciary) by the judges, or even the politicians (my emphasis), do not measure public confidence in the judiciary. At the end of the day, it is this public perception that ultimately matters.”

As for the de facto Law Minister’s seeking refuge under the “silent majority” as “the public”, Nazri’s predecessor, Rais Yatim, who wrote “Freedom under Executive Power In Malaysia: A Study of Executive Supremacy”, would be able to unveil the Minister’s cheap and stale political trick:

The “… supremacy of the executive can be achieved and maintained within the so-called democratic process through political manipulations. This is exemplified by the very mechanism of democracy, namely, majoritism, which since Merdeka in 1957 the executive branch of government in Malaysia has been able to render subservient both the judiciary as well as the parliament.”

Your Royal Highness, one can understand why you are “driven nostalgically to look back to a time when our judiciary was the pride of the region and our neighbours spoke admiringly of our legal system” and we were then “second to none and the judgments of our courts were quoted confidently in other common law jurisdictions”.

Today, we are driven nauseatingly to look back at our judiciary. The region and our neighbours still talk about us. We have become a laughing stock. We are second to none when it comes to kangaroo courts and court jesters like the de facto Law Minister. The judgments of our courts are often quoted in political satire and online comic scripts.

May Your Royal Highness continue to speak out boldly on common law jurisdictions and the judiciary on behalf of the common man (and woman) as it has become increasingly common knowledge to many of us that we are being led by a Government tragically lacking in common sense.

A proud and loyal son of Perak,
Martin Jalleh
31 October 2007

  1. #1 by Jimm on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 12:41 pm

    YRH, thank you for that wonderful, long waited speech that created a positive path of Malaysia to be back on the right track as she longing to belong.
    I strongly believe that changes have to be executed and we, the rakyat have seen enough from the corrupted government.
    They always put up blames on others except their own selfish and greedy selves when comes to national issues and to make things worst, they have practice corruption ways to make a doubled gain for their own interest.
    For whatever left in this country as the national pride, we all as Malaysian do not need any more threathening statement from this government. We do not need any ‘instant’ Malaysians to keep this country under their control.
    Certainly, we do not need to have anymore important country law and order agencies under their control.
    Please take a look at us now, the rakyat.
    We have been longing for changes and a better Malaysia.
    This lands belongs to YRH and other Malay Rulers and as your rakyat, we just need YRH blessing to bring us out from this ‘ELITE’ colonail torture.
    Please help us all.

  2. #2 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 1:09 pm

    Your Royal Highness,

    History has it that anarchy, genocide and chaos have reigned in different epochs because good men, righteous men and men of integrity and calibre have at some time looked the other way or remained silent. Despots, brigands and brutes have held centre stage at these times causing those deep and sorry blotches, those dark, shameful and ugly blemishes in human history: Man’s inhumanity towaards MAn.

    50 years after Independence, Malaysia has come to another crossroads that would spell independence in the real and meaningful sense or a continued downward spiral into the cesspool of racism, religious fanaticism and unbridled corruption.

    Now, more than ever, Your Royal Highnesses must intervene that the people of Malaysia may live in peace and harmony, that the Monarchy may thrive in a democratic and peaceful nation.

    All it takes now for the downward spiral to continue, for the onset of anarchy and infighting and the nation’s coffers stolen from right under the people’s noses is for the nation’s pre-eminent Royalty to remain silent!

  3. #3 by mendela on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 1:56 pm

    The whole country is being hijacked by UMO and its cronies. We must put an end to this disaster!

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 2:33 pm

    Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz is certain that HRH had been misled and perceived things wrongly. Nazri felt that he is more qualified than HRH in legal matters. There is no ‘your way’, only ‘my way’, otherwise ‘no way’.

  5. #5 by Libra2 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 3:15 pm

    I am no more in Perak but I was born there and proudly carry a MyKad bearing -08- . I left Perak when I was just two-years old. I am proud because Perak has produced such a great monarch.

  6. #6 by Jong on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 3:56 pm

    You mean the Batak who swam across from Sumatra?

  7. #7 by Toyol on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 4:40 pm

    I cannot believe that we, the rakyat has to finally approach the Rulers for help in view of the atrocities committed by our very own leaders. This, my fellow Malaysians is how far we have fallen over the years. No thanks to the government who over the decades has propagated the culture of corruption, incompetence, tidak apa attitude and just being plain useless and lazy.

    If push comes to shove, we Malaysians has to stand firm and say no to these leeches who have over the years almost brought our beloved country to its knees by raping and plundering. We have to forget our racial differences and prejudices and unite against one common enemy…corrupted government leaders.

    We have to get rid of them and in their place, competent people who can manage our country’s resources efficiently. Basically, we have to appoint people who actually works for the people.

  8. #8 by shortie kiasu on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 4:42 pm

    Malaysians do not know why BN government under Abdullah Ahmad can have such “dumb” ministers in their cabinet. It is not the first time and will not be the last time he expressed such “dumb” statements on behalf of the BN government.

    And he always could not wait for others to say first, he always wanted his cake first before others. And his opinion is always so shallow and lack indepth analysis, and it can only reflects the state of affair of the current BN government.

  9. #9 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 6:52 pm

    Who am I to address DYMM Sultan? Just another member of the ‘rakyat’ driven off to foreign lands in order to find peace and security – to escape the rule of men and substitute it with the rule of law?

    The first three Prime Ministers the country had showed respect for the rule of law. The judicial branch of the government was relatively free from interferance by the executive. All that had been destroyed by the first Prime Minister, who was not a lawyer by training – a wannabe lawyer who once harbored aspirations of pursuing his studies in England but a twist in circumstances sent him packing to Singapore instead to study medicine.

    Now that this Prime Minister has been condemned to a life in the political wilderness of his own making, others are left with his legacy of corruption and abuse of power. Is it surprising that Malaysians living abroad could only read recent events involving the country’s judiciary with disgust, equaled only by a sense of powerlessness they feel.

    Notwithstanding the above, Malaysians forced to live abroad to make ends meet, to find employment where their government has consistently failed to provide any, to look for the kind of recognition for their skills their own government has refused to give and freedom they could not hope to find if they remain, see a role for their Highnesses albeit a non-constitutional role but a powerful one.

    True, for a section of the Malaysian public today to call for the support of his Highnesses when in the initial stages of this newly independent nation, criticism has been levelled at members of the country’s royalty for various reasons, is to take hypocrisy to new heights. Some would say. Many others would say that our constitutional monarchy is a young one; and as Malaysians flip over the pages of history and prepare to add new pages to it, they struggle and are conflicted over the issue of who best represents the public embodiment of the peoples’ will. In circumstances when a government said to be freely elected by the ‘rakyat’ has lost its legitimacy to rule over them as a result of the widespread corruption and flagrant abuse of power, the choice is clear. Today given the corruption and abuse of power by those in whom the ‘rakyat’ have placed their trust, they see a powerful role their Highnesses could play if not in exposing the excesses of this government, in calling attention to them and a warning that the ‘rakyat’ can only take so much.

    Let it be said that your royal hignesses are sharing the cross-roads to a different and better future for this young nation together with the ‘rakyat’. No one can be indifferent when it comes to issues of destiny for this young nation. Let us together seize the opportunity if allowed to pass with nothing done, would forever set the course to an eventual conflict and confrontation from which there can be no winners.

  10. #10 by dawsheng on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:42 pm

    Undergrad2, very well written.

  11. #11 by Filibuster on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 8:50 pm

    Undergrad2, did you mean the fourth Prime Minister in your post, in the sentence:

    “All that had been destroyed by the first Prime Minister, who was not a lawyer by training – a wannabe lawyer who once harbored aspirations of pursuing his studies in England but a twist in circumstances sent him packing to Singapore instead to study medicine.”

  12. #12 by alphoti on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 10:27 pm

    YRH, please pardon me for what I write here.

    I’m not a reporter. Can some reporter out there ask Mohd Nazri whether there is any law out there to sack HRH? Ask him to find one to sack him. He talk too much. He can create one. Remember Witness Protection Act?

  13. #13 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 31 October 2007 - 11:55 pm

    Thanks for the compliment, dawsheng. Just couldn’t resist!

    Filibustser, I should have added a line prior to that which is that “the first three Prime Ministers were lawyers by training”. Mahathir was the first who was not a lawyer and Abdullah Badawi, the second (who is not a lawyer).

  14. #14 by limkamput on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 12:56 am

    It is good for the royalty to get involved to help bring about change. But we must also be fully aware of what this change is all about. If we are talking about replacing the present group of people in power, then I think we are missing the point. History is filled with examples of “adventurous stories” when one tyrant was replaced by another. What we see today is essentially the contest for power. We have seen many politicians realigning themselves one way or another depending on whether they are in power or otherwise.

    It is too risky really to trust men to do the right things. I say this because if we all know how politicians play politics, then it is almost an oxy-moron notion to assume that they will do the right things once in power. So while we may solicit the royalty to bring about change, we must also make sure that this change includes strengthening the institutions that provide for rule of law, the “true” supremacy of the constitution, the clear and unequivocal separation of power, and robust systems that provide for accountability and transparency. Without these put in place, I dare say that the mere change in personalities in the government will not bring about any substantive difference. There was movie many years back set in a Latin American country where one tyrant was replaced by another in endless revolutions. It is a good lesson and I hope some of you can remember that movie. Think about it, the rot in our country was precipitated by TDM. Those in power today just find it expedient to carry on. And trust me, if our institutions do not get better, the future power that be will also find it very expediency to continue. Sometimes we have to think of government in terms of restraining its power. That is why in the United States, it is the constitutional rights of citizens to bear arms. The logic is very simple – most governments will some days turn the guns (paid for by taxes of citizens) against their own people. Look around us please.

  15. #15 by limkamput on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 1:02 am

    …And trust me, if our institutions do not get better, the future power that be will also find it very expedient to continue.

  16. #16 by undergrad2 on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 2:37 am

    “Sometimes we have to think of government in terms of restraining its power. That is why in the United States,…” limkamput

    During Tunku’s and Tan Siew Sin’s and Ismail Ali’s time, the business of the government was to govern. This gave way years later to big government when Tengku Razaleigh was Minister of Finance. The business of the government then was no longer just to govern but to do business.

    In the U.S. they do not like and do not trust big government. However, with the Democrats set to take over the White House, government is set to grow again. Taxes are set to go up to fund its growth.

    The difference between the U.S. and a country like Malaysia is the difference between countries with well developed socio-economic and political infrastructures – necessary preconditions for the growth and development of democracy – and countries with underdeveloped or undeveloped socio-economic and political infrastructures working to impede its growth and development. We do not have a free press, strong and independent associations and trade unions and similar bodies which act as pressure groups, and a strong political opposition. Instead we have repressive laws to check their growth – and a judiciary which acts like an appendage or extension of the executive. The rule of law is but a facade.

    Limkkamput is right. Any change if it were to occur could be cosmetic and when the rhetoric dissipates and power remains concentrated in the hands of the executive, we could see the re-emergence of another regime which pays lip service to all the above. The growth of democracy in a country struggling to come to terms with itself may remain stultified.

    Hence the need for ideology to help guide us.

    But at least we could declare never again would we be threatened with Islamo-fascism, the politics of divide and rule, of religion and race. Or could we??

  17. #17 by Godfather on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 4:42 am

    I wonder what UMNO apologists like RealWorld would say now. I guess he is still awaiting instructions from his masters Nazri and Zainuddeen Maideen.

  18. #18 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 6:45 am

    Even the lawyers are fed-up!

    Extract from Malaysiakini, on rumblings at the Malaysian Law Conference:

    Lawyer Fahri Azzat pointed out that the crux of the video shows how corruption cripples the justice system and the country as a whole.

    “Corruption ruins people and brings the Bar down. Why? Because it is a betrayal of trust and you can’t trust anybody any more.

    “So we are like flies trapped in the web of corruption. There is no institution, no government authority that will or want to help us. They are there to keep us deluded, distracted and denied.”

    In his emotional speech, he appealed to lawyers to be brave in confronting this fact, and then outlined the ineffectiveness of the PM in dealing with this issue.

    “Is the PM going to help us? I don’t really think so. He may say nice things about us but I don’t know if he remembers them the next week.

    He’s not interested in the Bar or the law. He is just interested in officiating events, smiling at cameras warmly, dispensing the most pedantic of homilies. I don’t blame him. People do what they do best and this is what he does best,” he said with tongue-in-cheek.

    He pointed out that the lawyers can expect no help from the judiciary, Parliament, the government, Anti-Corruption Agency, the attorney-general and the police.

    “Let’s face up to reality. It is because they want to be in power. Anything that works to the benefit of the people means the detraction of power from the elite in power.

    “We are on our own. All we have is each other and people who feel the same way. That’s all you have. I hope we can look deep in ourselves and say ‘enough’ because if not, it’s over.”

    During the session, an excerpt from the book ‘May Day For Justice’ by K Das was read out by his daughter, Jo Kukathas, a director of the Instant Café Theatre.

    In it, the author described how court doors and Parliament gates were locked in attempts to deny then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas a fair trial in 1988. He was later sacked.

  19. #19 by sotong on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 9:55 am

    Decades of bad leadership and governance of the country had done enormous damage to the country with permanent, long term and far reaching consequence.

    The people is looking for a good leader to bring some certainty, direction and stability to this confusing and messy environment.

  20. #20 by Libra2 on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 12:16 pm

    Abdullah Badawi, the second (who is not a lawyer).
    Not only that. He is the first non-professional MP, a local graduate with Islamic studies as his major.
    He is the dumbest of all the PMs.

  21. #21 by Jimm on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 1:36 pm

    Our Rulers must make their stand over rakyat’s voices now.
    They should realized by now that all the shortcuts managed by the national management team under BN have failed due to heavier self interest in greed of wealth.
    Of course, our PM are truly a ‘Puppet’ that can’t even balance his personal life because of his family ties frauds and greeds.
    Anyway, professional uses brains to carry our their tasks for the nation. Our management teams just act all and get their commissions.
    The Ketuanan subject that happens to be the power tools applied by the management team have actually put the Malays into shame and create a great void in building up leaders.
    All the young leaders that they groom today are basically spoilt brats and have no national value to lead.
    They are daring to conquer the world with their unmatured thinking and inbalance religion practices.
    As for AAB, he is goner even the SIL in not naming his son under his own name but the grandfather name. MK, you have won the race to SIL heart. NA … as cool as you can be .. just like your father .. another “PUPPET”.

  22. #22 by cancan on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 8:25 pm

    Allah,Jesus Christ,Goddess of Mercy.Lord Muruga,Royal Highnesses and Yang DiPertuan Agung,please save Malaysia.
    We are sinking,we need help.
    Please, we beg you.
    The rakyat are waiting.

  23. #23 by yellowkingdom on Thursday, 1 November 2007 - 11:26 pm

    A well-crafted article! You articulated the essence of the sordid affairs plaguing our judiciary. The imbecile de facto law minister ought to be put in his place with a dunce hat on his head. I couldn’t agreee with you more on how the nation as a whole found this episode repugnant and vile. Alas, must we rally the millions just to ‘convince’ the dunce-Nazri that all is not well.
    Best wishes to you and your family, Martin!

  24. #24 by De_5thElement on Saturday, 10 November 2007 - 12:15 pm

    Dearest Agung & Sultans,
    Please save your rakyat…!!! Your country, your land is bleeding…!!! Save us from this BN cronies who has all self-serving interest in the head but not the rakyat at large…..!!! We are in the midst of down fall..!!!

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