Abdullah forewarned – avoid valedictory judicial scandal with new Chief Justice Zaki Azmi

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reiterated yesterday that he would concentrate on five initiatives he wanted to see through in his final five months in office, viz: to table three bills in Parliament to strengthen:

(i) the judiciary; and

(ii) the anti-corruption enforcement;

(iii) increase the effectiveness and integrity of enforcement agencies;

(iv) to enlarge the social safety net to ensure aid to all who needed it; and

(v) to hold a Barisan Nasional convention to improve inter-racial and inter-religious relations.

Abdullah must be realistic enough to know that the overwhelming majority of Malaysians are skeptical that he could accomplish any meaningful institutional reform in his last five months in office when he was helpless and impotent in the past five years.

The outgoing Prime Minister does not have the luxury of time – as he could be put to the test whether he has found the resolve to implement reforms he promised two days ago in a matter of a week, particularly on judicial reform.

In fact, Abdullah should be forewarned not to plunge the nation into a new era of judicial crisis which could erupt in a week’s time if an Umno Chief Justice is appointed for the first time in the nation’s 51-year history.

The present Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad is set for compulsory retirement on 18 Oct 2008.

The Conference of Rulers will be meeting in Kuala Terengganu on October 15 and 16, 2008.

Article 122B of the Constitution provides that the Chief Justice shall be appointed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, after consulting the Conference of Rulers.

Will the new Chief Justice be appointed after the Kuala Terengganu Conference of Rulers?

For the past two decades, the country had been plunged into prolonged judicial darkness, rocking from one judicial scandal to another, making the Malaysian judiciary an international laughing stock.

One of the reform pledges of Abdullah when he became Prime Minister five years ago was to restore national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Malaysian judiciary to pre-1988 era.

However, nothing was done until the March 8 “political tsunami” when he appointed Datuk Zaid Ibrahim as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department with the specific task to implement judicial reforms.

But Zaid resigned as Minister after less than six months in office in disgust and protest not only over the abuse of the Internal Security Act but also at the resistance he faced in the Cabinet when pushing for reforms to the judiciary especially the setting up of a meaningful Judicial Appointments Commission.

So far, the only “accomplishment” in the judicial field is the ex gratia payment to the former Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas and four former Supreme Court judges who were victims of the “mother of all judicial crisis” of 1988 – the Mahathir sacking of Salleh Abas and two Supreme Court judges, Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh.

However, the country has not been able to fully turn the corner to start the arduous process to restore national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary because of ongoing judicial blots and scandals like the still unresolved Lingam Videotape scandal, the selective and malicious prosecution/victimization of Opposition leaders and the fast-track appointment of a long-standing Umno activist, Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi to the bench – firstly, the triple jump to become Federal Court judge in September last year without ever being High Court or Court of Appeal judge and then the quadruple jump three months later up the judicial hierarchy to become the Court of Appeal President.

Will Zaki make quintuple jump to be appointed Chief Justice of Malaysia after a year’s elevation to the bench when Abdul Hamid retires from the topmost judicial post in eight days’ on Oct. 18?

It is this possibility which holds the seeds of plunging the country into a new judicial scandal and crisis. Will this be the valedictory scandal of the Abdullah premiership?

This is why the Bar Council President Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has said that it is imperative that the new Chief Justice to be appointed should have the necessary qualities to set the tone of the Judiciary and guide its direction.

I endorse her statement when she said:

“This is all the more critical at this time when the nation faces many political challenges. An independent judiciary stands above the fray, giving the nation’s citizens a sense of security and stability that justice will continue to be administered in accordance with the rule of law, no matter what the circumstances.”

The Bar Council President’s advice should be given full consideration by the Prime Minister in the appointment of the new Chief Justice, especially as a Judicial Appointments Commission has not been set up in violation of an implicit undertaking that the new Chief Justice would be appointed under the new regime of judicial reform.

Article 127 of the Constitution restricted parliamentary discussion of conduct of judges when it stipulates that “The conduct of a judge of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or a High Court shall not be discussed in either House of Parliament except on a substantive motion of which notice has been given by not less than one quarter of the total number of members of that House, and shall not be discussed in the Legislative Assembly of any state”.

If next week, the new Chief Justice or new acting Chief Justice is Zaki Azmi, then this constitutional provisional is likely to be invoked for a full parliamentary debate on a substantive motion into his suitability and qualification based on a scrutiny of his conduct and public record particularly as Umno legal adviser, chairman of the Umno’s election committee and deputy chairman of Umno disciplinary board of appeal.

  1. #1 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 12:44 pm

    pi LAH mabuk…

  2. #2 by dawsheng on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 12:57 pm

    “This is all the more critical at this time when the nation faces many political challenges. An independent judiciary stands above the fray, giving the nation’s citizens a sense of security and stability that justice will continue to be administered in accordance with the rule of law, no matter what the circumstances.”

    I also know how to speak like that but what are you going to do about it Datuk Ambiga, what is the Bra Council going to do about it?

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 1:12 pm

    YB Kit said, “Abdullah must be realistic enough to know that the overwhelming majority of Malaysians are skeptical that he could accomplish any meaningful institutional reform in his last five months in office when he was helpless and impotent in the past five years”.

    Such ‘skepticism’ is reasonable. I have commented before in earlier thread about the workings of power transition – “The surface forms of power still subsist; bureaucracy still churns the paper work for his signature but real executive authority slips away. Decisions bureaucrats disapprove will be purposely delayed (waiting for the next man); diplomats and business men go through the motions of deference but reserve their real negotiations and importunations for the next man…”

    The theory is that with 5 months he could still lay down the foundation and legwork of the five reform initiatives he mentioned in the brief 5 months so that they may be carried on and taken further forward by whomsoever his successor depending on outcome of UMNO presidential elections.

    To which the next question – a practical one – arises : we have only to ask ourselves whether there is reasonable cause to believe that those who will succeed Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister are as committed to the 5 reform initiatives mentioned?

    If not, then how could espousing the 5 reform initiatives add gloss and substance to his short legacy when the fact is the test of commitment to reform initiatives is better proven by his willingness to fight to stay on with the president/PM position rather than give a walk over????

    In the premises, I will not be fired up by talk of 5 reform inititives when 5 years before have yielded no concrete reforms, not to mention one Minister like Zaid Ibrahim has also thrown in the towel, resigned as minister on grounds of being unable to prevail reforms on his party’s senior colleaques?

    I would be contented if he does only one thing for legacy : release RPK and Hindraf leaders from ISA detention.

  4. #4 by nyghtsky on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 1:12 pm

    Lots of pp can offer comments/complaints but we never hear contructive solutions/ nominations…

    Paklaaaaa is one man, and cannot do it alone… do this, do that also wrong…. come on! stop kicking the man when he’s down!

    methink, we need to stop with the negative and start putting forth some positive suggestions…

  5. #5 by Bobster on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 1:34 pm

    So many prominent people incl. formal Law Minister as well as Head of TI have advised Mr Lah what to do in the next 5 month while he still got the power ie review ISA and release the innocent detainees.

    Unfortunately Mr Lah still not get it. Saying he wanna fly while he still learning how to crawl.

    Wonder what legacy he is leaving behind, Mr I-Dont-Know? Instead of getting himself a Bapa Democrasi, probably going to learn himself a Bapa Tidurrr, Bapa Cakap Kosong, Bapa I-Dont-Know.

  6. #6 by shadow on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 1:38 pm

    The outgoing PM has failed his citzens. As suggested by Mahathir, its better for him to go on a long holidays. MAHATHIR ERA has started again. Hopefully the new PM will not follow his ldeology. Bring in new faces like Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and rid of all the old faces. In order for Malaysia to survive and compete locally and internationaly we need changes. Can the new PM make the Malaysians happy and united again? Make every Malaysian proud of his country!

  7. #7 by OrangRojak on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 1:48 pm

    “…justice will continue to be administered in accordance with the rule of law, no matter what the circumstances”


  8. #8 by Thinking Two on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 2:07 pm

    Not just changing the DRIVER but the VEHICLE as well.

  9. #9 by parli-man on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 2:09 pm

    I do hope for the whole country’s sake the Conference of Rulers will make a bold but wise decision

  10. #10 by taiking on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 2:34 pm

    Zaki the next CJ?
    Of course. There is no question about it.
    He is already the CJ the very day umno elevated him to the bench.
    What we will see next week is mere formality.
    Umno’s reluctance (remember what our friend zaid said?) to implement the judicial reform is the clearest indication one could have of the reality.

  11. #11 by wanderer on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 2:56 pm

    Appointing Zaki Azmi, it is doomed, before reform to the judiciary even can begin.
    Abdullah just concentrate on these 2 reforms… judiciary and ACA at best 3, Malaysians will forgive your long slumber and maybe, still hold you with affections. History will be the judge of your performance in your remaining days as a premier.

  12. #12 by Fair Play on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 3:41 pm

    That PM is sacrificing 2 months leave to buy time to do whtever he can is commendable . He loves UMNO enough to save it from further turmoil . Let’s hope he loves Malaysia more and do his utmost to bring
    some peace of mind to this troubled nation .

  13. #13 by chewek68 on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 3:51 pm

    the only thing that matters to the Umno-Bn regime is to continue their political hegemony. To do that, they need to continue their illegitimate control over the police , judicial system and whatever that counts. Justice , fairplay, and principle of separation of powers are just too eluisive and too much to ask of the Umno-Bn regime including this outgoing PM. Once again, mr Lim, you just keep on barking at the wrong tree, and keep on hoping a devil(Umno leaders) will change to a saint.

  14. #14 by gofortruth on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 3:52 pm

    Given the amount of “doubtful cloud” surrounding Zaki, do you think our Agong with the conference of rulers will just be rubber stamp and allow their country to continue to grope in judicial darkness.

  15. #15 by Captain on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 4:05 pm

    as usual, nothing will happen except mere words of a looser whose safe facing attempts will only backfire

  16. #16 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 4:20 pm

    hei dawsheng, be careful of your typo la…not bra council but bar council…ha ha ha is ok laughing is good

  17. #17 by wtf2 on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 5:24 pm

    can the King reject?

  18. #18 by Old.observer on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 5:33 pm

    I am less optimistic.

    Out of the 5 that Pak Lah has tabled, I personally expect ZERO results, notwitstanding the bills tabled. Any bills tabled will be lip service only, and adds to the existing large paperwork with ZERO benefits to Rakyat.

    And I don’t expect Pak Lah to release anyone from the ISA detention too.

    This is Bolehland, where things can appear to be done, when NOTHING actually gets done.

    And nothing will change, unless Rakyat votes for a change in government. Even then, nothing might still change, although in the latter case, there is HOPE! And HOPE means everything at this moment when there is NONE.

  19. #19 by abunsui on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 5:50 pm

    Zaki the next CJ?

    Beware of another serial of CORRECT, CORRECT, CORRECT!

    As of now serial of SODOMY case.

    “Ulangtayang” if Zaki elevated. No way! Zaki should not be elevated.

  20. #20 by Godfather on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 7:28 pm

    It is a done deal. It can only be reversed if there is a complete change in the federal government.

  21. #21 by despin on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 7:39 pm

    For someone who is about to lose his job, Badawi seems to be uncharacteristically jovial and happy. I think deep down, he wish that the 5 remainding months will pass quickly. Reform? Give us a break lah.

  22. #22 by James on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 7:52 pm

    This useless & sorry specimen of the human race is sleep talking……………That is what he is very good at – sleeping day & night while ambil gaji buta.

  23. #23 by alaneth on Friday, 10 October 2008 - 11:57 pm

    NATO – No Action, Talk Only…

    But AAB don’t really talk a lot. He is more of a planner, schemer. But many of his plans fail because he is too weak, too naive. A docile lamb unlike his immediate predecessor. Like what Karpal says, AAB is much better than N.T.R. Like father, like son. But for the sake of the Malaysian economy, and the stock market & investor confidence, although I prefer AAB to NTR, AAB stepping down will definately spur investor confidence which translates to more jobs & a better economy & KLCI will deifintely regain >1000pts. But thankfully we have >1/3 PR voice in parliment, so no matter what NTR does, he will have to pass our scrutiny too.

    Do don’t worry & go pick up some good stocks in Bursa & keep propping the KLCI up. Malaysia Boleh!

  24. #24 by yhsiew on Saturday, 11 October 2008 - 12:27 am

    On several occasions, Abdullah has shown himself to be a “dis-reformer”. I am not surprised if an Umno Chief Justice is appointed for the first time in the nation’s 51-year history.

  25. #25 by counsel888 on Saturday, 11 October 2008 - 7:23 am

    The Myth of the Independent Committee into Dismissal of Judges in 1988.


    “The myth about existence of only things scientists can find and only things theories predict, is just that a myth. Out of an infinite number, diversity and variety of myths made possible by the mystery of existence, atheists arbitrarily choose to believe in one pessimistic myth about existence of only things scientists can find; and only things theories predict” (Kevin M. McDaniel).

    Lawyers likewise have settled upon us this pessimistic myth as a rational default position. And there are those who insist, a belief in such a pessimistic myth is necessary in order to be rational, law abiding, fair, just or simply sane.

    However because the truth is that, a myth is a myth, it is also perfectly reasonable therefore to choose the most optimistic myth about their ( a lawyer’s) version of the law as a rational default position.

    Such a rational default position when pushed hard enough with other well worn urban myths, anecdotal evidence of corruption (and perceived dominance by one person, in this instance their bette noir Dr. Mahathir Mohammed former prime minister of Malaysia) it leads inevitably to belief in the myth about the law and the Malaysian Bar’s interpretation of it; that lawyers can find things that legal conventions and theories predict; and everything else that enables us to have the highest esteem in their beliefs and their purposes.

    I will refrain from quoting or adapting any further from the writer. Although the impact and the dimensions of his thoughts as expressed are critical to understanding at the introductory level, an analysis of the Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons to Examine the 1988 Judicial Crisis in Malaysia (“the Report” and the “Panel”) a proper analysis can be undertaken without embellishment or adornment of the facts.

    The Myth of “Terms of Reference”

    The Panel of its own material is a self serving forum. The composition and the authority by which it came into existence is equally a manifestation of the same self serving interests of the sentient mind behind it at all times, the Malaysian Bar.

    In an effort to lend legitimacy, a cosmetic semblance of dimension and depth to the Panel and its purpose, the Malaysian Bar had pulled together a raft of loosely knit interest groups referring to these as ‘various other groups’ in support of its star chamber.

    However on closer examination it could hardly be said that these various other groups were in any way representative of the broader community in Malaysia or independent or impartial to legitimise such an exercise. And finally for good measure in its list of cohorts the Malaysian Bar adds the media, but is careful to be non specific of this fourth estate.

    By the Malaysian Bar’s involvement in this inquiry, the Panel and its findings are deprived the character of independence it craves. Not that the removal of the Malaysian Bar’s involvement would in any way have necessarily cured that defect when one considers the political complexion and the position the Malaysian Bar and the other named groups involved had already taken against the subject of the Panel’s real objectives, Dr. Mahathir Mohammed .

    More important, one wonders what the real purpose of the exercise was, considering the Panel lacked any judicial or quasi judicial authority, legal or moral coercive force or any force at all for that matter that could in its wake prescribe or enforce the desired remedies the Malaysian Bar claimed to be pursuing by the Panel.

    The Panel is and was incapable of recommending prosecution or referring its findings to a higher tribunal capable of reviewing the events of 1988. It had no capacity or coercive force or influence to effect its desired outcomes, whatever these may have been, obscured by the heat of revenge, though not quite stated in those terms in its objectives. In short the Report is of little legal, jurisprudential, legal or moral significance.

    More damaging to the credibility of those behind the idea to set up this Panel are the statements of the Malaysian Bar through its president. Her statements ridicule the Malaysian Bar’s claims to uphold the virtuous principles of fairness, equity, justice and transparency in its endevour to bring closure to a matter otherwise long dead and buried.

    The Panel it seems turned out to be nothing more than a tool designed to exact vengeance from an individual not of their ranks, who it appears made mockery of their professional incompetence and the arrogance of their ignorance.


    This challenge for the Malaysian Bar should have been found in the dichotomy of the perceptions of law and justice held by them as legal practitioners and officers of the courts on the one hand and those same concepts as understood by consumers of legal services including the executive on the other.

    The problem though for the Malaysian Bar appears to have arisen from their inability to draw the distinction between justice as a process and justice as an outcome.

    The absence of a consultative process to include opposing points of view may forever remain a blemish on the credibility of the Malaysian Bar unless of course its members who understand the flaws in the proceedings speak up about it sooner rather than later.

    The Panel’s outcome appear to have been pre determined judging from the selective nature of evidence put before and accepted by it from one party alone. And in the absence of any countervailing evidence or dissenting views by any other party to or the subject of the Panels Inquiry either in terms of submissions or other contribution to the Panel, the terms of reference or the process of selection of the Panel the whole process was conceptually flawed from a legal, constitutional and moral standpoint.

    A fatal flaw in the integrity of the Panel and its findings lay in its composition. It was an appointment by one side. A kangaroo court or star chamber if you will.


    It is yet to be determined (20 years on form date of the event of 1988 and from publication of the Panel’s Report in 2008) what grevious offence so vital to the integrity of Malaysia’s judiciary or its constitution occurred, so radically different to similar events in other commonwealth jurisdictions, for that event to be so doggedly pursued by the Malaysian Bar and its allies.

    There are three branches of government recognized in the traditions of the Westminster system of constitutional government. The executive, judiciary and the legislature, like the father the sun and the holyspirit are not three gods but three persons in the one godhead. And as it occurs in that other holy trinity, the trinity in government vests much power in one of the three.

    Standing between these like a geographic border, an imaginary line between two states is the equally imaginary doctrine of the separation of powers. As fictional as any other doctrine (or law) is, the fact remains that these doctrines and laws are fundamentally recognized more in the breach than for their observance at anytime anywhere.

    So in 1988 a powerful and impatient executive, sick of the ‘cap in hand’ sub culture so inimical to a rapidly developing Malaysia burdened by the sycophancy and obstructive nature of a bunch of interlopers in the civil service and judiciary, took on the perceived omnipotence of the judiciary.

    Not laid before the Panel however, was the missing and critical evidence that certain elements of the judiciary then, attempting encroachment into the role of the executive and legislature through other forums, were discovered and challenged.

    The legislature by its chief chose to rise up to the challenge, call the bluff of the seemingly irrelevant doctrine and crossed the line. Interestingly no one died as a result. Malaysia went on to attract record foreign investment and rid itself of much of its third world status (except in the minds of those who blindly worship the west and all of its institutions even though they understand little of it or its application and consequences to them).

    In examining the relevance, the importance and the impact of this incident which has farcically grown into a modern day Spanish inquisition, one has to take a closer look of the conventions, doctrines and laws that government the conduct of the three branches of government.

    It would then be useful to compare these in the context of the doctrine of the separation of powers, and the individual powers of each of the other branches of government, the legislature and the executive to assess its impact arising from any breach of convention of the nature complained of, then examine the Report and reasons for the Report to make better sense of it all.


    In this whole saga there are two protagonists. One being a former Prime Minister of Malaysia, unrepresented at the inquiry and without any input to controvert or to contribute to the terms of reference The terms of reference broadly speaking in this instance is a roadmap created by the other protagonist, prominent members of the Malaysian Bar.

    To add to the farce, neither the Panel nor its Report were either independent or impartial evidenced by a statement attributed to the president of the Malaysian Bar following release of the Report.

    The president of the Malaysian Bar Datuk Ambiga Srinivasan unfortunately and perhaps recklessly appears to confirm what has long been suspected as bias in the minds of elements of the Malaysian Bar as protagonist either on its own or acting as a conduit for the frustrations of the former Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas and other disgruntled elements in government to exact a form of revenge against Dr. Mahathir Mohammed.

    That part of Ambiga’s speech that seeks to convey the Malaysian Bar’s settled position prior to the appointment of the Panel and its Report appears to be contained in the following quote from her speech;

    ” the bar has been steadfast in supporting the judges whom we knew had suffered a gross injustice in 1988”.

    The operative word in that statement above being “we knew”. By what means and how Dato Ambiga knew she clearly fails to establish. Any evidence to support such a bold prescient statement and the claim behind it should have been placed not before the Panel but a properly constituted tribunal or court within Malaysia for it to have been examined in light of all other “evidence” later presented to the Panel.

    It is easy to draw the inference by reference to that particular element of Datuk Ambiga’s speech, that an element of perceived bias can be said to have been present within the minds of the Malaysian Bar (and by implication their stalking horse the Panel) prior to empanelling the so called assembly of Eminent Persons. And by virtue of that element of perceived bias, now confirmed in her speech which turns out to be actual bias, participation by the Malaysian Bar into the whole process at any level has clearly tainted the integrity and independence of the Panel. It appears conclusively that the Panel was clearly stacked.

    Which therefore now begs the question; “should the Panel have continued with the process, in the absence of any input from any other party to its proceedings? perhaps a party that could have validly represented the interests of Dr. Mahathir or the government or a party that could have validly challenged the inquiry or provided evidence to controvert the assumptions laid before the Panel?

    And finally was this a witch hunt by an interested party such as the Malaysian Bar and for what reasons was the Malaysian Bar seeking to proceed with the Panel 20 years after the event, considering the distinct possibility that with the death and ageing of many of the witnesses, the quality of the evidence available could have well been eroded if not rendered unreliable and compromised for those very same reasons?


    There is ample evidence and a plethora of material from all over the commonwealth including nations from wherein members of the Panel were selected to show clearly that removal of judicial officers is not as sacrosanct or rare as is made out to be by the Panel and the Malaysian Bar in their findings.

    In fact a lack of understanding of the conventional doctrine of the separation of powers appears to be perhaps where the problem actually lies.

    Examples of Breaches of Doctrines and Conventions

    In 1975 the popularly elected government of Edward Gough Whitlam in Australia was sacked by the then governor general of Australia the late Sir John Kerr on the advice of members of parliament with the concurrence and written opinion of a judge of the High Court Sir Harry Gibbs.

    There was much debate that followed at every level of Australian society. Recriminations followed. But the debate remained at a mature and although emotional level relevant where valid arguments given the opportunity to be ventilated, controverted and argued fairly won the day. The winner was in the end a more politically mature Australia.

    The incident it was later discovered with the benefit of some research by scholars not to be unprecedented. A previous government in the 1930’s in the state of New South Wales had also been sacked in similar circumstances by the governor in breach of a convention.


    Interference in any of the three arms of government by the other is generally perceived as being detrimental to the independent and efficient functioning of government as it has the potential to erode not just the independence of each of the three arms of government producing potentially undesirable outcomes that in theory could lead to a dictatorship.

    There is an attempt and a convenient one at that to re cast the events of 1988 into an act that was illegal or unlawful perpetrated by one individual, that being the Prime Minister of Malaysia during that period, an event for which its is implied there were disastrous consequences for the integrity of the judiciary and the doctrine of separation of powers.

    What’s not understood or clearly explained is the fact that even if Dr. Mahahtir did sack the judge, his actions in doing so was neither unlawful, unprecedented nor one which the Prime Minister (assuming he did it alone) did not have the legal power at his disposal to carry out.

    Even if he did sack the judge and failed to follow procedure as laid out in the constitution there is nothing to suggest that he may not have cured the procedural defect subsequently of retrospectively.

    The fact remains that the power did lie with his government to remove members of the judiciary even if that meant doing it without an address to both houses of parliament.


    There are instances where judges have been removed by the executive simply making their tribunals or positions redundant. In a particular case which High Court judge Michael Kirby in his contribution to Tun Salleh Abbas’ book May Day makes reference, a judicial officer of the Industrial court was practically removed from office in this way. There was no reference to both houses of parliament no tribunal to inquiry into his conduct, simply a redundancy of his position.

    In doing so the executive and the legislature had simply overcome the burden of having to carry out the task through the conventional means of having to proceed through the cumbersome exercise only after an address to both houses of parliament.


    More recently of course there was the case of the sacking of the chief justice in Pakistan which resulted in rioting and mass hysteria by the bar in that country and by supporters of opposing political parties.

    One notes that Pakistan has had limited experience as a democracy and the events referred to occurred under a military dictatorship in a fractured lawless society which Malaysia is not.

    The Panel member from Pakistan therefore may not have been a good choice considering her limited exposure to the conventions, the rules and the workings of a bench and a government in a democratic environment.

    The notorious case of the sacking and jailing of former Queensland Chief Magistrate Di Fingleton is another case in point. Australia has had a number of high profile cases involving judicial misconduct wherein those (apart from Fingleton and Vasta) resigned rather than face the prospect of an ignominious trial by media and government.

    The Di Fingleton matter is so radically different from any other and can draw no comparison or analogy to the Salleh Abbas matter. It is perhaps an example of where the judiciary in their arrogance were so fundamentally wrong and ignorant of the basic law and the doctrine of the separation of powers that they ended up shooting themselves in the foot at the expense of a fine chief magistrate.

    And from the ranks of Australia’s hallowed legal profession is selected a representative to the Panel to judge not the merits of the events of 1988 but to hang Dr. Mahahtir instead.


    It is said that the Berthelsen affair was a catalyst in the whole affair of the sacking of the judges in 1988. Berthelsen a foreigner on a visa to remain and work in Malaysia had his visa revoked and was asked to leave the country.

    It is further alleged (a matter unfortunately up held by the appeal courts then) that Berthelsen was denied natural justice in that he was not afforded the opportunity to be heard in appealing the decision of the Director General of Immigration.

    It is well established in law that the physical presence of a defendant before a court in any jurisdiction including Malaysia is not a necessary pre requisite in order for that party to be heard. This is particularly so in matters involving immigration law where the appellant is abroad.

    Of paramount importance when weighing up the right to be physically present for a hearing and the danger of the presence of the ‘offender’ in the circumstances for whatever reason, is the opinion of the Director General of Immigration as was in Berthelsen. There is no reference to this point and whether the appeal courts dealt with such a point in considering the matter.

    There was no right to Berthlesen to remain in Malaysia. The grant of a visa to a foreigner (a non citizen) is a privilege granted at the discretion of the host nation not an absolute right of the non citizen as Berthelsen is and was at the time.

    The denial or revocation of his visa was a discretion at the hands of the Director General of Immigration who exercised that discretion. And contrary to what the court of appeal by implication decided in that matter it was not the right of Berthelsen a non citizen in the circumstances to be present in Malaysia (onshore) to be heard in his appeal against the decision of the Director General of Immigration.

    It appears the court of appeal not just erred but may have been negligent in arriving at its decision, perhaps fuelling the fire of a conspiracy theory which Dr. Mahathir then may have acted on.

    As an example, Australia has excised many of its territorial outlying islands in an effort to deny refugees landing on these islands the right to appeal ‘onshore’ in order to establish their rights to remain in Australian as political refugees.

    Regardless of the hue and cry raised by every human rights groups and the legal fraternity worldwide at the time, the High Court of Australia in its wisdom upheld the right of the Minister for Immigration to exercise the powers he possessed to do what he did in this regard.

    The matter was decided in the ministers favour inspite of Australia being a signatory to the Human Rights Convention and the Refugee Convention. The fact remains that unpopular decisions can be and often are not illegal or unlawful.


    Having considered the Berthlesen matter and the decision of the appeals court, one wonders whether or not it is necessary to labour the point that the other case of United Engineers could well have suffered the same fate of judicial incompetence in the hands of an anti Mahathir coalition of judges. And if that were the case, would it have constituted judicial misconduct or judicial misbehavior?

    Sallman in his paper on this subject refers to a number of cases of judicial misconduct, judicial misbehavior on and off the bench which would be worth a read by the Malaysian Bar. The fact of removal of judicial officers and the legality or morality of the issue depends much on a number of factors including the legal and social environment in which they operate. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

    Salleh Abbas chose to make an issue out of the events of 1988 and to demonstrate his abject lack of understanding of the process by not resisting the Malaysian Bar’s conduct in empanelling the so called Eminent Persons Panel. It was a self serving Panel appointed to prepare a report he Salleh Abbas so desperately saw necessary to vilify the former prime minster which act has served to reinforce the former chief justices apparent ignorance of how the system operates.

    This is just an abridged version of what I chose to communicate on this matter which is a sorry saga in the legal profession, an indictment of the profession on its ignorance of the law and its unrelenting efforts to embed itself in the politics of destabilization of a country whose rank and file workers have achieved so much in such a short time under the leadership of Dr. Mahathir and his government.

    Gopal Raj Kumar

  26. #26 by hvpl on Saturday, 11 October 2008 - 12:25 pm

    I signed the online petition on this issue. How many among these commentators did not, and yet happily lend your comments here?

    Talk is cheap. Action is what is needed, now.

    We are about to flop into another judicial crisis with lasting implications, but there is no solid advice from experts how to go about averting it with positive action.

  27. #27 by Loh on Saturday, 11 October 2008 - 7:47 pm

    ///There is ample evidence and a plethora of material from all over the commonwealth including nations from wherein members of the Panel were selected to show clearly that removal of judicial officers is not as sacrosanct or rare as is made out to be by the Panel and the Malaysian Bar in their findings.///—counsel888

    But the removal of a Lord President for writing a letter to the king complaining about noice in the renovation work in the palace must be the only case in the world. What was more remarkable was the removal and suspension of five supreme court judges in connection with his removal.

    It must be true that TDM is making a return, judging from the praises heaped on him.

  28. #28 by isahbiazhar on Sunday, 12 October 2008 - 5:06 am

    Najib has promised to help out in the reforms before Abdullah leaves.If not he could continue where Abdullah had left.If he fails the people will have the ballot to decide the fate of such leaders.

  29. #29 by counsel888 on Sunday, 12 October 2008 - 10:57 am


    respectfully, that’s Salleh Abbas’ version of events. Not by any stretch of the imagination has his version found to have been the primary cause even in the discredited findings of the Eminent Persons Report or any other independent report by a noteworthy independent jurist worldwide for his dismissal.

    It is perhaps the reason I am critical of the selection process and the composition and procedure adopted by the Tribunal (Eminent Persons) and their driver the Malaysian Bar with Salleh Abbas as pillion.

    Salleh Abbas and his cohorts at the bench were not lilly white pristine angels victims of a purge. Thats what he would like you to believe. Their conduct in many other areas fell short of whats expected and accepted of independent jurists or judges.

    Their conduct fell short of those standards and conventions he accuses the Mahathir government of having breached (by breaching the separation of powers doctrine).

    Selective readings of my essay will do no one any good. I am neither a Mahathir advocate nor adversary. I write purely on the issues which in this case stand out like a sore thumb which the Malaysian Bar continues to ignore.

    I have and continue to challenge them to respond anywhere and anytime on all of the issues and allegations I and many like me have leveled against them and their activities including their manipulation of the courts, the legal process and their direct interference in the politics of the country. They are still mute and have failed to rebut any of the allegations against them.

    The Malaysian Bar write prolific nonesense and pontificate virtues they themselves do not understand the values of on their website which is a one way street from which everyone else but their paid up members are prohibited from commenting on. Well except for self opinionated journalists whose writing skills are comparable to the best of their best with opinions and writing skills similar to theirs.

    Gopal Raj Kumar

  30. #30 by Loh on Sunday, 12 October 2008 - 4:28 pm


    respectfully, that’s Salleh Abbas’ version of events.///–Counsel888

    No, that is TDM’s version in his writing at CheDet.com

You must be logged in to post a comment.