Country should make reparations and restore justice and honour to former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid, the country’s first judicial whistleblower who was victimized and punished instead of being rewarded for his act of supreme loyalty to his oath of office as a judge

The country should make reparations and restore justice and honour to former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Idid, the country’s first judicial whistleblower who was victimized and punished instead of being rewarded for his act of supreme loyalty to his oath of office as a judge.

If Syed Ahmad Idid’s whistleblowing in March 1996 had been heeded, resulting in thorough investigations and root-and-branch reform of the judiciary 19 years ago, Malaysian judges, lawyers and citizens would have been able to stand tall in the world today because we would have a judiciary nationally and internationally respected for its independence, integrity and quality!

Now, Malaysian judiciary in 2015 is back in the dock of public opinion, both inside the country and internationally, over the independence, integrity and professionalism of its judiciary and its commitment to a just rule of law because of four cases this year, viz:

i. the Federal Court’s 5-0 unanimous decision to dismiss Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal and five-year jail sentence in Sodomy II trial;

ii. the Federal Court’s decision to convict and sentence to death former police commando Azila Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar for the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, while leaving completely open the question of motive for the murder and who had ordered Azila and Sirul to murder Altantuya;

iii. the expose by retired Court of Appeal judge Justice K.C. Vohrah that former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin had caused a miscarriage of justice in the infamous Ayer Molek Rubber Company vs Insas Bhd case two decades ago – the case where Court of Appeal judge Justice N.H. Chan made the celebrated quote from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in saying that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”;

iv. the black-listing, discrimination and continued by-passing of Court of Appeal judge Justice Mohamad Hishamudin Mohd Yunus from elevation to the Federal Court, although he is the most respected serving judge on the bench, and whether this is a case of former Chief Justice Eusoffee Chin exacting his final vengeance as Justice Hishammuddin had subsequently and courageously struck out Eusoff Chin’s judgment in the Ayer Molek case.

Now another case of gross miscarriage of justice have leapt from the past of nearly decades ago, crying out for justice and reparation.

I still remember the notorious “Ides of March” speech in 1996, when the then Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah shocked Malaysians with the revelation of a 33-page poison-pen letter which made 112 allegations of corruption, abuses of power and misconduct against 12 judges at the Conference of Judges in Kuching in March 1996.

Publicly issuing a directive to the police to launch investigations to “ferret out” and “bring to justice” the “conspirators” and “brutish beasts”, Mohtar Abdullah said:

“The investigation is aimed at striking at the venomous elements that are out to discredit the judiciary and subvert justice in our beloved country.

“As Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor, it is my duty and responsibility to ensure that the judiciary and the legal profession be cleansed of these treacherous elements who, by their vile, insidious, devious and scurrilous allegations in this pamphlet had sought to undermine the integrity of the judiciary and the administration of justice in this country.

“Today is the Ides of March. But unlike that fateful day in ancient Rome, when brutish beasts succeeded in killing Caesar, today we launch this pre-emptive strike at these conspirators and Insya Allah, we will ferret them out, whoever they are, and bring them to justice.”

Four months later, Abdullah announced the close of the case when he revealed that a high court judge was the one behind the 33-page poison-pen letter against the judiciary and that the judge concerned had resigned.

The judge was then High Court Judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Idid, who became a victim to a Malaysian system of justice which was completely divorced from the most rudimentary concept of justice.

Syed Ahmad Idid came out of the woodworks more than a decade later, to reveal in an interview in 2007 that his allegations were never really investigated. This was confirmed by former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib who lamented that “on the other hand, the poor judge wrote it was investigated”.

I had raised Syed Ahmad Idid’s case in Parliament in 1996 and again more than a decade later in March 2007 calling for a re-opening of investigations into his serious allegations in view of their grave and adverse implications about judicial independence and integrity as well as to restore justice to the judge – but to no avail.

With Justice K.V. Vohrah commendable example of speaking up on the judicial misdeeds of the past, the dykes have burst and Malaysians must be prepared to confront the judicial demons of the past and face up to the miscarriages of justices committed by judges themselves and which have so far lay hidden in the dark interstices of the past.

One such glaring injustice in the judiciary is the case of Syed Ahmad Idid, and the tragedy is well told in Malaysiakini reporter Hafiz Yatim’s article “Ex-top judge’s disclosure vindicates whistleblower” today.

Hafiz wrote:

“Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Idid was the High Court judge who was forced to resign for writing an anonymous letter exposing the matter in 1996, which was sent to a select set of high officials.

“Among its allegations, it revealed (then Chief Justice) Eusoff had gone on a New Zealand holiday with VK Lingam, a senior lawyer who appeared before the then chief justice in court on a number of cases.

“Pictures of the duo taken together with their families underscored their close ties.

“It resulted in Syed Ahmad Idid being told to resign when the letter he sent mysteriously found its way into some government departments and then spread to the media.

“Syed Ahmad Idid’s immediate reaction to Malaysiakini’s article on Vohrah was elation – that the former Court of Appeal judge had written on the matter and he was certain other judges could also tell of similar experiences.

“Among other transgressions, the Ayer Molek case that Vohrah referred to was filed in the Special and Appellate Powers Division whereas it should have been in the Commercial Division.

“Syed Ahmad Idid also recalled a similar incident as a Kuala Lumpur High Court judge with the Commercial Division from 1995 to 1996.

“According to him, a case involving a sum of a quarter of a billion ringgit was correctly filed in the Commercial Division before him. But before it could be called in open court, the file was wrested away by Eusoff.

“’That matter was given to another judge who now resides, and must be enjoying life, in Europe,’ he quipped.”

In May 2008, the then Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi made recompense for the 1988 “Mother of Judicial Crisis” perpetrated by the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his first of many assaults on the institution and independence of the judiciary, sacking the Lord President and two Supreme Court Judges and victimising three other Supreme Court judges by giving an ex-gratia payment for “the pain and loss” they suffered in the 1988 judicial crisis.

This is what I said in a media statement of 6th May 2008:

“The victims of the 1988 Mother of Judicial Crisis and the ensuing two decades of judicial darkness, with three of the four chief justices during the period, Tun Hamid Omar, Tun Eusoffe Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz compounding the travesties of justice by the judicial system, were not just the six wronged judges in 1988 but also included innocent, high-minded, idealistic and patriotic Malaysians who want the best for the country. In fact, whole generations of Malaysians were victims of the 20 years of judicial darkness!

“Will the Prime Minister extend goodwill ex gratia payments to the other victims of the two decades of judicial darkness like former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and former High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid Syed Abdullah Idid (the first whistleblower from the judiciary with his 112 allegations of corruption, abuses of power and misconduct against 12 judges in 1996) as well as to the 106 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees in the 1987 Operation Lalang?

“The goodwill ex gratia payment to the six wronged judges are welcome though belated but they are grossly inadequate in clearing the name and reputation of the six and in providing a full and proper closure to the 1988 Mother of Judicial Crisis and the ensuing two decades of judicial darkness under three Chief Justices.”

This was why I had suggested in 2008 for a “Judicial Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “start a new chapter in Malaysian judiciary to turn our back on the 20 years of judicial darkness to find out the lessons to be learnt from the 1988 Mother of Judicial Crisis and the series of one judicial scandal and crisis after another which rocked Malaysia in the past 20 years, not out of vindictiveness or vengeance, but to prevent any such recurrence in the future”.

The Judicial Truth and Reconciliation Commission should focus also on why the various national stakeholders, the judiciary, Parliament, political parties, mass media, civil society failed the critical test to defend the cardinal Constitutional principles of the doctrine of separation of powers and an independent, impartial and competent judiciary for close to three decades.

The Judicial Truth and Reconciliation Commission should pick a leaf from the recompense to the six wronged judges in Mahathir’s first assault on the judiciary in 1988, and propose recompense to victims of judicial misdeeds and miscarriages of justice, like Syed Ahmad Idid and Justice Mohamad Hishamudin Mohd Yunus, as the latter had been blacklisted, discriminated and by-passed in elevation to the Federal Court because of his reputation as a judge with integrity.

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