Friday, April 18, 2008

Abdullah Olive Branch Offering To The Judiciary

The dinner hosted by Bar Council and sponsored by the Government at JW Marriot turned out as anticipated.

The scoop by Leslie Lau of Singapore Strait Times, the "foreign intelligence" associate of the "JKKK" Government, for a series of concessions - Judicial Commission to appoint judges, greater independence for the judiciary, financial compensation to sacked judges, and expression of regret - turned out sebijik (exact).

The establishment of a Judicial Commission is much welcomed. The recent appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as President of the Court of Appeal was exemplry of the judicial abuse by Pak Lah himself, done legitimately under the ambit of the Constitution. Even within UMNO, there was much hue and cry on the appointment of a lawyer with a tainted private life.

It begs to ponder. How much commitment will Pak Lah give for the greater independence of the judiciary? Will it be complimented with the independence of BPR which is currently directly under his purview? Will he remain to be so, if any of his family members is at stake?

Lest we forget, this the man with a compendium of statements, slogans and promises, but none delivered.

Luckily, Pak Lah did not flip flop to offer an apology when he already committed not to apologise. It would be an embarassment to the Government. However, the mere financial compensation package is as good as an "admittance of guilt".

These judges are legitimately sacked, unless proven legitimately otherwise or absolve through proper proceeding. By the practise of Government, they are not entitled to any form of pension or compensation.

The Government had rejected the Cuepeacs pay rise demand and merely compensated with extended retirement till 60. The private sector have generally not seen pay revision throughout Pak Lah's tenure. On what legitimate or administrative precedents are these judges to be paid ex-gratia compensation? Are there prior agreement that there are no lawsuit arising from this "admittance"? Will this have legal ramification to other cases against Government?

It begs to ponder also. Are these steps by Pak Lah really genuine olive branch offering? Does it not appear to be merely sweeping under the carpet? Does it arise out of admittance of his own guilt? Or an insiduous political move to remain in power and avoid the "transition of power"? Pak Lah being Pak Lah, is there family link involved in this manouvre? (Look out in the next posting for a review and insider perspective.)

In the meanwhile, the following are news cuttings from The Star:

Background

The Star Online
Friday April 18, 2008


Events that led to judicial crisis of ’88

KUALA LUMPUR: The judicial crisis was sparked off in 1988 when the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad tabled a Bill in Parliament to amend Articles 121 and 145 of the Federal Constitution.

The Bill sought to divest the courts of the “judicial power of the Federation”, giving them only such powers as Parliament granted them. The Attorney-General was also empowered to determine venues for cases.

Tun Salleh Abas, who was the Lord President then, made a statement defending the judiciary’s autonomy.

He also convened a meeting of 20 Supreme Court judges in Kuala Lumpur and a decision was made to address a confidential letter to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and various state rulers.

The letter read: “All of us are disappointed with the various comments and accusations made by the honourable prime minister against the judiciary, not only outside but within the Parliament.”

Two months later, Salleh was suspended and High Court of Malaya Chief Justice Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Omar was appointed acting Lord President.

Salleh was brought before a tribunal for misconduct. In response, he filed a suit in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the tribunal.

Five judges of the Supreme Court convened and granted Salleh an interlocutory (interim) order against the tribunal. This order was later set aside and in August 1988, Salleh was officially removed from the post of Lord President.

The five Supreme Court judges who granted Salleh the interlocutory order – Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh and Datuk George Seah – were suspended.

In October, Wan Sulaiman and Seah were sacked while the other three judges were reinstated.

In August 2006, the Bar Council called for a review of the sacking of Salleh, Seah and Wan Sulaiman.

In March this year, newly-appointed de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said the Federal Government must make an open apology to those victimised by the judicial crisis in 1988 that had led to the sacking of Salleh.
Do refer to earlier posting for the Account by Salleh Abas and George Seah.

Event

The Star Online
Friday April 18, 2008


Abdullah pays tribute to Salleh and Supreme Court judges sacked in 1988

KUALA LUMPUR: It was a dinner for lawyers and friends graced by former judges and the guest of honour was the Prime Minister, but it turned out to be much more than a gathering for a meal.

The Malaysian Bar Council dinner saw the closure of a very painful chapter in the history of the country’s judiciary and, hopefully, the start of a new one to renew the public’s trust in the courts.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced several measures to reform the judiciary but to many in attendance, what was more important was when he paid tribute to six Supreme Court judges who were sacked in 1988, which he described as a legacy that still haunts the nation.

Turning to former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Datuk George Seah, and the families of the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh and Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, the Prime Minister said the Government wanted to recognise “their commitment towards upholding justice and to acknowledge the pain and loss they have endured”.

The fourth surviving judge, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, could not attend the dinner.

The late Wan Suleiman was represented by his wife Puan Sri Siti Nurhayati and son Wan Noor Azli, and Eusoffe by his granddaughter Brenda Lim and her husband.

Stopping short of an apology as suggested by his de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim a few weeks ago, Abdullah said: “For me and for many other Malaysians, these towering judicial personalities represent a very different era for the nation’s judiciary. Many felt that the judiciary then was a venerable institution which could be trusted to deliver justice.

“Some even hailed Malaysia’s judiciary as a model for other countries – independent and credible.

“This level of trust and respect for the judiciary, we must all admit, is simply not as strong as it was before.”

Abdullah also announced goodwill ex-gratia payments to the six sacked judges and their surviving families as recognition of their contribution but quickly added: “I do not presume to equate your contributions, pain and loss with mere currency, but I hope that you could accept this as a heartfelt and sincere gesture to mend what has been.”

He also addressed the need to renew the public’s trust in the nation’s judiciary and “to ensure that justice is consistently delivered”.

Abdullah urged the judiciary, lawyers and the nation to move on, as it was not “wise or helpful to revisit past decisions as it would only serve to prolong the sense of crisis – something our nation can do without”.

At the end of his speech entitled “Delivering Justice, Renewing Trust”, Abdullah was given a standing ovation. Salleh was among the first to get off his seat and warmly shake the Prime Minister’s hand as he got down from the stage.

In Abdullah's words – the time has come to write a proud and new chapter.
The Speech

The Star Online
Friday April 18, 2008


PM's 'Delivering justice, renewing trust' speech

IT IS an honour and a pleasure for me to be here tonight. I would like to thank the Bar Council for giving me the privilege of addressing this illustrious gathering. This is my first opportunity to speak directly to the legal community and related members of civil society since the recent general election.

As such, it is an important occasion and I thank you for taking time out from your busy schedules to be here tonight.

This occasion is particularly meaningful to all of us because of the presence of a few special guests. It is heartening to see at this gathering Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin and Datuk George Seah. Tan Sri Wan Hamzah had wanted to join us tonight but was not able to.

Sadly, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman are no longer with us. But they are represented by their respective families: representing Tan Sri Wan Suleiman are Puan Sri Siti Nurhayati and his son Wan Noor Azli; representing Tan Sri Eusoffe are his granddaughter Brenda Lim and her husband.

For me and for many other Malaysians, these towering judicial personalities represent a very different era for the nation’s judiciary. Many felt that the judiciary then was a venerable institution which could be trusted to deliver justice. Some even hailed Malaysia’s judiciary as a model for other countries – independent and credible.

This level of trust and respect for the judiciary, we must all admit, is simply not as strong as it was before. Although efforts are being made now by the present Chief Judge, still there are concerns related to capacity and efficiency, stemming from long case backlogs, delays and the outdated manner of court administration.

There are concerns which are less tangible but are nonetheless prevalent such as perceived corruption and perceived decline in quality. The business community, in particular, has voiced concerns about the fairness and capacity of Malaysia’s judiciary in settling disputes. This has directly affected perceptions of our country’s economic competitiveness.

No nation can call itself fair and just without an efficient and trusted judiciary. By “trusted”, I mean a judiciary that delivers justice and is seen to deliver justice.

In Malaysia’s case, debates and arguments on the state of our judiciary have been heated and protracted. Some of the Malay Rulers have openly voiced their disquiet on what they see as a decline, requiring nothing short of a judicial renaissance.

Some retired judges have related troubling tales of impropriety. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have called for reform of this most august institution. Even the Bar Council, true to form, has marched en masse outside my office.

To a large extent, the events of 1988 have fuelled much of the disagreement on how to move on. When I took office in 2003, I promised a credible, effective and independent judiciary.

I recommended judicial appointments in consultation with the senior judges before bringing the names to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as required by the Federal Constitution. I pledged material and fiscal support for the judicial service in order to reduce the backlog of cases.

I even took a political leap of faith by appointing an outspoken maverick as my new de facto Law Minister. I can say with a clear conscience that I abided and will continue to abide by the principle of separation of powers, leaving the matter of justice to the judiciary. And yet the legacy of 1988 haunts us until today.

Let us move on. The judiciary must be revitalised to enable it to serve the people in pursuit of justice. The judiciary must be fortified to be an institution that serves the democratic principle of separation of powers. The judiciary must be the guardian of the Constitution and the sentinel of the people’s rights.

This Government gives its commitment to the Malaysian public that it will begin a process of judicial reform. We recognise that this process must be undertaken with the spirit and belief that no one, not even those entrusted to govern or to make laws, must assume to be above the law.

This Government continues to guard against abuse of its powers, and is now proposing measures to further solidify and entrench the doctrines of good governance and the rule of law.

As a result of many events, which culminated in the inquiry undertaken by the Royal Commission into the so-called “V.K. Lingam Tape”, I am aware that the public considers the present way of appointing and promoting judges as inadequate.

The absence of a system in nominating candidates has led some to believe that the process is characterised by abuse, even where there is none. As is often the case, perception can lead to reality.

On the other hand, some may argue that the present system does not require improvement if people in the system are inherently honest and fair. The same system has produced its share of outstanding judges after all.

I do not dispute this, but the fact is, we can no longer leave such an important institution to hope and chance. The system must have built-in safeguards to prevent potential abuse and it must have a process that will convincingly identify the best legal minds in the country to join the judiciary.

This is a necessary part of ensuring that our nation’s judiciary is robust and trusted by the people.

Moreover, the demands on the judiciary today are greater than ever before. An increasing number of cases are being brought before the courts.

There is a growing body of law particularly in relation to specialised areas such as Corporate Law, Information Technology, Maritime Law and Islamic Finance. With these pressures come the need for expert and speedy decision-making.

Therefore, the Government proposes a change to make the process of nominating, appointing and promoting judges more transparent and representative.

I am pleased to announce to you tonight that the Government is proposing the setting up of a Judicial Appointments Commission to identify and recommend candidates for the judiciary to the Prime Minister.

While the constitutional prerogative of the Prime Minister to put forward names to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will remain, the Commission will help to evaluate and vet candidates in a systematic and credible manner for the Prime Minister, based on clearly defined criteria.

The process to bring about this change will begin now and I assure all of you here today that consultation on the workings and the structure of the Commission will involve primary stakeholders. All will have a chance to provide their input to the Government.

In addition, the Government will initiate a review of the judiciary’s terms of service and remuneration. There is a pressing need to set salaries and compensation to the right levels to ensure that the bench can attract and retain the very best of the nation’s talent.

This, and other measures which will be announced in due course, will form a comprehensive package of reform to strengthen the capacity and credibility of the judiciary.

For many, the events of 1988 were an upheaval of the nation’s judicial system. Rightly or wrongly, many disputed both the legality and morality of the related proceedings.

For me, personally, I feel it was a time of crisis from which the nation never fully recovered.

Again, let us move on. I do not think it wise or helpful to revisit past decisions as it would only serve to prolong the sense of crisis – something our nation can do without. The rakyat wants movement and progress, not continuing strife.

Therefore, the Government would like to recognise the contributions of these six judges to the nation, their commitment towards upholding justice and to acknowledge the pain and loss they have endured.

For Tan Sri Eusoffe and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and their families, I know this sentiment is made too late. For Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah and Datuk George Seah, although this acknowledgement is 20 years too late, it is made with much hope that a measure of the pain and loss may yet be healed.

In recognition of the contributions of the six outstanding judges, the Government has decided to make goodwill ex-gratia payments to them. Gentlemen, I do not presume to equate your contributions, pain and loss with mere currency, but I hope that you could accept this as a heartfelt and sincere gesture to mend what has been.

There is still much to do to renew the public’s trust in the nation’s judiciary and to ensure that justice is consistently delivered. What I have announced here tonight is a beginning of a longer process towards reform. I humbly seek your support for these measures because the need for reform may not be entirely clear to all.

The Government has set the ball rolling. We have put forward initial, but vital, steps. Now it is for all parties concerned – the judiciary, the Bar, civil society and the public at large – to also play their respective roles in facilitating these reforms.

Whatever our differences, we share the same idealism for our nation’s judiciary. Let us work through our differences.

With this, it is my sincere hope that we may begin a new chapter for the Malaysian judiciary.

It is my hope that this becomes part of a bigger process to further strengthen our democratic institutions, step-by-step resolving intractable problems that have stood in the way of genuine nation-building. Let us write this proud and new chapter together.

Responses

It’s a moral victory, says former Lord President

Lawyers laud panel to appoint judges

Restoring our faith in judges

Pakatan Rakyat applauds moves for judicial reforms

Now, will the legal and judicial community be true ladies and gentlemen own up to its own and offer a reciprocal olive branch for it's past bias adverserial stance towards governemnt and the ruling party? Lets be surprise be surprise by these paid courtroom gladiators.

Its horray for the judicial branch of Government.


But, as far as this Blogger is concerned, this is Abdullah admitting the mistakes of his unexposed past and hiding some insidious moves presently executed.

4 comments:

novice101 said...

We are talking about Fairness, aren't we!

Knowing the constraints the PM is facing and the difficult situation he is in, he deserves to be commended for what he has done. The wronged judges there last night expressed satisfaction with what was proposed by the PM. This matter should be left with the PM to take it forward for its implementation.

There may be some who are are still dissatisfied, they think the PM has not gone far enough. Let us give credit where credit is due. In the past 20 years of Mahathir's rule, no one had managed to nudge Mahathir an inch! Now, AAB has, on his own volition (albeit with some pressure from the GE12 result), has instituted some changes. This is more than what Mahathir had ever conceded. One may be still unforgiving and is adamant to want to extract more, but it would be good to remind oneself that one was also around in the 20 years Mahathir was the prime minister, what had one extracted from the man himself. Nothing, nought!

If one still feels more can be done and wants the PM and his government to go along that line, then it is for one to monitor, prompt, direct, advise and guide them.

Let us give credit where credit is due!

Anonymous said...

A Voice, an apology (if there is any) to Tun Saleh is a noble thing. But considering the timing, my opinion is that it was just another act pulled by 4th floor boys out of desperation, hoping to prolong JKKK political survival as Pak Lah is now reigning in a borrowed time.

Kelate School Boy

Letting the time pass me by said...

It is a puzzling and really conflicting thing altogether....

The government have not make any reversal of the judging of 1988 or any findings or whatever, so how can there be any such things as ex-gratia, apology and others? What is the justifications? I believe the government need to do the things accordingly and in a proper manner. If not, it will confuse others and will led to more critism....

I am not an expert in the law, but this is very strange... A sacked lawyer get ex-gratia, without even going to court?

At least some people who get fired fight in the court before they can get back the compensation....

Maybe it is a noble thing to do to compensate the people, but is the thing is being done in a proper manner? Well, I also have been fired for so many times, maybe I also can get some compensation...

rosli kadi said...

Remove Zaki Tun Azmi then he can talk about restoring our faith in the judiciary

Poorah ini semua mainan politik saja and BAR council macam bodoh tepuk tangan, dah kena toron pun tak sedar lagi

sama lah dengan saleh abas and the judiciary.. macamana PM noleh ada kasa nak kata they were wrongly treated, the sackign followed the procedure, there was a tribunal and everything
I mean Mahathir is a scumbag who put together the kangaroo tribunal but at least he went about it according to the letter of the law now the PN can independently declare that wrongfull, allo where you study law?

You got appoint a commission or tribunal to relook at that decision and then come up with a finding and recsommednation barulah betul

dolah ngok ngek

My Say