THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO ACT DECISIVELY
Yet again a crisis has emerged in the Judiciary.
It is universally recognised that a competent, honest and impartial Judiciary free from interference is critical to every society; and that public confidence in the Judiciary, and in its moral authority and integrity is essential to the Judicial process.
As such, any hint of impropriety in the Judiciary, whether in the appointment process or in the disposal of cases, or in the conduct of judges, must be investigated swiftly and in a thorough and transparent manner, so that the public is assured that there is no cover up.
The rot and shaken confidence in the Judiciary began with the 1988 Judicial Crisis which involved the suspension of 6 Supreme Court Judges and the subsequent removal of 3 of them including the then Lord President. Since then numerous other allegations have surfaced which have not been taken seriously.
For too long we have watched the confidence in the Judiciary wane. For too long we have watched the judicial appointment process become unfathomable and shrouded in secrecy. For too long we have heard criticism after criticism about the Judiciary. For too long we have cried out for reform, but the authorities have not heeded our pleas.
Malaysians cannot afford to stand by and watch any longer. The time has come for us to act decisively.
The videotape raises at least the following questions:
- How exactly were the appointments of Judges made at that time and since 1988, and what was the basis?
- Were appointments determined by outsiders to the process under the Constitution (involving e.g. businessmen or litigants), and how was this allowed?
- Who are the "key players" in the Judiciary referred to in the conversation?
- Who were the "soldiers" referred to in the conversation?
- Who were in the "other camp" referred to in the conversation?
- Who were the people who "fought for us"? Who is "us"? Who are "our friends"?
- What was the "private arrangement" referred to in the conversation?
- What was the 110% loyalty referring to?
- What was the nature of the relationships between the businessman, the lawyers, the politicians and members of the Judiciary?
These and many other questions raised by the video cry out for answers. It underscores the need for a Judicial Commission. If there is no truth in the allegations or inferences arising out of the video, then the parties concerned must be vindicated. If there is truth in the allegations (or in some of them), stern and appropriate action must follow. Either way, silence, dismissal, lukewarm responses or lack of action are not options for the Government. The response of the Chief Justice on Friday (21 September 2007) that he has no comment in response to the video clip is unacceptable but telling.
It is most disappointing to hear of official responses that seek to divert attention to the whistleblower, and threaten possible action against such person should the allegations turn out to be untrue. To do so at this stage casts serious doubts on the willingness of the authorities to properly and impartially investigate the matter. It will instead be a case of shooting the messenger.
The Bar Council calls upon the Government to immediately appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the incident and into the state of the Judiciary.
We have a duty to the public to act. We have a duty to the many good, honest and hardworking judges, to act. We have a duty to the institution of the Judiciary to act. We have a duty to ourselves as Malaysians, and to civilised society, to say loudly that: enough is enough. Let us find out what really went on (and goes on) in the Judiciary. Let us not continue to be in a state of denial.
Dated: 22nd September, 2007.