By LIM KIT SIANG,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader
Parliamentary Opposition Leader
3-man independent panel into authenticity of Lingam Tape unsatisfactory and unacceptable as it falls far short of what should be done – a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Lingam Tape and alleged perversion of the course of justice and the compromising of judicial independence, impartiality and integrity
Disbelief, shock and outrage – these three feelings sum up the general reaction to news of the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak of the three-man independent panel set up by the government to investigate the authenticity of the Lingam Tape of a telephone conversation between a senior lawyer V.K. Lingam and Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim in 2002 on fixing of judicial appointments and perversion of the course of justice.
Najib said the panel would be headed by former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor, with former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar and social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye as members.
The three-man independent panel into the authenticity of the Lingam Tape is unsatisfactory and unacceptable as it falls far short of what should be done – a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape and the alleged perversion of the course of justice and the compromising of judicial independence, integrity, impartiality and integrity.
The establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation is particularly urgent and imperative to restore public confidence in the system of justice as up to now, Ahmad Fairuz has been conspicuously silent in failing to personally issue a statement on the Lingam Tape – five days after its expose by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The denial which the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had made on Ahmad Fairuz' behalf is just not good enough, with zero credibility.
In restricting the panel to the question of the authenticity of the Lingam Tape instead of allowing full investigations into all aspects of the allegations of perversion of the course of justice and the compromising of judicial independence, impartiality and integrity raised by the video clip, the government is avoiding the imperative issue of the long-standing rot in the judiciary and the urgent need to restore national and international confidence in the system of justice with a truly independent judiciary and a just rule of law.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape would have first to address the issue of the authenticity of the video clip and there is no reason why an independent panel should be formed with the very narrow and restricted focus of deciding whether the video clip is authentic or otherwise, without the further powers of proceeding to further conduct comprehensive investigations into all the allegations of perversion of the course of justice and the compromising with judicial independence, impartiality and integrity.
In short, the government is trying to focus public attention on the technical question about the authenticity of the Lingam Tape and distract and disregard it from the urgent, imperative and substantive issue of the long-standing rot in the system of justice which must be identified and stopped.
Najib said that the panel's findings are expected in a few weeks' time and will be made public.
Is the whole game-plan to drag out the issue until after October when Ahmad Fairuz would have retired as Chief Justice and the whole issue could be laid to rest on the ground that it is now academic with Ahmad Fairuz' retirement?
The selection of members of the inquiry panel is highly questionable, particularly as the former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor had played a most controversial role in the 1988 Judicial Crisis (he was at the time Chief Registrar of Supreme Court) leading to the arbitrary and unconstitutional sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman as Supreme Court Judges.
In the circumstances, it is most regrettable that Haidar should be involved in any investigation into the Lingam Tape scandal, which should be the first step to clean the Augean Stables in the Judiciary to return it to the high international repute and esteem it enjoyed before 1988.