Damian S. L. Yeo & L. C. Goh (DSLY)
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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reference of the late Tan Sri Dato' Seri Abdul Malek Ahmad

Well said Madam President. His passing away indeed is a lost not only to the legal fraternity but to all Malaysian. During the Commission proceedings, we were told that he is to be appointed as Chief Justice of Malaya. I am not surprised. In fact with such credibility and independence he advocated, he deserved the honour, not just as Chief Justice of Malaya but the No. 1 man in the judiciary. Malaysia truly lost a man of integrity, upright and decent.

I had the opportunity and privilege to have appeared and known such a distinguished gentleman.

I must say that it will take another decade to find another man of such nature.

May his soul rest in peace...


President's Speech at the reference for the late Tan Sri Dato' Seri Abdul Malek Ahmad
Contributed by Ambiga Sreenevasan

Tan Sri Dato Seri Abdul Malek AhmadThe late Tan Sri Dato Seri Abdul Malek Ahmad knew what it was to be a Judge.

He knew the sacred trust that was his office. He knew that to be a great Judge one had to have independence and integrity, courage and compassion, dignity and honour. He knew that in him was vested the heavy burden of deciding the fate of his fellow man and that this burden had to be discharged honestly and to the best of his ability. He knew it, he cherished it, he lived it.

His razor sharp mind and his excellent judicial temperament made appearing before him both challenging and pleasurable. He had been an excellent trial Judge who ran his Court effortlessly and efficiently and in the Appellate courts he demonstrated the same sharp intellect. Very often Tan Sri Abdul Malek would have grasped the point that a lawyer was making in submission even before he finished his sentence! In complex cases he had the ability of very quickly getting to the heart of the matter. I can personally vouch for this having had the privilege and honour of appearing before him. During his tenure on the Bench, Tan Sri Abdul Malek contributed immensely to the development of the law and his decisions are highly regarded by members of the Bar and are often relied on as precedents. Of course one could not fully describe Tan Sri Abdul Malek without mentioning his excellent sense of humour and wry wit which so often broke the monotony of proceedings in Court. We at the Malaysian Bar can bear witness to the fact that Tan Sri Abdul Malek was a remarkable Judge and a remarkable human being.

On 1 January 1985, he was at the age of 40, one of the youngest judges to be elevated to the High Court.

When Tan Sri Abdul Malek was appointed (in our view belatedly) to the office of the President of the Court of Appeal on 12th July 2004, it was then a much needed shot in the arm for the Judiciary. The Malaysian Bar welcomed his appointment with the following words and I quote: “Justice Dato Abdul Malek Ahmad has, in his many years on the Bench, demonstrated the right judicial qualities and temperament. He has exhibited judicial independence and integrity, and enjoys widespread respect from the Bar and those who are familiar with the functioning of the judiciary in Malaysia. His proven ability, reputation, standing, seniority and experience (all of which are criteria which the Bar has consistently advocated to be relevant to judicial appointments and promotions) make him well suited for this important position.

Prior to that YM Raja Aziz had said of him in an article in Insaf that “his merit as a judge was beyond question”.

Tan Sri Abdul Malek was an asset to the Judiciary. And though we may mourn his loss, his is a life to be celebrated. It is not how long you live that counts but how you have lived your life and what you have done in your life time that does. Judges sit in judgment of the public but eventually the public sit in judgment of the kind of Judge one is and has been. In the judgment of the Malaysian Bar, Tan Sri Abdul Malek acquitted himself admirably and was an exemplary Judge.

The Malaysian Bar therefore felt a deep sense of sadness and loss upon the passing of Tan Sri Abdul Malek. I am reminded of the words of J. Nehru which he spoke at the time of Gandhi’s passing that describes the feeling:-

We stand on this perilous edge of the present, between that past and the future to be, and we face all manner of perils. And the greatest peril is sometimes the lack of faith which comes to us, the sense of frustration that comes to us, the sinking of the heart and of the spirit that comes to us when we see ideals go overboard, when we see the great things that we talked about somehow pass into empty words, and life taking a different course”.

That was how we felt then. But I realised that we cannot lose faith. That we owe it to the memory of noble Judges like Tan Sri Abdul Malek, who refused to have their sense of right and justice compromised, to honour and build on their legacy. That we owe it to their memory to have the courage to do what is right and if it is within our power to do so, to set things right. I believe we are entering a new era in the Judiciary and my only sadness is that Tan Sri Abdul Malek is not here to share in this moment.

A wise man once said:

Everyone of us is given the gift of life and what a strange gift it is. If it is persevered jealously and selfishly it impoverishes and saddens. But if it is spent for others, it enriches and beautifies.

Tan Sri Abdul Malek’s was a life spent for others. His life enriched and beautified. To Puan Sri Datin Roziah and her family, I say, we share your loss. But we also share the pride you must have in Tan Sri Abdul Malek for his having served the nation selflessly and for honouring his oath of office to the very end.

I close with some appropriate verses from Longfellow’s poem “A “Psalm of Life” :-

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Today we shall take heart, take courage and take inspiration from the life of Tan Sri Malek.

“May his soul rest in peace”.

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