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The Hopes of The People Rest With Brave Judges

Political Education Unit of the Institute for Policy Research (UPP-IKD)
25.06.2001

 

Our nation has recently been awakened by recent events involving the judiciary that has evoked mixed reactions from the people.

Early on in the year, the judicial committee welcomed the New Chief Justice, the honorable Tan Sri Dzaidin (full name) with his alluring promises of improved judicial image and professionalism.

On the first of June, Justice Datuk Hishamuddin Yunus of the Shah Alam High Court issued a daring reminder in defiance of the executive, by ruling in favor of ISA detainees N. Gobalakrishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon.

Not long after, Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang gave his ruling against former Sabah Chief Minister, declaring the election results for the seats null and void due to the illegality of the 1998 Electoral Roll for that constituency. This ruling marks a departure from previous trends of judges dismissing petitions on grounds of technicality.

Justice Muhammad Kamil in his ruling also dropped a ‘bomb’ that shocked the nation with his disclosure that he had received a directive from someone "higher-up" to strike-off the petitions without a hearing. The directive, allegedly given through a phone-call, exposed to the nation the mysterious doings that takes place behind the closed doors of judges' chambers, which should be a cause for serious worry. Former Federal Court Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin later admitted that he in fact had called Justice Muhammad Kamil, but claimed his call was misconstrued.

Justice Muhammad Kamil himself admitted since the revelation, fellow judges who have received similar directives has approached him for consultation and consolation.

Since the disclosure, reactions from the people have come in droves. The Bar Council applauded the courageous act of Justice Muhammad Kamil in standing his ground. Opposition parties welcomed the judges’ disclosure as a first step toward positive change in the now dented image of the judiciary. NGO’s highlighted the predicament of our judicial system and has called for an independent judicial inquiry into the matter to clean up the heinous disease that creeps within the system. The police have in turn launched an investigation allegedly to find the culprit.

However, surprisingly enough, some of the strongest reactions have come from the executive – the Prime Minister no less. Dr Mahathir, breaking his silence on the controversy, has expressed his utter disappointment with Justice Muhammad Kamil. Other ministers have also shed doubts on the issue by implying that phone conversations are difficult to prove, and could have been misinterpreted.

It is interesting to note that in a recent written judgment on the sodomy case of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Judge Ariffin Jaka mentioned that the testimony of Azizan Abu Bakar, then driver of DSAI, is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar- as he can see no logic why a person like Azizan Abu Bakar would lie as he could gain nothing from it while putting his all at risk.
Whereas in the case of Justice Muhammad Kamil, a man professed by all as honorable, a judge no less, had his revelation subjected to animosity by the pro-government media and certain members of the executive. He is condemned for dragging the judiciary into public controversy, allegedly channeling his personal frustration in the denouement, and most ironic - tarnishing the image of the judiciary. The fascinating thing is that, all of these criticisms are made while police investigation is still underway.

The backlash received by Justice Muhammad Kamil from these quarters is seen by many as a move to deter more judges from coming forward and speaking out against any mysterious wrongdoings in the judiciary. In fact, there has been a motion set-forth by the de-Facto Law Minister to let judges ‘resolve’ judicial matters internally; away from the public knowledge.

The faint ray of hope embraced so dearly by the people earlier on in June seems to be vanishing once again. Unless the judges stand up together in the name of sacred truth and justice, the alluring promises earlier by the Chief Justice will be nothing but the all too familiar empty pledge of someone coming into power.