Tuesday, February 14, 2012


HAD a problem at first trying to decipher it all because the remarks came from someone of a high standing. It was like "Can I believe this?" or "Did he actually say this?"

It's been three days and since there is no denial or clarification, the news portal must have quoted him and another legal mind correctly.

In a nutshell, to Tun Dzaiddin Abdullah, a former chief justice, almost everything that is wrong with our judiciary is all due to Tun Mahathir Mohamad -- chief tyrant, he the all-intimidating politician, the prime minister who whipped everyone into submission.

In his address at the weekend to honour the birthday of our first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman, amongst other things, Dzaiddin said Mahathir had cowed the judiciary for well over two decades.

He spoke about the amendments in 1988 and 1989 pertaining to judicial review, the amendment to Article 121 of the federal Constitution, which effectively clipped the judiciary's wings.

Thus the courts have become subservient to politicians in the executive arm of the government, said Dzaiddin. A sweeping statement but the portal's report did not say if Dzaiddin had referred to specific cases to back his claim.

Also mentioned by Dzaiddin was the sacking of then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas due "to clashes between the two over the roles of the two arms of the government".

At the same event Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee had his take too on Salleh: "We must never allow a PM to sack judges.....Salleh was sacked because he made a judicial pronouncement unfavourable to the government of the day."

What set me thinking was primarily this: If Dzaiddin was firm in his belief that Mahathir had messed up with the judiciary since 1988/89, why did he stay on as a judge? Can a judge who's cowed be expected to do what is required of him without fear or favour?

I'm reminded of the late lawyer Raja Aziz Addruce who refused to appear in court when Tun Hamid Omar was the LP. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with him but at least Raja Aziz kept his principle intact.

In the case of Dzaiddin, not only did he stay on as a judge but also accepted the appointment as CJ in December 2000 and served until his retirement in March 2003. It was an appointment by the Agong but acting on the advice of the PM. Was it not Mahathir who was the PM at that time?

Was the problem with Salleh not a result of him incurring the displeasure of a late Agong? The decision to form the tribunal to hear the case against him was taken only after Salleh had changed his mind about resigning.

I have no doubt that there was no love lost between Mahathir and Salleh but the fact remains that the dispute started when the Agong didn't want Salleh around.

The other fact is that Mahathir left office about 8 1/2 years ago. Still not enough time for the judiciary to get back into shape?

But what if those who led the judiciary after Dzaiddin, and the present too, don't agree with his views? Would not that be an insult, an affront to their dignity and integrity? Still fearful of a Mahathir who left office in late 2003, or any other government politician?

Even if Mahathir was such a man would you, by your own admission, serve under such a person when there were other options available?

Would you, again by your own indirect admission, allow yourself to be put down, to be subdued and to be intimidated by this man, only to speak out years later?

I know I wouldn't. Malu.