Malaysian Judiciary: How Low Can It Go?

Malaysian Judiciary: How Low Can It Go? 

Koon Yew Yin

The independence and integrity of Malaysian Judiciary are now at the tipping point. During the past few years the attention of Malaysians has been riveted by the exposure to an unprecedented number of court cases with important political ramifications. These cases include the following

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  • Altantuya Shaariibuu’s murder case
  • N.Kugan’s death during police custody
  • Teoh Beng Hock’s death
  • the PKFZ scandal
  • the NFC scandal
  • various election appeal cases arising from the 2013 general elections
  • Anwar’s Sodomy I and II case
  • Karpal Singh’s conviction for alleged sedition

At no time in the country’s history has there been such a large and wide variety of politically charged cases being brought to the country’s courts of law.

If we take these cases individually and collectively, the overall impression that can be obtained from the many articles and analysis which have appeared in the internet media is that the Malaysian judiciary has come under tremendous political pressure when arriving at their judgements. Each case that I have listed above has its litany of unanswered questions such as

  • why were certain people released midway through the trial while others with no obvious motive, were sent to the gallows for the Altantuya case?
  • Why was Rafizi Ramly and another whistleblower prosecuted, instead of the people involved in the NFC project?
  • Why did the Attorney General not appeal against the court’s judgement in the case of the PKFZ, involving billons of Ringgit in taxpayers’ money
  • The bench made a reserved judgement on the Herald’s case, but in Anwar’s Sodomy II case, why was there such haste to sentence him to five years’ jail?

Although Malaysians have generally not paid much attention to the issue of the relationship between judicial authority and political power (including the power and neutrality of the Attorney General) in the past, I believe that the cumulative effect of all these cases has resulted in our rakyat shedding their indifference and passivity on this key issue of the independence of our judiciary.

Incompetent and Compromised Judiciary

As noted by my good friend and highly respected former court of appeals judge N.H. Chan

How could it be, we may ask, that we are the only country, out of all the other common law countries, in the entire world that has so many incompetent judges? There must be something wrong in our system for the appointment of judges. There was a time when judges were appointed from the cream of the legal profession. Sadly those days were gone.

Besides commenting on the incompetency of our judges, N.H.Chan has asked the crucial question:

What can be done to stop all these unjust decisions being handed down by recalcitrant judges?

His answer is simple. It is that Malaysians must use the power of the ballot box to bring about change.  This is a solution which I am in total agreement with.

The ordinary people of this country must do something about the sorry state of our judiciary with its host of incompetent judges? We cannot and must not allow this state of incompetence among our judges to continue. Any reader of this article and my previous one, “A Sense of Injustice”, knows the law applicable but not so our judges. We must exercise the power of the vote to oust the incumbent government that was responsible for the appointment of such judges who, because they have shown themselves to be incompetent, have made our country the laughing stock in the entire common law world.

It takes only a simple Act of Parliament to rid the country of the incompetent and, therefore, unjust judges. Even the incumbent government could redeem itself by passing a law declaring those judges who had proved themselves to be incompetent, as I have shown in the election petition cases, be removed from office forthwith in ignominy, with all privileges of their office, such as their pension, withdrawn.

Anwar’s Case: The Tipping Point

I also believe that Anwar’s Sodomy verdict is the final tipping point for many Malaysians in their concern to change the government of the country and to recover the independence of our judiciary.

Should Anwar’s appeal be rejected, I have no doubt that there will be a national and international uproar which will only end with the BN being thrown out of power.

The BN Government must realize that the political awakening that Anwar has unleashed in the nation cannot be suppressed just by throwing him into prison with the assistance of what many see as a compromised judiciary. That political awakening will only multiply many fold should Anwar die or be incapacitated while in prison.

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