Chief Justice adds to bad image of Malaysian judiciary with threat uprecedented in Commonwealth
I refer to the statement by Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria on 5th April threatening to cite for contempt of court those who criticize court decisions. This open and public threat by a Chief Justice against citizens is surprising, inappropriate and undemocratic.
The power of contempt cannot be used as the basis to issue general warnings to the citizenry. It is unprecedented for a sitting Chief Justice in a Commonwealth nation to issue threats of this nature.
This statement will further worsen public confidence in our judiciary which remains at its lowest since independence.
Judiciary has itself to blame too, not just Umno-BN
For decades the Umno-BN government has both directly and indirectly undermined independence of the judiciary for narrow and selfish political reasons. Major examples of Umno-BN's interference and undermining of the judiciary can be seen in the notorious sacking of Tun Salleh Abbas, the unjust Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trials and the unresolved Lingam-tape scandal.
The judiciary itself must bear much of the blame. Since the late sixties, the judiciary has consistently failed to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the rakyat. The judiciary has failed to perform its role as the bulwark of the rakyat's liberties against executive interference. It is the ordinary rakyat who have borne the full brunt and consequence of this failure.
People even throw shoes at judges these days
This devastating loss of public confidence in the judiciary culminated in the now famous shoe-throwing incident at the Federal Court last month. But like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand, the CJ is pretending that there is nothing wrong.
We call upon Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria to acknowledge the very real problems facing the judiciary and to take urgent steps to re-build public confidence. He must act firmly and courageously in defending the independence and integrity of the judiciary against interference by Umno-BN.
N SURENDRAN IS THE VICE PRESIDENT OF PARTI KEADILAN RAKYAT