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Monday, July 10, 2017

Judiciary being tested again over ‘shocking’ appointments

Lawyers for Liberty claimed that the judiciary is once again being tested following the extended tenure of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin beyond their mandatory retirement age.
Its executive director, Eric Paulsen, urged the current set of judges to remain resolute and stand strong.
“The Malaysian judiciary was once held in very high regard in the Commonwealth but surely not anymore, and these controversial appointments can only further erode its reputation.
“The judiciary is once again being tested and we call upon the judges to stand strong and defend uncompromisingly their independence, to uphold and defend the Federal Constitution as they have sworn to do so, and reject the unconstitutional appointments of the chief justice and Court of Appeal president,” he said in a statement.
Reminding that an independent judiciary is vital in a functioning democracy, Paulsen said it was essential there should be a separation of powers among the three arms of the government, namely the legislature, executive and judiciary.
“An independent judiciary is fundamental to a democracy as it distinguishes a democratic state from a totalitarian one. This ensures a system of check and balance, rule of law and the absence of an abuse of power.”
“To carry out its role and function, the judiciary must be independent, and judges must be concerned only with upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour. There must not even be a whiff of controversy in the appointments of judges, what more the chief justice or Court of Appeal president.
“There should not be any public perception that judges are beholden politically to the government and that they are not free to act in an independent and unbiased manner. It is this independence that gives the public confidence in the judiciary,” he said in a statement today.
Paulsen said that although successive BN governments are largely to blame for the dismal state of the judiciary, the judges themselves cannot escape scrutiny over their failure to resist the encroachment of the executive upon judicial independence.
He added that Justice Raus and Justice Zulkefli's reappointment came through the unusual process of “additional judges” under Article 122 (1A).

He said that many, including former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, and Malaysian Bar president George Varughese, held a similar view that these appointments are unconstitutional.
He also asked what are the special circumstances for Justice Raus and Justice Zulkefli to be appointed in such a controversial manner.

“We are indeed shocked and appalled by these appointments, which can only be described as a desperate attempt by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to further undermine the independence of the judiciary,” he said, adding that these appointments would also pose the question as to why other capable Federal Court judges could not be appointed as chief justice and Court of Appeal president.
“Why are the processes under the Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2009 bypassed?”
“These appointments do not bode well for Malaysia, as now more than ever the nation needs a strong and independent judiciary to check the rampant abuse of power and corruption by the government, none more emblematic than the massive 1MDB scandal,” he added.- Mkini

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