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Friday, May 31, 2019

3 questions for AG over delay in RCI on judicial misconduct

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla.
PETALING JAYA: Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla has posed three questions to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas over the delay in the setting up of the royal commission of inquiry on judicial misconduct three months after a sitting judge made the allegations against several unidentified colleagues.
Haniff wants to know:
1. Who is responsible for preparing the terms of reference for the RCI;
2. Whether the terms have been finalised or not; and
3. What the attorney-general has been doing over the last three months in connection with the RCI.
He took Thomas to task over the delay after the attorney-general said he was “not involved” and that queries should be posed to the ministers concerned.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government had yet to finalise the details of the RCI three months after he said the Cabinet had agreed to its formation.
De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong has since said the matter rested with the attorney-general.
Haniff said that according to the Commission of Enquiry Act 1950, the terms of reference will need to be drawn up before commissioning the inquiry.
He also said the government should not be tasked with handling the matter as it needed the expertise of those well-versed with the law.
“Anyhow, he (the prime minister) has already agreed that it is for the RCI to decide how its investigation will be like,” he said.
On Feb 14, Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer filed an explosive 65-page affidavit outlining the alleged judicial misconduct.
Hamid alleged that senior judges had intervened in the decision of numerous appeals and abetted in scams carried out by nominees of politicians who had entered into contracts with the government.
He claimed that there had been interference in the Court of Appeal’s 2016 majority decision to convict senior lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo’s late father and former DAP chairman Karpal Singh for sedition. Karpal was acquitted of the sedition charge by the Federal Court in March.
In his affidavit, Hamid also said that at an international law conference in Kuala Lumpur last year, he was chided by a top judge, in the presence of other judges, for delivering a dissenting judgment in the Indira Gandhi unilateral conversion case.
Since then, several bodies including the Malaysian Bar, Sabah Law Society, Advocates Association of Sarawak, National Patriots Association, Reform Caucus for Parliament, Lawyers for Liberty and Bersih 2.0 have asked for the RCI to be speeded up.
Other lawyers have also expressed concern about the image of Thomas, Liew and the judiciary if the inquiry continued to be delayed.
Lim Wei Jiet said the best thing to do to quell “unnecessary speculation” is for Putrajaya to expedite the setting up of the RCI, noting that it remains a matter of executing the Cabinet’s decision.
“The Cabinet, having arrived at a decision in February to form an RCI, should expeditiously coordinate all relevant ministries and agencies to set up the inquiry team.
“There is great public interest for the RCI to be instituted and investigate the accusations of misconduct without any delay. The judiciary’s reputation and integrity are at stake,” he told FMT.
Neither Lim nor Surendra Ananth said they would speculate on the delay in forming the RCI or why it appeared that Thomas and Liew were at odds over the matter.
“But I think the delay does not reflect well on the government’s promise on judicial reform,” said Surendra. “The RCI is a good opportunity for the government to show that it is serious about undertaking reforms.”
Although he said it would be difficult for the RCI to make findings on every allegation in Hamid’s affidavit, it could still make clear why reforms were needed to ensure that “the matters that happened in the past” did not happen again.
“As to who should make the recommendations, it’s the Cabinet that advises the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” Surendra said.
“If the Cabinet seeks the advice of the AG to draft the terms, then the AG should do it. Or else, the law minister can do it.” - FMT

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