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Monday, August 28, 2017

Sarawak lawyers to sue over Raus, Zulkefli appointments

Delegates from four branches of Advocates Association of Sarawak give mandate to commence legal action on the constitutionality of appointments.
Md-Raus-Sharif-Zulkefli-Ahmad-Makinudin-The-Advocates-Association-of-Sarawak-1PETALING JAYA: The Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) will join its peninsular counterpart to take legal action on the appointments of two top judicial officers as additional judges to remain in their administrative posts.
“Delegates from four branches unanimously gave the mandate to the AAS to commence legal proceedings on the constitutionality of their appointments,” its president, Ranbir Singh Sangha told FMT, referring to the appointments of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.
He said the decision was made at an extraordinary delegates’ conference in Kuching on Saturday.
He said the delegates also wanted the constitutionality of the appointments of the duo to be determined by a special panel of retired judges.
“We have some procedures to go through before the action is filed in Sarawak,” he said, adding that AAS’s suit were separate but could be consolidated with that of the Malaysian Bar.
He said the AAS that had branches in Bintulu, Miri, Sibu and Kuching, however, would not take specific action or boycott Raus and Zulkefli pending the outcome of a court ruling.
In a press release in late July, two Borneo lawyers’ groups – AAS and the Sabah Law Society – urged Raus and Zulkefli to reconsider remaining in office after their mandatory retirement age to avoid the likelihood of an erosion of public confidence in the judiciary.
Raus reached the mandatory retirement age of 66 years and six months on Aug 3, while Zulkefli turns that age on Sept 27.
However, the government had announced on July 7 that Raus’ tenure as chief justice will be extended for another three years by way of him being made an additional judge from Aug 4.
Zulkefli too, will remain as Court of Appeal president for another two years by being made an additional judge from Sept 28.
In a press conference on Aug 5, Raus defended his reappointment, citing that while the move was unprecedented everything was done according to law.
He said it was best for the courts to decide since there were two conflicting views on the matter.
Lawyers and retired judges have argued that the constitution did not allow additional judges to double up as holders of administrative positions.
Retired chief justice Zaki Azmi, who argued that the appointments were valid, said the provision for additional judges were utilised as Raus and Zulkefli had only been in their positions since April 1.
Further, he said a constitutional provision that allowed judges to remain in office up to 66 years of age plus six months’ of extension was archaic compared with other Commonwealth countries.
On Aug 3, the Malaysian Bar, in an overwhelming majority took a no-confidence vote against Raus and Zulkefli and also obtained a mandate to begin legal action againt the two.
The Bar also took the position that it would not invite Raus and Zulkefli to any social function and members are also encouraged to decline social invitations from them, or inviting them.
Its president George Varughese said the Bar also took the position that serving Federal Court judges should not hear the matter since they would be in a position of conflict of interest.
It called upon the Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop to advise the king under Article 122 (1A) of the Federal Constitution to appoint persons who had held high judicial office as additional judges for the sole purpose of hearing and determining the said legal challenge.
He said due to the disability of Raus and Zulkefli, Ahmad, as the next most senior judge in the judiciary, could step in to exercise the powers of the chief justice and advise the king.
It is unclear whether the Bar has filed its action against the judges but former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has filed a judicial review application which is scheduled to heard on Oct 24. - Mkini

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