October 17, 2008
I am writing from Phnom Penh. I am aghast at this latest news coming out Kuala Lumpur today that the appointment of UMNO’s Zaki Tun Azmi as the new Chief Justice of our country has been accepted by Majlis Di Raja (Council of Rulers). Zaki is the pick of our reform minded Badawi government in its dying days, despite the fact that some 25,000 Malaysians had signed the petition appealing to our Duli Yang Maha Yang DiPertuan (our King) to stop this appointment.
This is no doubt a huge blow to judicial reform and one can only hope the Parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle will in good conscience and as provided under Article 127 of the Federal Constitution debate this appointment. As it is, Malaysia’s image abroad is severely impaired and with this latest development, political observers and analysts will wonder why Prime Minister Badawi who promised to push his reform agenda in his remaining months in office should be making such retrogressive move.—Din Merican
|October 17, 2008|
Pakatan Rakyat may invoke the Federal Constitution to debate the controversial appointment of Zaki Azmi as the new chief justice.
Article 127 of the Federal Constitution allows the tabling of a motion to debate the conduct of a judge if this is backed by 25 percent of parliamentarians.
According to DAP leader Lim Kit Siang, who is MP for Ipoh Timur, the opposition will need 55 MPs to support the motion. Pakatan has 81 MPs in Parliament.
Lim said that Article 127 “empowers the tabling in Parliament a substantive motion to debate the suitability and the merits/demerits of Zaki as the new chief justice provided it has the support of at least a quarter of the members of parliament”.
“If such a substantive motion is presented in Parliament, it would be the first time in Malaysian parliamentary and constitutional history,” said the veteran politician, who has been an MP for three decades.
Article 127 spells out the restriction on parliamentary discussion of conduct of a senior judge.
Parliament, which is currently in session, does not sit on Friday and will resume on Monday.
Malaysiakini reported yesterday that Zaki has been picked by the Council of Rulers to be new chief justice – the judiciary’s most powerful post.
The Federal Constitution provides for the rulers to appoint the chief justice on the advice of the prime minister.
The appointment, yet to be made official, has caused an uproar due to Zaki’s close links with ruling party UMNO.
Critics have lambasted the former businessman’s quick rise in the judiciary. Zaki was appointed straight into the Federal Court last September, and two months later made Court of Appeal president – the judiciary’s No 2 post.
Zaki, 63, will be at the helm for at least three years unless his tenure is extended by the government.
Judge has close ties with UMNO
Pakatan has earlier written a letter to the rulers urging them to defer the appointment of the chief justice.
The October 16 letter – signed by PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, PAS secretary-general Kamaruddin Jaffar and DAP leader Lim – called on the rulers to consider public opinion on the choice of a new chief justice.
In addition, about 25,000 people have signed a petition to the king to object Zaki’s promotion due to his involvement with UMNO.
“Zaid Ibrahim, who was appointed minister in the Prime Minister’s Department after the March 8 general election by Abdullah to shepherd the reforms into reality, had implied that the appointment of a new chief justice … would be made under the new reform format and regime of a Judicial Appointment Commission. But this is not to be…,” lamented Lim in a statement.
“With Abdullah’s promise that judicial reform would nonetheless be pushed through into fruition as it was his original pledge and not Zaid’s, one would have thought that the appointment of the new chief justice would be in the spirit of reformist consultation with the relevant stakeholders under the promised regime of judicial reforms.
“This is not only not so, the prime minister has shown utter disregard and contempt for the widespread objections of the legal community and civil society to the appointment of the first UMNO chief justice in the 51-year history of the nation.”
Zaki was UMNO legal adviser and had served as chairperson of the party’s election committee as well as deputy chairperson of its disciplinary committee.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council released a statement today saying there have been concerns expressed in relations to Zaki’s political affliations and business connections.”These concerns can only be dispelled by him through the conduct of his duties and by a demonstration of independence and impartiality at all times,” said council president Ambiga Sreenevasan.