Hornbill Unleashed

August 20, 2010

Clean up the judiciary first

By Teoh El Sen

The Malaysian judiciary needs to improve to restore the people’s confidence in the courts, said lawyer-activist Edmund Bon. Bon said that until today, the perception that the judiciary is “executive-compliant” still remains.

“When people have no faith in the courts, then confidence in seeking a fair remedy will be at an all-time low,” said the

Bar Council member and chairman of the constitutional law committee.

Bon admitted there are some “very, very good judges” but said he felt depressed that some do not get recognised or promoted because of their independence.

Asked what should be done, Bon said the judiciary first needed an internal clean-up following the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the VK Lingam judge fixing fiasco.

“Until now, there are recommendations in the report that the Attorney-General and the government have not implemented. There are also several sitting judges named… and allegations of corrupt practices which have not been dealt with,” he said.

Bon said the judiciary ought to look at itself, too, despite the Judicial Appointments Committee being set up to rid itself of the poor perception in the appointments mechanism.

Unrealistic goals

On the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) system, Bon said he believed that “unrealistic” goals have forced the standard of justice to drop.

“For all these years the courts have been lackadaisical in dealing with cases, then you change the system to be overly efficient overnight. It is extremely difficult for litigants and lawyers to cope. Many cases are struck out without the litigants getting a fair chance to have themselves heard,” he said.

The KPI system was introduced by Chief Justice Zaki Azmi for judges two years ago to clear the backlog of cases and create an efficient judicial system.

“This move by the Chief Justice is a breath of fresh air and is necessary. He has been proactive and responsive when there are problems, immediately sorting the complaints on a phone call. On the whole, the system works as the cases go on as scheduled and lawyers are able to collect fees on time and close files,” said Bon.

“We may have the best KPI and clear as many cases as we want, yet if the people do not feel that the judiciary is independent, we would have failed,” he added.

“No one will remember a legacy of clearing cases fast, but people will remember a politically-charged case when a court makes an unjust decision.”

Serious amendments

But Bon said the most recent amendments to increase the jurisdiction of the subordinate courts is worrying.

He said such serious amendments should have been done in consultation with the Bar Council.

“Consultation is not a one-way street. We are told about it at the last hour and in the next moment, it’s passed in Parliament. Then we have a deputy minister expressing surprise that the Bar Council had objected so late in the day! You can’t blame anyone for thinking that we are irrelevant.”

“We are concerned because it means that lower courts may issue injunctions and deal with high-value claims when the level of competency is still left much to be desired. Extraordinary powers should be given after a proper study,” said Bon

He said the simple answer to this was to appoint more High Court judges.

He added that the Bar Council had already sent a memorandum and asked for a deferment of the amendments.

“The other problem is when we give more powers to the lower courts (deciding on) cases against the government. If we want to do that, we should separate the judicial from the legal service,” said Bon, explaining that lower court judges are appointed by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, of which the Attorney-General is a member, while High Court judges are appointed by the King.

Ghosts of the past

Bon also said Zaki cannot simply say that he is “looking forward” and “whatever happened in the past is irrelevant”.

“Yes, we have to do things to move us forward, but the ghosts of the past will always haunt us when we try to sweep matters under the carpet.”

Bon said the appointment of Zaki, who once had close ties with Umno, is not very different from the 1988 judicial crisis.

“Then the executive removed the head of the judiciary and it was quite obvious what was happening. Appointing someone close to the ruling party to control the judiciary is less obvious.”

“I think the CJ has turned the administration around, but the perception of ‘business as usual’ in terms of independence has not been dispelled.”



  1. Zaki Amzi is one of the earliest rent seeker himself. Why would he spoil the soup?

    Look under “Z” in the following list –

    List of Malaysia Rent Seekers

    Comment by wayang street — August 20, 2010 @ 5:21 PM | Reply

  2. A profession is always a profession. A system is also always a system. There’re a very mechanicalistic. But human is a human but may not be that humanly. So what is so utmost critical at this point is non other than values and ethics. These are the missing links within the Malaysian political environment and the governance circles. The end products are that a profession thus become unethical, the systems are minus/negative values. What’s worst human are no more human but rather become a species of extraordinarily worst than animals. They hv lost all the five senses. They adhere to non sense (nonsenses). At the end Malaysia become the Bolehland where everything must be totally different compare to any nations of the rest of the world. One for sure, Malaysia will apply what’re wrongs on the rest of the world be Malaysia’s rights.

    For this only reason, may God allah enlightened all Malaysians/Sarawakians to topple UMNO/BN government.

    Comment by Minda Mandol — August 20, 2010 @ 3:22 PM | Reply

  3. This is perhaps due to the poor schooling of Malaysian judges. They were not taught political ideas and an appreciation of literature while in school. Legal studies at universities and at the Qualifying Board is all about substantive laws and procedure. Thus, one may be learned in the law but do not know of its real purpose. That can only be found if one looks outside the law. For that, they are open to manipulation by the Executive. In this country, the Executive is dominated by the Alliance/Barisan Nasional for the past 53 years. Without the proper schooling as prescribed, they are easily swayed to accept the truthfulness of power over justice. We used to have the instrument to counter this deficiency, i.e the Privy Council. Now, we have none!

    Comment by Bourgeois Revolution — August 20, 2010 @ 11:33 AM | Reply

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