Thursday, October 30, 2008

It depends on who you regard as "errant"...

Today's breaking story in Malaysiakini presents a strong whiff of what's in store for us - that is, if the master of all manipulators, Mahathir Mohamad, gets his way (as he did for 22 long years, from 1981-2003).

Only yesterday (though it seems like at least a month ago) Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan commended newly appointed Chief Justice Zaki Azmi on his "tough" maiden speech wherein he vowed to take action against "a small group" of "errant" judges.

I guess it depends on who the new CJ regards as "errant" - what if he's subtly referring to judges who have refused to play the Umno game? After all, Zaki Azmi has dedicated his entire adult life to serving his political party. It's well nigh impossible to see how he can possibly perform his duties in a non-partisan manner. In his shoes I would disqualify myself and graciously decline the post, in order to save the Malaysian judiciary from falling into further disrepute and ignominy.

Then another headline caught my eye: "Justice Chin to resign on Dec 1." Now here's one judge the Malaysian public would like to see promoted, for having the courage to blow the whistle on Mahathir's Soviet-style judicial "boot camps."

On June 13, the Bar Council president responded to Justice Ian Chin's stunning revelations by saying: "Should we not be alarmed by the chilling disclosure of a ‘boot camp' which strikes at the very heart of the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers?" She then called for a serious investigation into Ian Chin's allegations of the Executive (meaning, Dr M) attempting to influence younger members of the Judiciary by packing them off on "compulsory retreats" where they were subject to pep talks by Dr M ideologues.

Things are indeed unfolding swiftly. Zaki Azmi was appointed Chief Justice despite nearly 26,000 concerned citizens and members of the legal profession signing a petition to the Agong, beseeching him to restore the judiciary by appointing the seniormost judge to this pivotal position (rather than someone long associated with Umno, no matter how qualified he may be).

The very next day, the Federal Court presided over by the new CJ tosses out Dr Munawar Anees's appeal, thereby shutting the door firmly on Umno's shameful past and saving Mahathir's reputation from being dragged through the mud. No justice for Dr Munawar Anees means no justice for Anwar Ibrahim - and, by extension, no justice for the rakyat either.

May I humbly suggest that the new Chief Justice persuade Ian Chin to withdraw his resignation, as such honest judges are rather hard to come by. Indeed, Ian Chin's commitment to justice and truth ought to be rewarded with a promotion. If the new CJ lets a good man like Ian Chin go, it would give the rest of us cause to suspect that his definition of "errant" is totally at odds with the rakyat's.