We are surprised that on 11.5.2011, Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi claimed that ” the Malaysian judiciary is free from any criticism or accusation of bias or partiality “. In fact, it is a widely known fact that nothing can be further from the truth. The reputation of the Malaysian judiciary is at its lowest ebb since independence. It has never recovered from then Prime Minister Mahathir’s sacking of the Lord President and emasculation of the judiciary in 1988.

Its reputation worsened considerably over the 1998 trials of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Against all legal precedent, the courts even refused bail to Anwar pending trial of the charges against him. His eventual conviction by the Malaysian courts was received with horror and derision by the vast majority of the people and was condemned internationally.

Zaki Tun Azmi has himself damaged the judiciary with his recent chaotic efficiency drive. There has been widespread criticism that he has sacrificed the quality of justice for the sake of clearing the backlog of cases. Subjecting superior court judges to a civil servant style KPI has outraged the Bar which has seen the quality of justice dispensed in our courts dissolve right before its eyes. It is also disturbing that the majority of our judges appear incapable of resisiting such encroachments upon their duties and powers. The unforgivable failure of the authorities to take action on the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Lingam-tape has further contributed to the destruction of the judiciary’s credibility.

Despite all this, like the proverbial ostrich sticking its head in the ground, Zaki Tun Azmi makes the foolish claim that the judiciary is free from the accusation of bias. A former UMNO lawyer, Zaki dutifully echoes the oft-repeated and never believed claim by the government that our judiciary is impartial. Although it is successive BN governments that are largely responsible for the dismal state of our judiciary. the judges themselves cannot escape blame. They were tested, and fell beneath the level of events. Their abject failure to resist the encroachments of the executive upon judicial independence shows the worst kind of moral cowardice.

I call upon the judiciary to be henceforth uncompromising in the defence of judicial independence; to interpret the Constitution to give full effect to the rakyat’s fundamental liberties and to be truly impartial in all manner of disputes between the executive and the people.

Issued by N. Surendran
Lawyers for Liberty