Appointment of former CJ to head Wang Kelian RCI raises concerns
1st March 2019
We refer to the appointment of former CJ Tun Arifin Zakaria as head of the RCI into the Wang Kelian mass killings.
The Wang Kelian RCI is of great importance as it deals with mass graves and cross-border human trafficking of the most horrific nature. It is essential that there is absolute confidence in the tribunal for it to effectively perform its mandate.
In this regard, the appointment of Tun Arifin is surprising and has raised concern.
During his tenure as CJ, Arifin had made important decisions that were strongly disapproved of by constitutional and human rights lawyers as well as the then opposition Pakatan Rakyat/Harapan leaders.
These cases include his decision in favour of Zambry Abdul Kadir from the BN in the Perak MB crisis, which was strongly criticised by constitutional experts.
He had also led the federal court bench which upheld the validity of the draconian Sedition Act 1948 in the case of law professor Azmi Shahrom, which was a major setback to freedom of expression in the country.
In 2015, Arifin presided over the bench that upheld the sodomy conviction of then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, sending him to prison for 5 years. Needless to say, that decision was the subject of international opprobrium.
More recently, Arifin was widely criticised for his advise to the King that then CJ Tan Sri Raus and President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Zulkifli Makinuddin be appointed additional judges of the Federal Court. The Bar Council stated that he had overstepped his constitutional role as CJ in doing so. It was also the position of PH leaders that the appointments of Raus and Zulkifli were unconstitutional.
It is thus clear that there are valid concerns about the former CJ’s track record in human rights and constitutionalism.
It is crucial that there is the fullest confidence in the RCI, both among the Malaysian public and internationally, as the Wang Kelian incident has regional implications.
Hence, it is important for Tun Arifin Zakaria to now state his stand over these past decisions and actions that are a cause of public concern in light of this appointment.
The government must also in future have greater care and a wider consultation in deciding upon appointments of this nature.
Lawyers for Liberty