Day 1: *Independent* Panel on *that* video October 3, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
The Steering Committee of Free the Judiciary stepped up the campaign when they attempted to submit a memorandum to the Independent Panel this morning.
But former Justice Haider refused to let the group meet the Panel in order to handover the memo. The Steering Committee suggested that he come out to meet them instead, but he refused. What a game of cat and mouse! (Hmmm. Siapa yang sebenarnya tikus dan kucing di situ?)
The Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General were also there, but were swiftly diverted by the ever-diligent National Human Rights (sic) Commission staff.
Malaysiakini has more news here.
Below is the text of the memorandum by the Steering Committee:-
Memorandum on the Panel of Inquiry Concerning the Video Clip and the Independence of the Judiciary
3 October 2007
The Steering Committee on Free the Judiciary, comprising of various organizations, political parties and individuals, views with serious concern and alarm the setting up of the panel of inquiry by the executive to look into the video clip scandal concerning the independence of the judiciary. The video clip recording of controversial lawyer V.K. Lingam speaking on the telephone, allegedly with the then-Chief Judge Ahmad Fairuz in 2002 (now Chief Justice) on the issue of appointment and promotion of judges, and spoken with apparent planning with key political and business figures, ranks as one of the most outrageous, scandalous and shameful in the history of the Malaysian judiciary.
The video clip and subsequent uproar provide overwhelming evidence of the public, civil society and the Bar’s lack of confidence and the shambles in the judiciary. The steady decline of the judiciary can be traced to the unlawful and scandalous sacking of former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and two other Supreme Court Judges in 1988, an event which the judiciary never recovered from. The reputation of the judiciary has since then been continuously tarnished by numerous controversial decisions and perception of government control and interference. The judiciary, a fundamental makeup of a democratic, just and fair state, no longer commands international and public confidence but instead seen as weak, corrupt and not free from political control and interference. Immediate steps must be taken to address the judicial rot, restore public confidence and reform the judiciary. It is with this grave concern that we, the undersigned civil society organizations, political parties and individuals raise our objections to the panel of inquiry on the following grounds:
Need for a Royal Commission
It is imperative that a Royal Commission be set up under the law instead of a panel of inquiry under executive powers. It is of course highly undesirable that the very power that the scandal implicates, the executive, has now constituted a panel to investigate into its own alleged wrongdoing. This panel is appointed by the executive and presumably will be reporting to the executive. Further, the panel of inquiry, unlike a Royal Commission, will be devoid of any legal powers but instead will wield executive-like powers that are derived from the executive. It will only be an administrative body, without any legal powers to summon witnesses, to compel evidence or to protect witnesses. It will thus lack not only the legal authority and legitimacy that a Royal Commission possesses but also lack the respect and moral authority that is crucial in such an inquiry. The proper and legal approach is for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to exercise its power under the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 to appoint a Royal Commission consisting of reputable and highly regarded individuals to probe not only the video clip but the overall state of the judiciary. The Royal Commission will then be vested with the appropriate powers to summon witnesses, to compel evidence, to provide protection to witnesses and of utmost importance, to be able to command the respect and legitimacy in its work.
Limited terms of reference
The terms of reference of the panel of inquiry are extremely limited as they only cover the authenticity of the video clip. To probe only on the authenticity of the video clip is to miss the gravity of problem – the serious lack of confidence in the overall state of the judiciary, especially on the issue of the appointment and promotion of judges – that is being done without transparency and application of universally accepted principles. This has caused public perception that numerous senior and deserving judges, with faultless records, have not been promoted; instead undeserving and surprising appointment and promotion of judges, including junior ones, have consistently pointed towards political manipulation and maneuvering by the government in order to secure their influence in the judiciary and thus favourable judgments.
Lack of confidence in the composition of the Panel of Inquiry
One of the main reasons for the establishment of such an inquiry is to restore public confidence in the judiciary. The appointment of a panel with questionable backgrounds will certainly not assuage the many concerns and questions that have already been raised against the panel of inquiry. It is highly unacceptable that a video clip which implicates members of the executive should be investigated by a panel appointed by and reporting to the executive. Even more outrageous is the fact that the panel is led by former Chief Judge of Malaya Haidar Mohd Noor, whose direct involvement as the then-Chief Registrar had led to the unlawful sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988. Haidar, as Chief Registrar then, ordered the court seal and doors to the Supreme Court be locked, in defiance of the Supreme Court, so as to prevent an emergency court hearing, which would otherwise have issued an injunction to stop the Tribunal that led to the Lord President’s dismissal. The other questionable panelist is Lee Lam Thye. He has over the years steadily accumulated numerous public and private positions that are inconsistent with the moral standing that is demanded in order to inspire confidence. Lee is the director of numerous companies including Media Prima Bhd which is UMNO’s media flagship that controls its vast media empire of newspapers, television, radios, etc. He is also chairperson of the National Service Council that runs the indefensible national service program that is continuously plagued by scandals including deaths of trainees and corruption. (end)