Malaysiakini Letter

Judiciary RCI – another cowardly retreat from genuine reforms?

Kim Quek

LETTER | Has the Pakatan Harapan coalition finally found an excuse to back out from one of its most important pre-election pledges – a thorough reform of our long-discredited judiciary?

If not, why has it halted its promised Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the judiciary – after months of feet-dragging – on grounds of a dubious legal suit recently initiated against the RCI?

De facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong announced on June 2 that the proposed RCI has been put on hold pending the outcome of an original summon filed by former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee on April 24, challenging the constitutionality of such an RCI.

Yong claimed that the RCI is unconstitutional and a violation of the principle of separation of power, as any wrongdoing of the judiciary can only be pursued through a tribunal under Article 125 of the Federal Constitution. He further asserted that the allegations against the judiciary were “unsubstantiated and general”.

At the outset, Yong’s constitutionality contention is patently false. The tribunal referred to in Article 125 refers to the removal of a specific judge or judges, but the current RCI is a fact-finding mission to uncover widespread asmisconduct including criminal frauds in the judiciary, with a view to instituting wide-ranging judicial reforms, in addition to initiating criminal charges where these are called for.

Backing such an RCI are no casual “unsubstantiated” allegations as claimed, but stunning revelations by a sitting Court of Appeal judge, Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer.

The latter, through his 65-page affidavit, recounted widespread interference by senior judges into many judicial appeals, aside from many cases of judges colluding with shady politicians to defraud the government through dubious government contracts.

It is universal knowledge that the Malaysian judiciary has hopelessly lost its integrity and independence since the “massacre” of the judiciary in the 1988 constitutional crisis, during which several of our judges in the then Supreme Court, including the Lord President, were wrongfully sacked. Our judiciary has not recovered since, as evidenced by Justice Hamid’s revealing affidavit.

Golden opportunity for judicial reforms

The current RCI initiative is hence the golden opportunity for the Harapan coalition to show- case its reform credentials – through the execution of meaningful judicial reforms that will restore its integrity and public trust.

Such a praiseworthy undertaking will be decidedly the most important reform that will not only restore our democracy but will serve as a dependable defender of our constitution and safeguard against any excesses and abuses of the executive.

It is heartening to note in this respect that the parliamentary caucus on reforms headed by Anwar Ibrahim, deputised by Lim Kit Siang, has emphatically endorsed such an RCI as precursor to a full-scale judicial reforms.

On the other hand, putting the RCI on the shelve on an obviously lame excuse as the frivolous Yong challenge would once again affirm the widespread public perception that this self-styled reformist coalition lacks the political will to carry out genuine reforms. More so, when the anticipated court battle waged by Yong may take years to exhaust its full legal course, virtually aborting the RCI for the foreseeable future.

Such a cowardly retreat will point to the irresistible conclusion that Harapan’s pre-election promise of the New Malaysia is a hoax.

It is hoped that the individual leadership of the various component parties of Harapan will deliberate on this issue seriously, followed by a joint discussion and decision by the coalition’s leadership council , instead of jettisoning the undertaking without any transparency as it appears to be the case now.

To reform or not to reform – the ball is at your feet, Harapan.

KIM QUEK is the author of the banned book The March to Putrajaya and the bestseller Where to, Malaysia?

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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