Malaysiakini Letter

The Chief (In)Justice

Fahri Azzat  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Video links CJ to 'judicial fixing' scandal .

It was sometime in May last year during a launch of a seminar on 'Combating corruption in the Criminal Justice System' at the Anti-Corruption Academy that the present Chief Justice, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, admitted receiving poison-pen letters alleging corrupt practices among judges. However, he said that because the complaints were without credible evidence they did not warrant any action. He claimed that he sent these poison-pen letters to the ACA to investigate and that the judiciary itself also did their own internal investigation.

He even had the temerity to declaim these poison-pen letter-writers as cowards. He was also reported to have said: 'I have received only a few complaints against judges. Normally, a few (judges) can malign the whole judiciary, so I'm hoping that the ACA will get very reliable evidence on these judges'.

There is only one thing I can agree on with the Chief Justice in that quote and is that 'a few judges can malign the whole judiciary'. Never is this more true than when it involves the Chief Justice himself.

The fact that the evidential instance of his corruption occurred in the past in 2002 when he was in the influential position of the Chief Judge of Malaya only makes wonder just how much more acts of corruption occurred under his stewardship. The only surprise to me regarding the latest scandal involving the present Chief Justice was not that he was corrupt (for since the toppling of Salleh Abas there is a rebuttable presumption on anyone who takes that position) but that it should come so close to his retirement.

Usually, these sort of people are given that pointless six-month extension prior to being given a completely undeserving send-off before they slither into retirement. I call it the 'graceless period' because it is the period of complete uselessness - the person in that position loses the authority of command because he is on his way out and because he knows this too and does not bother to do anything meaningful (like work).

The talk on the street is that he must have angered some powerful people as a result of his whining for an extension that the power elite were reluctant to bestow. Whatever the talk may be, I think this latest video revelation is a fitting farewell for Ahmad Fairuz. He has surpassed all the previous Chief Justices and brought the bar so low on all attributes required of a Chief Justice of Malaysia that only Mother Nature's most useless and vile creatures would have the necessary (not required) attributes to assume the position.

Instead of bringing honour and restoring the impeccable integrity, intellectual fortitude and robustness and industry of the pre-1988 judiciary, he has led it down into a cesspool.

I am not sure whether our nation will ever recover from this unless every sen of corruption is expunged. His most notable policy is the supposed clearance of the 'pre-2000' cases of which I am still rather skeptical about although his carrying on the tradition of utter mediocrity comes as a close second. Instead of bringing the digital age to the judiciary, all he has done is stuck a few computers in there, which may be exorbitantly overpriced. In short, he was, is and will be continue to be an utter mediocrity and therefore a disgrace to any position in the judiciary.

And it is not just him to be blamed. That someone of his heritage is able to assume the position of Chief Justice clearly indicates that of greater blame are those responsible for appointing this blight against the country. All those responsible for recommending him, doing the due diligence on him (unless they made a negative finding on him), and finally appointing him to the position of Chief Justice are similarly tainted. I think it very frightening that lawyers of poor repute, a minister unrelated to the law, Malaysian businessmen, the prime minister and his cronies and who knows who else are involved in the appointment of judges.

And that judges are appointed by whom they support and which camp they fall in. If this does not present potent evidence why an independent judicial appointment commission should not be set up, I'm not quite sure what will. Perhaps a judge actually killing the prime minister would give rise to such a proposal being taken seriously.

And finally, let us not forget that there were two who tango-ed in that video clip (although you didn't see one of them). One is none other than the inimitable VK Lingam of the 'I took a picture while vacationing with Eusoff Chin in New Zealand' fame. That a lawyer should appear to be at the thumping heart of all these machinations should not go unmentioned. Lest anybody think that this is what lawyers should aspire to, let me quickly put that to rest - it is not. There are corrupt lawyers just as there are corrupt judges. That video was exemplary of a corrupt lawyer at work.

The court appearance is all an act, the real work is done 'in chambers and in camera' (pun intended). I just wonder why the Bar Council is not compelled to initiate an investigation against him to ascertain the truth of the matter (even for the New Zealand picture). For if it were true, a lawyer engaging in such conduct should be struck off from the rolls of advocate and solicitors for he has brought the entire profession into disrepute, just as any corruption on the part of any judge - no matter how lowly ranked - would do for the entire Bench.

To be honest, I am not sure where we (as a country and as citizens) go from here. A corrupt Bar and Bench, an ineffective, corrupt and dangerous police force, a cardboard cut-out of a prime minister whose only positive point is his warm smile (he is useless at everything else), a spinning Attorney- General and an insipid Speaker of Parliament all inspire a confident hopelessness at our present predicament and for the future of this country. There are no checks and balances in this country and it has become pretty much a free-for-all these days.

I do, however, have an idea what is going to come next immediately - the Chief Justice (like everybody else involved) will deny, deny, deny and hold out as much as possible until his retirement (he'll be damned before he is deprived of his pension) and Lingam will do the same with the addition of initiating defamatory proceedings against everybody who so much as mentioned him.

And what are we going to do? Why, we shall all just have to put up with the elaborate charade concocted before us and pay for it unless we finally say to ourselves that this is enough.

The sad part is that not enough of us are realising it, never mind saying it.

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