I am taking this unprecedented step of issuing this open letter to ask you to act in the national interest and to restore public confidence in the judiciary by withdrawing your application for six-month extension on your due retirement at the end of the month and to give full support for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam Tape .
Such an action on your part will avert a new constitutional crisis over your controversial application for a six-month extension as well as a new crisis of confidence in the judiciary.
Former Lord President Sultan Azlan Shah in his postscript to his book 'Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance' (pp 399 401) in April 2004 had written:
"Sadly, over the past few years there has been some disquiet about the judiciary. Several articles have been written, and many opinions expressed, both internationally and locally, that the independence of our judiciary has been compromised. It has been said that there has been an erosion of public confidence in our judiciary.
"Concerns have been expressed that some judges were not writing judgments, or that there were long delays in obtaining decisions or hearing dates in certain instances. Further, the conduct of certain judges was being questioned in public
"Whether these allegations are true, is not for me to say. However, having been a member of the judiciary for many years, it grieves me when I hear of such allegations. Since Independence, the early judges have always cherished the notion of an independent judiciary and had built the judiciary as a strong and independent organ of government. The public had full confidence of the judiciary and accepted any decision then made without any question. Unfortunately, the same does not appear to be the case in recent years.
"Whatever the situation, a judiciary may only be said to be independent if it commands the confidence of the public the very public it seeks to serve. After all, statements made as to its independence by the judges, or even the politicians, do not measure public confidence in the judiciary. At the end of the day, it is this public perception that ultimately matters.
"It is my earnest hope that the Malaysian judiciary will regain the public's confidence, and that it will once again be held in the same esteem as it once was held. In democratic countries, it is an independent judiciary that brings pride to the nation. Members of the executive and the legislature come and go, but an independent judiciary must remain steadfast forever, fulfilling the aspirations and ideals of the people. In the judiciary, people place their trust and hope."
Sultan Azlan Shah's critique of the parlous state of the judiciary is even more pertinent today than when he wrote it in April 2004, with the entire period falling your term as chief justice a powerful reason why Tun should avert a constitutional crisis and a new crisis of confidence over the judiciary over the controversial application for a six-month extension.
Yesterday, the Bar Council website carried the following comparative data on the number of reported judgments written by the current chief justice, and his three predecessors, Tun Salleh Abas, Raja Azlan Shah (as His Royal Highness then was) and Tun Mohamed Suffian when they sat at the High Court, Court of Appeal and the apex court (Federal Court, previously known as the Supreme Court).
Without having to go into these comparative figures which reflects adversely on Tun, or the latest crisis of confidence ensuing from the Lingam tape scandal, the words of Sultan Azlan Shah reminding all that public confidence in the judiciary in the past 55 months when Tun had been chief justice had not only failed to improve so that "it will once again be held in the same esteem as it once was held" but had significantly taken a turn for the worse should be sufficient ground for Tun to save the country from another bout of a twin crisis of the constitution and public confidence in the judiciary.
The writer is parliamentary opposition leader and DAP MP for Ipoh Timur.