Gerakan man moots bill to extend retirement age of judges

Modified 19 Jul 2018, 9:29 am

Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong has called on the Pakatan Harapan government to table a bill to allow for the increase of the retirement age of judges, to protect the judiciary and prevent any possible constitutional crisis.

In a statement, Yong labeled the current stipulated maximum retirement age of judges, 66 years and six months, as stated in Article 251 (1) of the Federal Constitution, as "archaic", saying it did not accord the nation's top judges - the chief justice, Court of Appeal president and chief judge - adequate time to serve "positively".

He further cited the debate surrounding the previous government's extension and appointment of Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as chief justice and Court of Appeal president respectively beyond the stipulated retirement age.

"There is an urgency in this matter for two reasons: firstly due to the legal debate over the validity of previous appointment and resignation of Raus as the chief justice and Zulkefli as the president of the Court of Appeal respectively, there is a need for a finality.

"Though a related ongoing suit at the Federal Court is yet to be decided, there is a concern it may be rendered academic.

"Secondly, considering the recent appointment of the three top posts, namely the chief justice, president of the Court of Appeal and chief judge of Malaya, one would realise that these three top judges (Richard Malanjum, Ahmad Ma'arop and Zaharah Ibrahim) are also approaching the age of retirement," he said.

Yong said a tenure of a year or less would not allow these judges adequate time to "achieve anything positive for the judiciary".

Hence, he added that an increase to the retirement age, for example, to 70, would allow for a smoother transition for senior judges into their new roles, and would protect the judiciary from any political criticism and possible constitutional crisis.

"I am aware that for such an amendment, the Parliament requires a two-thirds majority, hence the current MPs should vote according to their conscience if such amendment is to be tabled," said Yong.

He was referring to the ongoing case by the Malaysian Bar before the Federal Court to look into the legality of the appointments of Raus and Zulkefli. The seven-member bench has yet to deliver its decision.

Controversy arose when Raus and Zulkefli, both originally appointed as chief justice and Court of Appeal president during their legal tenure, were taken on as additional judges when they reached the mandatory retirement age, thereby retaining their respective posts.

Although the duo ultimately tendered their resignations last month, many objected as the resignations were to only take effect on July 31, as it was felt the lengthy resignation period would deprive others, including Malanjum, from serving as chief justice.

Malanjum, 65, the former chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak, was eventually sworn in as chief justice last week, along with Ahmad and Zaharah, as well as David Wong Dak Wah as the new chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

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