The human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has urged the Wang Kelian Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) chairperson Arifin Zakaria to come clean on his previous track record as chief justice.
LFL adviser N Surendran said Arifin’s appointment to lead the RCI is worrying because his decisions as chief justice had been met with strong disproval by constitutional and human rights lawyers.
“It is crucial that there is the fullest confidence in the RCI, both among the Malaysian public and internationally, as the Wang Kelian incident has regional implications.
“Hence, it is important for Arifin to now state his stand over these past decisions and actions that are a cause of public concern in light of this appointment.
“The government must also in future take greater care and have wider consultation in deciding upon appointments of this nature,” he said in a statement today.
Arifin was chief justice from Sept 12, 2011 until March 31, 2017. His appointment to lead the RCI was announced yesterday, and the commission has six months to investigate the human trafficking camps and mass graves near the border town of Wang Kelian, Perlis.
Among others, Surendran said Arifin’s decision in favour of BN’s Zambry Abdul Kadir to become Perak menteri besar during the 2009 Perak Crisis was criticised by constitutional experts.
In addition, he said Arifin also led the Federal Court bench that upheld the validity of the Sedition Act 1948, and the 2015 bench that upheld PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction in the Sodomy II trial.
He also pointed out that Arifin had received widespread criticism for his decision to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who appointed then chief justice Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkifli Makinuddin as additional judges of the Federal Court.
“It is thus clear that there are valid concerns about the former CJ's track record in human rights and constitutionalism,” he said.