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exclusive Anuar Zainal Abidin, former chief judge of Malaya and former Suhakam commissioner, talks to malaysiakini about creeping Islamisation in the courts, judicial corruption and Cherie Blair in the first of a three-part series.

Malaysiakini: Has the judiciary improved since you left? Its administrative system, its judgments...

Anuar: [Laughs] Susah nak jawab (It's difficult to answer).

But your brother judges such as (former High Court judge) Syed Ahmad Idid and (former Court of Appeal judge) Shaik Daud Ismail had came out openly to...

Yes, but they have not mentioned any individuals. They were very general (in their remarks). First of all, a judge is not appointed unless he has the experience (to hold the position). Secondly, before judges are finally considered, they had to be vetted.

As far as judgments are concerned - I keep abreast because I still receive the Malayan Law Journal - there are good judgments. The only thing is sometimes there is a lot of influence, like the Islamic influence, which I'm not very happy about. I think they should not be influenced by anything but the law. Now, we are waiting for the important case of Lina Joy ... we'll just have to see what's going to happen.

What do you mean by Islamic influence?

Principles (and) interpretations (of the law). They have (ruled in one case) that the issue (raised) was under the jurisdiction of the syariah courts, therefore (the civil courts) have dismissed the case. First of all, they must consider the meaning of jurisdiction. Just because they (syariah courts) decide on the question of apostasy, it doesn't mean that they have final jurisdiction. We can still argue. The law is 50-50. It's man-made.

In the (federal) constitution, we have freedom of religion which means we can choose what religion we want (to practise). Does that apply to only non-Muslims? Does that not apply to Muslims too? I would say that it applies to Muslims. So I can choose (my own religion).

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