NEWS

Empower royal panel with 'widest terms of reference'

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

The royal commission of inquiry into the controversial VK Lingam video clip should be given the widest terms of reference to address the rot in the judiciary, said Malaysian Democratic Party secretary-general Wee Choo Keong.

Seeking to pre-empt the possibility that the commission will be given only limited scope, Wee said the inquiry should probe into events as far back as 1988.

He was referring to the year then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad had the lord president, Salleh Abas ( left ), tried and sacked by a special tribunal for, among others, questioning constitutional amendments that had severely eroded the powers of the judiciary.

Two of five Supreme Court judges - George Seah and the late Wan Sulaiman Pawanteh were sacked along with Salleh for having ruled that the tribunal was convened unconstitutionally.

Many have described the dismissal as the judiciary's darkest hours.

"We must recognise and accept that the problems in the judiciary began after the dismissal of Tun Salleh Abas - the sixth lord president - and the other two Supreme Court judges" said Wee (left ), who is a trained lawyer.

Wee was speaking at a press conference at MDP's Petaling Jaya office held today to disclose a police report filed by VK Thirunama Karasu - the brother of senior lawyer VK Lingam - alleging a litany of judicial corruption by Lingam and top judges.

Wee also questioned why the police appeared to have done little despite Thirunama's allegations were made six months before the 'Lingam tape' emerged in public.

In the eight-minute video clip exposed by ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim on Sept 19, Lingam is shown in a phone conversation purportedly with recently retired Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim fixing the appointments of 'friendly' judges.

Two months after the scandal first broke, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced on Friday the setting up of a royal commission of inquiry to investigate the 'Lingam tape'.

Abdullah said that the decision to establish the commission was based on the findings of the three-member panel headed by former chief judge of Malaya Haidar Mohd Noor - appointed to determine the tape's authenticity.

The terms of reference and possible members of the commission, however, would only be determined at the weekly cabinet's meeting on Wednesday, said Abdullah.

Lauding the move to establish the commission, Wee urged the government to take heed of calls to restore the judiciary's independence.

Give commission full powers

To do this, said Wee, the government must give the royal commission full powers to address all the issues and implications raised by the Lingam tape.

This includes the decision by Ahmad Fairuz to disqualify Wee as the winning candidate in the 1995 contest for the Bukit Bintang parliamentary seat in Kuala Lumpur.

Ahmad Fairuz, who was sitting as an election court judge following the 1995 general election, upheld an election petition contesting Wee's victory under a DAP ticket.

Instead of calling for a by-election, Ahmad Fairuz in a controversial decision ruled that Wee's opponent, Barisan Nasional candidate Dr Lee Chong Meng from MCA, be declared the winner.

Wee's name was mentioned by Lingam in the clip - said to be recorded in 2002 - when Lingam was shown telling Ahmad Fairuz, "You have suffered... so much you have done, for the election, Wee Choo Keong, everything."

Wee said Ahmad Fairuz's decision was an affront to the basic democratic principle that a member of parliament must be elected by the people and not an election judge.

It was also contrary to the legal principle that under such circumstances, a by-election should have been ordered.

Wee said he himself was a "victim" of the judicial rot.

"Civil society demands a thorough investigation by the royal commission empowered with the widest possible terms of reference to investigate the root cause of the state of the judiciary with specific reference to the dismissal (of) Salleh the subsequent promotions of judges, the said video clip, and the serious allegations in the police report by none other than the brother of Datuk VK Kanagalinam," said Wee.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Lingam tape

Share