Is Daim helping Mahathir trigger another judicial crisis?

TTF: In 1987, Dr Mahathir Mohamad instructed the police to detain a number of political activists without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The swoop came to be known as Ops Lalang and saw the detention of the late DAP Member of Parliament, Karpal Singh. Soon after, the High Court granted Karpal’s application to be released after citing technicalities in the way he was detained.

That infuriated Mahathir.

The following week, he undertook to table in Parliament some amendments to the Federal Constitution that sought to divest the courts of judicial powers of courts. In justifying the amendments, Mahathir stated: “…the courts have decided that in enforcing the law they are bound by their interpretations and not by the reasons for which Parliament formulated these laws … lately the judiciary had seen fit to touch on matters which were previously regarded as solely within the executive’s jurisdiction.”

And this is what Wikipedia has to say (in orange, verified for legitimacy);

The Lord President of the Supreme Court, Tun Salleh Abas, was pressured by his fellow judges to respond to the government’s actions. Salleh decided to convene a meeting of all 20 judges from the Supreme and High Courts in the capital of Kuala Lumpur. At the meeting, they agreed not to publicly reply to Mahathir’s criticisms. Instead, they wrote a confidential letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) and the Malay rulers, expressing their grievances. The proposed letter, which was unanimously approved, was written by Salleh Abas. The letter stated the judges’ disappointment “with the various comments and accusations made by the Honourable Prime Minister against the Judiciary,” but did not demand specific action be taken — instead, it ended with an expression of “hope that all those unfounded accusations will be stopped”.

n 1988, Tun Salleh Abas was brought before a tribunal convened by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad on the grounds of misconduct. The tribunal was chaired by Tun Hamid Omar. In response to the tribunal, Tun Salleh Abas filed a suit in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to challenge the constitutionality of the tribunal. While proceeding with the suit, Tun Salleh Abas applied for an interim stay against the tribunal until 4 July 1988. The request was denied.

Later however, five judges of the Supreme Court convened and granted Tun Salleh Abas an interlocutory order against the tribunal. Upon receiving the order, Tun Salleh Abas’ solicitors proceed to the Parliament to present the chairman of the tribunal the interlocutory order. The gate leading to the Parliament however was locked and Tun Salleh Abas’ representative had to call in the police to be guaranteed a passage into the Parliament. Eventually, the order was presented to the tribunal chairman.

Soon after, the five judges were suspended. The judges were Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah.[18] This effectively suspended the Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court suspended, the challenge toward the legality of the tribunal could not be heard. The tribunal later removed Tun Salleh Abas from his office. Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Datuk George Seah were also removed from office. The other three judges were later reinstated.

The irregular dismissal of Tun Salleh Abas led the Bar Council of Malaysia refusing to recognise the new Lord President. Around the same time, the Federal Constitution was amended to divest the courts of the “judicial power of the Federation”, granting them instead such judicial powers as Parliament might grant them.

And today, we’re being told that Daim Zainuddin sought the resignations of Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Justice Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin (see news item below). In the first place, who is Daim to seek the resignations of Federal judges? In the second place, why did the Prime Minister send Daim to do his dirty work instead of doing it by himself?

KUALA LUMPUR: Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin has allegedly called for the resignations of Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Justice Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram has claimed.

Gopal told Malaysiakini that it was “an open secret” this had occurred during a meeting at Daim’s private office, but it is currently unclear when the actual meeting in question took place.

Gopal said that Daim should not have done so as it was unconstitutional for anyone other than the prime minister to summon the head of the judiciary.

“Daim is not the prime minister, and even if he had been asked by the prime minister to do what he did, he should have declined and left it to the attorney general, the prime minister and the Cabinet to handle this.

“After all, we do not want to return to the old days when there was no respect for the separation of powers and the due observance of constitutional requirements,” Sri Ram was quoted as saying in the news report.

He said that by attending the meeting, Md Raus and Zulkefli had only made matters worse.

“With respect, had they believed that their continued occupation of their respective office was justified, they should have dignifiedly declined the invitation,” Gopal said.

Md Raus and Zulkefli were appointed as CJ and Court of Appeal president respectively on April 1 last year. They were scheduled to retire on August 3 and September 27 of that year respectively upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 66 and six months.

Their contract extensions are the subject of a judicial review application by the Malaysian Bar, which said the move was in violation of the Federal Constitution.

Gopal urged the two judges to resign immediately, and for the Attorney General to inform the courts that the government no longer supported their appointments as constitutional.

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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