As dozens of demonstrators, activists, opposition politicians and even lawyers are hauled up on various charges, the judiciary should provide hope for democracy and justice to prevail. But how independent is our judiciary in the light of the Lingam video scandal? A string of civil society groups and political parties express grave concern after the most outrageous, scandalous and shameful episode in Malaysian judicial history.
We, the undersigned civil society organisations and political parties, view with extreme concern and alarm the recent exposé via video recording of controversial lawyer V.K. Lingam speaking on the telephone allegedly with the then-Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Fairuz in 2002 (now Chief Justice) – on the issue of the appointments and promotions of judges – spoken with apparent planning with key political and business figures.
This episode is one of the most outrageous, scandalous and shameful in the history of the Malaysian judiciary. It stands as evidence of the present shambles in the judiciary. The steady decline of the judiciary can be traced to the unlawful sacking of former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and two other Supreme Court Judges in 1988, an event which the Judiciary never recovered from. The reputation of the Judiciary has since then been continuously tarnished by numerous controversial decisions and the perception of Government control and interference.
The appointment and promotion of judges has long been a controversial issue as there is manifestly a lack of transparency and clear application of universally accepted principles. Numerous senior and deserving judges, as perceived by the general public, with faultless records have not been promoted; instead the undeserving and surprising appointments and promotions of judges, including junior ones, have consistently pointed towards political manipulation and maneuvering by the Government to secure their influence in the judiciary and thus favorable judgments.
The judiciary, a fundamental makeup of a democratic, just and fair state, no longer commands international and public confidence but is instead seen as weak, corrupt and not free from political control and interference. Immediate steps must be taken to address the judicial rot, restore public confidence and reform the judiciary.
We also express our strongest reservations on the three-member panel appointed by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to investigate the authenticity of the video clip. We find it highly unacceptable that a video clip which implicates members of the cabinet should be investigated by a panel appointed by and reporting to the cabinet. Even more insulting is the fact that the panel is led by former Chief Judge of Malaya Haidar Mohd Noor, whose direct involvement as the then-Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court led to the unlawful sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988.
We therefore call for the following action:
1. Set up a tribunal under Article 125 of the Federal Constitution and immediately suspend the Chief Justice pending the hearing of charges of corruption against him.
2. Set up an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the overall state of the judiciary, including but not limited to the following:
• the judicial sacking of Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and Datuk George Seah in 1988;
• the swift and questionable promotions of several Federal Court judges; · the controversial decisions which include the criminal cases involving Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Sukma Darmawan and Munawar Anees; Lim Guan Eng; the Ayer Molek case; the Metramac case, the defamation cases involving V.K. Lingam; the Altantuya case and others, and;
• an investigation into former judge Syed Idid’s letter which implicates 12 judges and cites 112 serious allegations of corruption and malpractice.
3. Set up an independent Judicial Commission on the Appointment and Promotion of Judges.
2. Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN)
3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
4. Angkatan Muda Parti Keadilan Rakyat (AMK)
5. Artis Pro Activ
6. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
7. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
8. Chinese Language Society University Malaya
9. Chinese Language Society University Putra Malaysia
10. Chinese Students Council University Technology Malaysia (CSC UTM)
11. Citizen Think Tank
12. Community Development Center (CDC)
13. Empower (Pusat Janadaya)
14. Food Not Bombs KL
15. Gabungan Anak Muda dan Pelajar (GAMP)
16. Gabungan Pekerja Kilang & Kesatuan(GPKK)
17. Gabungan Peneroka Bandar & Perumahan(GPBP)
18. Group of Concerned Citizen (GCC)
19. Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
20. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
21. Jawatankuasa Kebajikan Mahasiswa/i (JKMI)
22. Jawatankuasa Sokongan Masyarakat Ladang(JSML)
23. LLG Cultural Development Center (LLG)
24. Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)
25. Malaysian Voters Union (MALVU)
26. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
27. RAKAN, UTM
28. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)
29. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
30. Penang Watch
31. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor
32. Persatuan Ibubapa SJK(C) Malaysia
33. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
34. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
35. Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)
36. Pusat Khidmat Pekerja Tanjung (PKPT)
37. Pusat KOMAS
38. Selangor Hokkien Association Youth Section
39. Sisters In Islam (SIS)
40. SOS Damansara Committee
41. Save OurSelves (SOS) Penang
42. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
43. Tamil Foundation
45. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
46. The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
47. University Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)
48. Women Development Collective (WDC)
49. Writers Alliance Media Independence (WAMI)
50. Yayasan Kajian & Pembangunan Masyarakat (YKPM)
51. Youth for Change (Y4C)
52. Youth Section of The KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH-Youth)