The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) echoes the call for a royal commission of inquiry to be set up to investigate incidents of judicial interference as alleged by Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, a sitting Court of Appeal judge, in his affidavit.
In his affidavit, Justice Hamid Sultan stated that “top judges” manipulated the panel of judges hearing constitutional and public interest cases such as those involving the redrawing of electoral boundaries, sedition and peaceful assembly.
The judge’s explosive allegation does not surprise Bersih 2.0 as all the cases brought by affected voters in Perak, Malacca and Johor and by the state governments of Selangor and Penang failed in their challenges. These parties were trying to halt the sixth exercise to redraw electoral boundaries conducted by the Electoral Commission.
The cases failed despite strong constitutional grounds and evidence of malapportionment, gerrymandering and irregularities in the electoral roll.
When the cases involving boundary redrawing went up to the appeals courts, a special panel would always hear this. They often comprised the same judges and the outcomes were always the same: rejection of the appeals.
These legal challenges were disposed of speedily, as if to ensure that the Electoral Commission’s recommendations would make it in time for the 2018 general election. Though we do not have concrete proof, these are patterns which raise reasonable suspicions of judicial interference at the highest level.
Bersih 2.0 wishes to remind the Pakatan Harapan government that the judicial and legal institutions are an important mechanism of checks and balances in the country. These institutions must be independent and they must have integrity, so that they are trusted by the people – and they must be free from executive interference or corruption.
We applaud the steps taken to ensure that the appointments of judges are removed from the influence of the prime minister and that a parliamentary select committee would decide appointments to the Judicial Appointments Commission.
But the cases of misconduct of past judges needs to be investigated and if found guilty, they have to be held accountable. This would also allow any gross miscarriage of justice in the cases heard by them to be reviewed in order to restore justice and confidence in the judiciary.
Bersih 2.0 also calls on more judges and other witnesses to come forward to provide evidence of any judicial interference they have encountered. The government has to accord protection to these informants under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 so that their identity will be kept confidential if necessary, their complaints can be investigated and action taken against those who abused their positions.
Failure on the part of the Pakatan Harapan government to form a royal commission of inquiry to look into judicial interference would not only undermine confidence in the judiciary but also in the PH government’s commitment to justice and the rule of law. Constitute the commission without delay.
Bersih 2.0 steering committee