Aliran rejects the appointment of the three-man panel to probe into the authenticity of the Lingam tapes. The government’s move does not go far enough or deep enough to address the serious problems plaguing the judiciary. The rot in the judiciary extends beyond the Lingam tapes. Establishing or debunking the authenticity of the tapes is not going to solve the crisis in the judiciary. It is not the be all or the end all of the matter.
The appointment of Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor – the former Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court in 1988 – to head this panel not only raises eyebrows but raises serious questions of concern and propriety.
Let us not forget Haidar’s role in the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas, which triggered a crisis from which the judiciary has never recovered. Haidar, acting under orders from the disgraced Tun Hamid Omar, played a key role in trying to subvert an emergency Supreme Court sitting to hear an urgent application by Tun Salleh’s counsel.
Supreme Court Judge Tan Sri Datuk Wan Suleiman had sought Haidar’s cooperation on 2 July 1988 in convening an urgent special sitting of the Supreme Court. The judge pointed out to Haidar that Hamid was actually an interested litigant and for that reason could not make any decision regarding the Supreme Court sitting. (Hamid was promoted to Lord President after Salleh’s ouster.) Wan Suleiman also instructed Haidar to await the decision of the special sitting and if necessary to sign any order.
But Haidar informed Wan Suleiman that he had received instructions from Hamid not to get involved in any action taken by the Supreme Court.
Wan Suleiman then said that he himself would sign whatever court order that might be made and take responsibility for the matter.
But Haidar was not satisfied. He went to the Supreme Court Registry and ordered the staff to lock up the Seal of the Supreme Court in the cupboard. And, as it was around 12.45pm, he also told the staff that they could go home. He said he was acting under Hamid’s orders.
Obviously, Haidar was working in close cooperation with Tun Hamid in preventing the Supreme Court Judges from convening the urgent sitting. As K Das, in his memorable book May Day for Justice, observed:
…that Saturday’s events were not those one associates with courts of law in a democratic country. Locking the doors of a court and concealing the court seal is something too wild to contemplate outside a dictatorship or a soap opera.
And yet it is this same Haidar who is going to chair the “independent” panel to investigate the explosive Lingam tapes. His conduct in 1988 was questionable and, according to Datuk George Seah in an article in Aliran Monthly, could have even constituted contempt of court.
In his article, Datuk George Seah also observed:
Immediately after the removable of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and senior Supreme Court Judges Tan Sri Suleiman and Datuk George Seah in 1988, Tan Sri Haidar was appointed a Judge of the High Court in Borneo. He returned to the High Court in Malaysia and was elevated to the Court of Appeal and subsequently to the Federal Court before his appointment as Chief Judge of the High Court in Malaysia.
His meteoric rise in the ranks of the judiciary did not go unnoticed.
To appoint someone connected with the terrible episode of a devastating judicial crisis in 1988 is to mock justice in the face. The judiciary was ravaged in 1988 by the collusion of certain depraved judges who actively participated and allowed themselves to be used as tools of the Executive. That is when the rot set in. And that should be the starting point in any honest attempt to clean up the judiciary, restore public confidence and bring back the shine so that we can be proud of our judiciary.
The rot was so pervasive that Malaysians were able to predict the outcomes of certain cases. The situation has become so deplorable that certain litigants rightly felt deprived of justice. These cases must be reviewed so that justice will be restored to those deserving it.
Aliran had in an earlier statement called for the review of the following cases:
1.All judgments involving Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s court cases;
2.The farcical sodomy conviction cases of Sukma Darmawan and Dr Munawar Anees;
3.The sacking of Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and Datuk George Seah;
4.The elevation of Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah to the Federal Court some three weeks after his retirement from his office as the Attorney-General;
5.The Ayer Molek case;
6.The Metramac case;
7.All high profile cases in which these judges sat after leap-frogging over more senior and deserving judges still in service;
8.Justice Idid’s letter which condemned and implicated 12 judges by citing 112 serious allegations of corruption and malpractice;
9.Reporter Raphael Pura’s allegation that lawyer V K Lingam had written parts of the judgments of a judge in the Vincent Tan vs MGG Pillai defamation case in 1994;
10.The overseas holidays involving former Chief Justice Eusoff Chin and V K Lingam and their respective families in New Zealand as well as V K Lingam with former Attorney General Mohhtar Abdullah and their respective families along with tycoon Vincent Tan in Italy.
We repeat that call and urge the Barisan government under Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to rise to this historic occasion and heed the pleas of well-meaning Malaysians who desperately crave for the full restoration of a respectable, dignified and independent judiciary.
To achieve this, nothing short of an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry with a broad remit would be acceptable to meet the expectations of all Malaysians. Aliran therefore calls upon the government to scrap the three-man panel and appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry without further delay.
26 September 2007