At a function last Saturday, a distinguished member of a royal family sat next to me during lunch and whispered to me to write a piece about our country’s judiciary.
I was hesitant, as I am not a lawyer and have very little knowledge of legal matters.
Still, I am concerned about what is happening in our country. Many people were applauding Najib’s conviction and incarceration, but to me what was most important was that the rule of law prevailed.
This episode also exemplified the concept of the separation of powers working well in our country. In any democracy, there must always be the separation of powers between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. All three branches in any democracy must be independent of each other.
Credit must be given to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob for not interfering in the judiciary or in any way trying to influence the court’s decision. The PM’s non-intervention in the judiciary exemplified the separation of the powers between the executive and judiciary.
An independent judiciary is the bedrock of the legal structure in any country. Any free society is it wants to move forward and succeed must unwaveringly subscribe to the rule of law. This requires all of its people to be treated impartially, irrespective of their station in life.
An independent judiciary is therefore essential for the good working and advancement of any free society.
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The primary role of the bench is to unequivocally defend the rule of law and safeguard its supremacy.
The judiciary’s role is to ensure that the rights of the individual are not violated and that disputes are settled in accordance with the law. The protection of democratic values must be sustained at any cost, and judges must not succumb to any individual or dictatorship.
The cardinal role of an independent judiciary is to assure the people that court decisions will be based on the nation’s laws and the constitution instead of surrendering to political power or succumbing to the pressures of the majority. An impartial judicial system in a democracy serves as a torchbearer for the people’s rights and freedoms.
Over the last few years, Malaysia has been in the limelight, often for the wrong reasons. Hopefully, our international standing will improve and we will once again be in the global spotlight for right reasons.
Somebody sent me a text that Najib’s conviction and jailing is the best Merdeka gift. I disagree. It was just a victory for the rule of law, with an independent judiciary discharging its duties.
The most poignant message is that every Malaysian is equal under the country’s laws and our constitution works. The message is simple and explicit: if you commit a crime, you face the consequences, irrespective of who you are and what position you hold.
Malaysia can always change for the better and the judiciary has set the tone. Hopefully, other institutions will emulate the judiciary and propel the nation in the right direction. All we need is people imbued with integrity to helm the key institutions in the country.
We owe it to future generations to leave behind a better Malaysia.