The current Chief Judge of Malaya, Zabidin Diah, is due to retire in March next year, having served an extra six-month extension to his term of office.
The foremost frontrunners to take over, based on age and experience, are Federal Court Justices Nallini Pathmanathan, Zabariah Yusof and Hasnah Hashim – all of whom turned 64 this year. Whoever is appointed will be the chief judge of Malaya for a brief period of two years and six months – assuming their term of office is extended for another six months.
Of the three judges, Nallini Pathmanathan is the most senior, having been elevated to the Federal Court on 26 November 2018. The other two contenders were appointed on 5 December 2019 – a year later.
Clearly, Justice Nallini has an advantage of one year’s seniority. Going by merit and seniority, she cannot be bypassed on any flimsy excuse. This is a judicial appointment – justice must be the only consideration for elevation to the post of chief justice of Malaya.
Here we are presented with a golden opportunity to override race, religion and prejudice and rise beyond these to fulfil the exalted motto of the judiciary: Justice is blind. We pray that no cock-eyed consideration will prevail and make a mockery of this judicial appointment.
Justice Nallini should not be excluded or sidelined solely because she is not a Malay and Muslim. That would be a travesty of justice.
Justice is colour blind, and oblivious to creed and race, and remains impartial. Only then, can we, the people, rise to the occasion and stand tall with our heads held high for the whole world to recognise that Malaysia has broken through the barriers of race and religion in the most critical institution – that is, the custodian of fair play, truth and justice.
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Or will we be stuck in the quagmire of race and prejudice, preventing the judiciary from moving forward based on meritocracy, fairness and justice?
Let’s be guided by this saying from Joseph Addison: Justice discards party, friendship, kindred, and is always, therefore, represented as blind.