The Hamid Sultan I knew was a simple man, and I believe either patronage or money may still not trap him, hence his courage. K Haridas writes.
This is a nation where you rarely find anyone from the establishment taking a stand.
This is because there is too much to lose. You soon realise you are ostracised by the establishment and find yourself out on a limb. Those who take a stand – noble characters like the late former Lord President (1974-82), Tun Suffian Hashim, and the late former auditor general, Ahmdd Noordin, or even Anwar Ibrahim – know the power of the elite.
So, one must applaud the great moral strength and courage exhibited by Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer and the need for his affidavit to be closely scrutinised. He was on the dot when he stressed that the judiciary is expected to provide checks and balances on the executive and legislature as provided for in the Federal Constitution.
Justice Hamid Sultan continues to stand by the entire contents of his affidavit and his 101-page legal judgment delivered in June. Whether you agree with him or otherwise, he wrote his judgment and stands by his conviction – which is perhaps more than can be said for some of his fellow judges.
It must have frustrated him no end that he eventually came out with allegations of judicial interference – initially, at an international conference. One must respect his stand in support of the need for integrity in the judiciary. I am sure the learned judge would have seriously considered the implications that might arise. Many others might have felt the same but opted for silence.
Many may not realise we have an Institut Integriti Malaysia. How many from this institute stood up during the entire saga relating to 1MDB? You cannot have integrity without conscience, and had this institute and its directors stood up vocally to keep the issue in the public eye, what a difference they would have made. But being an institution under the patronage of the government, they could do little to give integrity in governance real meaning.
In a nation where power and patronage and doing the bidding of powerful individuals enhances the road to career advancement, there are many who would sacrifice their noble views on justice and fairness and opt for silence – and tolerate what should not be tolerated. After all titles, promotions, patronage and directorships all remain an important lure after retirement.
Sadly, patronage is not even considered a corrupt practice. In reality, patronage never contributes towards creating a level playing field.
Our history since the days of Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been one that has reduced the esteem with which the Malaysian judiciary has been held. There are numerous cases that amplify this reality, from the VK Lingam “correct, correct, correct” fiasco to the uproar when former chief justice Eusoffe Chin was photographed with Lingam on holiday in New Zealand.
An earlier judge who had the guts to be a whistleblower also paid a great price. However, his consistent stand even after having left the judiciary attests to his integrity.
The lack of clear lines and the sacrificing of the principle of the separation of powers lead to grey areas. These are then exploited by the elites. The conspiracy of silence of many so-called good people is what led us to become a globally recognised kleptocracy. The trials of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor are just so shocking.
But then again, all this characterises the lifestyle of the elites and the extent to which so many are complicit by their silence. Some do so because they do not want to lower the esteem of their respective ethnic groups, others because they want to be part of the accepted group, to be considered for promotion. Many more who do not want to be seen as rocking the boat.
What does character mean to such people? Religiosity without character is lame and exhibits hypocrisy. Where are the men and women of character in our present ruling elite? Many have become frogs!
Within this context, we now have an Appeals Court judge standing up for the judiciary – and what does he face? Instead of lauding his efforts, he is given a show-cause notice. He is a senior judge and would not have arrived at such expose without facts and evidence. On the other side is the reality of powerful forces who are trying to discredit him.
Hamid Sultan Abu Backer knows the law, and his book on contract law is much referenced. We studied Sharia law together, and I was grateful for his help and we passed together. Over the years, we have hardly met, but I have always had high regard for his convictions. I was therefore not surprised by his bold stand.
How long can one go on rationalising one’s conscience and oath of office? Only an individual with deep convictions and values can develop a sensitive conscience. This is another instance that challenges the judiciary. Who will stand up to cleanse the judiciary? Unless there is accountability, nothing is going to shift. Systems and structures may contribute, but ultimately it is the character of the judges that makes the critical difference.
For senior judges to allegedly intervene in the decisions of several appeals is not a small matter. If true, this is blatant corruption at the cost of justice. The call for a genuinely independent commission has been brushed aside. Justice Hamid Sultan’s explosive affidavit challenges many powerful individuals, and vested interests will do much to damage his credibility.
The Hamid Sultan I knew was a simple man, and I believe either patronage or money may still not trap him, hence his courage.
In a country like Malaysia, it is important for us to take such cues and move forward the agenda for change and reform. However, without openness and transparency, this is going to be difficult. Elites and powerful vested interests work in the dark, employing subtle means. They fear the light of day.
That the establishment has reneged on an independent commission of inquiry indicates how explosive the issues are that Justice Hamid Sultan has raised so courageously. It was Cicero, the Roman statesman, who said, “The fundamentals of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong, and that the public good be served”.
If the public good is the ultimate objective, then the powers that be will make the right decision. We who believe in the public good must also support and encourage people who initiate change.
Bravo, YA Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer!