A New Year wish – Independence for the judiciary

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While our neighbours’ democratic space is expanding, Malaysia’s is shrinking. Only you can stop this trend through the ballot box in the coming general election, says Choo Sing Chye.

The judiciary must be reformed - Photo credit: Qing Moments, Holidays in Penang, Picasa
The judiciary must be reformed – Photo credit: Qing Moments, Holidays in Penang, Picasa

Is it too much for the rakyat to ask for a judiciary that is not only independent, but also seen as such?

The three pillars of good government, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary must be separated. The legislature legislates laws, the executive executes them, and the judiciary checks its im­plementation.

But in a Westminster parliamentary system, we shouldn’t put too high a hope because the Prime Minister is the head of the Legislature and at the same time heads the Cabinet, which is the Executive. These two entities are seamlessly interchangeable.

In Britain, the separation of powers rests squarely on the Judiciary.

In 1984, Clive Ponting, a senior civil servant in the Naval Affairs office after the Falklands War, was charged for leaking information to a Labour Member of Parliament. Ponting’s bosses at the Defence ministry had been systematically lying to the parliamentary committee investigating the sinking of the cruiser General Belgrano.

Ponting believed that when Prime Minister Thatcher ordered the attack on the Argentine cruiser, it was already leaving the war zone. There were 368 Argentine lives lost in the sinking, and many Britons were killed in reprisal.

Feeling that, two years later, a cover-up was still in effect, Ponting decided he owed a higher allegiance to truth and to Parliament than to his bureaucratic superiors.

Arrested and tried by the government, Ponting was eventually acquitted in a much-publicised trial at the Old Bailey, by a jury of 12 ordinary men and women who, like their fellow citizens, saw no harm in a civil servant insisting on honesty in government.” (Patrick Watson & Benjamin Barber. The Struggle For Democracy, Toronto: 1988)

In Malaysia, Barisan Nasional leaders have reduced Parliament to a rubber stamp. The sacking of Tun Salleh Abas further provided the Barisan leaders with near absolute judicial power. Now they can change and interpret laws as they like.

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Just like in a quasi-democracy, the Malaysian Judiciary is seen as another extension of the Executive.

Should we, the rakyat, be contented with the state of affairs that we are in now?

While our neighbours’ democratic space is expanding, Malaysia’s is shrinking. Even Burma is taking baby-steps towards democracy.

Apparently there is no reason whatsoever for the Barisan Nasional leaders to lead our country into the abyss of dictatorship. Only you can stop this trend through the ballot box in the 13th General Elections.

A reminder:

Whereas animals live by instinct and therefore do what they do directly, we can decide between alternatives, and this choice is possible because we can reflect on how we are going to act. (From: “Philosophy in the Mass Society,” by George Grant).

Thus don’t look the other way because the choice is yours.

Choo Sing Chye, a former Perak state assembly member, served as politcal secretary to the late P Patto.

Source: singchyeblog.blogspot.com

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