Tun Salleh Abas

In my life, I adore many men. My father, who basically formed my way of thinking. I sometimes adore my husband, when he is not pulling acts that challenge my intelligence: love him madly nonetheless. I also adore courageous leaders, talented writers & poets, gifted actors and great sportsmen. However, Tun Salleh Abas (the former Lord President) is one of my favourite heroes. Let us digress from the attacks on bloggers and travel back to the bleak day when justice was greatly undermined.

I was browsing my in-tray earlier and my eyes caught sight of the latest Relevan, a magazine produced by the KL Bar Committee. I flipped through it without conviction until I reached page 14. The acticles titled ‘Down Memory Lane’ brought back fresh memories of the day justice was denied.

Wikipedia has defined the sacking of the Lord President in 1988 as “event that triggered a marked reduction in the independence of the Malaysian Judiciary.” In law school, I have been taught that the doctrine of the separation of powers requires the judiciary to hold itself distinct from the arms of executive and legislative of the country. Well, at least ideally. The same requirement of the independence of Judiciary is also enshrines in the Constitution. My fellow blogger & better lawyer Malik Imptiaz has, in his blog, detailed the difference between judiciary, executive and legislative. Click here. Dry constitutional law I thought, better leave it to Malik.

The sacking of Tun Salleh Abas and the four Supreme Court Judges who granted an order restraining the members of the tribunal appointed by the acting Lord President to give advice to the King pending further order, has besmirched the independence of Malaysian Judiciary forever. The Judiciary, should at all time, be protected from political pressure to ensure its integrity and maintain public trust. Alas, the removal did take place. Prior to his sacking, Tun Salleh was heavily critised by the Executive for being bias in a case involving the tussle within UMNO. If this is true, the Constitution and the independence of Judiciary were fatally compromised.

I was merely 13 years old when Tun Salleh Abas was controversially removed from the bench. Of course, back then I haven’t a clue that one day Tun Salleh’s judgments would be my reference & precedence throughout the course of practice. I was privileged enough to have met Tun Salleh Abas on several occasions due to my friendship with his granddaughter Nadhya.

I remember that rainy evening in 1993 when Nadhya brought me to Bukit Setiawangsa to meet Tun Salleh. He was sitting in his study reading a book. Nadhya sweetly said “Tok, ni kawan Ya, Michele“. He nodded and after the required “bersalam” took place, he went back to his reading. I sat next to him in a total uncomfortable silence. Then, he cheekily handed out the newspaper for me to read. I obligingly read the entire newspaper!

Recently, Tun Salleh was baffled when he tried to introduce new evidence to the 1998 case. Read Ibnu Hakeem of Malaysia Today. I conclude that – from his book of May Day for Justice and his superbly written judgments – Tun Salleh Abas is  a fair judge.  As for me, it’s no longer the matter of who is right and who is wrong, but at least the public deserves to know what actually happened the day the independence of the Judiciary was undermined. I am still waiting.

* I appreciate comments from my fellow bloggers on this issue especially those who were around in 1998. Thank you.


24 thoughts on “Tun Salleh Abas

  1. hi elviza,

    how small a world we live in.. I call Tun Salleh Ayah. His daughter Natlrah and I were best friends when we were in our teens right through college.
    In college, people mistook us for sisters although I found that rather baffling because we look so different.
    natlrah and I hardly meet. I think in the past 10 years, we must have met fewer than that number of years. we promised to meet last puasa but something came up and we had to postpone our “date”.
    really, i think, we both have no excuse to not meet. but, when we do meet, it’s like picking up where we left off and that left-off time seemed like only yesterday.

    and funny thing…. i covered the sacking of Tun Salleh and the tribunal hearing his case.
    if you look at the newspaper (NST) cuttings, you’d see my by-line. I must have been the only reporter allowed into his home, into his study because i was a family friend and his daughter’s best friend. But, much of what he told me was off the record.

    Now, would Nadhya be Kakak’s (aminah’s) daughter? her sisters would be natasha and nurul?

    what a small world we live in!

    Dearest Kak Ena, you covered the case? Wow… now must press you to have coffee with me again. Yes, Nadhya is Aminah’s daughter. Her sisters are natasha and nurul. Nadhya and I did A Levels together. However, she flew to Melbourne and I went to sheffield to complete our first degree. She is now married. I rarely see her too and I feel guilty for not spending time with her. I guess everyone would have friends that they wish they spend longer time with. It is indeed a small world Kak Ena!

  2. Hi Elviza,
    I dont understand law very much…its all like a rocketscience paper to me.A dear friend ,a lawyer, explained to me what Tun Salleh Abbas sttod for .From little that I understood this is a man of exemplary high principle.
    With the likes of the late Dato'(or was it Tan Sri)Eusoff AbdoolCadeer, they practise law and brought it up several notches higher.

    On a lighter notes,there was a movie about law student ,if memory serve me right,’Paper Chase’ .John Houseman in the role of Prof Kingsfield is my embodiment of how the judges are…their wicked sense of humor.
    I read Tan Sri Eusoff judgement on the internet and realise how beautiful and aromatic the law was in his hand.Apparently at every case judgement presided by him,all lawyers filled the court just to hear his words of wisdom.

    Tun Salleh and TsEAC are man who live,breath and slept with what they believe dearly….justice.For, without it ,we would fail as a decent human being.

    My Salute to All Men and Women of Law.

  3. elviza

    They do not make judges like Tun salleh, eusoffe and suffian anymore.
    you know that, dont you? how many times have i heard snide remarks about judges! so how can we accord judges the respect they are supposed to get from society? we can’t today because there are among them who do not deserve the respect.
    their impartiality and neutrality, dignity and integrity have been compromised. they have allowed themselves to be used by the executive.
    you can blame the executive all you want but there are judges and there are JUDGES.
    we know of judges who have stood their ground in face of threats and admonishment, and suffered for it. But their integrity and dignity intact! I salute them!

  4. Elviza, we will never know as long as a government that is shady as long as we have the OSA protecting the perpetrators. Like Clark Gable those two luminaries shine. I believe there are a few others …Harun Hashim, HS Ong, HT Ong….the last two I remember meeting them in my pre-teens in Taiping.

    If the truth should be known one day, I expect the legal fraternity to rescue back what was hijacked from the profession. Wah, I sound serious, no?

    Hu hu, that is a very general statement. Be specific if you c/dare.

  5. Dato’ Hj Hishamuddin B Hj Yunus is for me a JUDGE of integrity, who acts with no fear and favour and the executive shall find no way to use him. On this note, i think he won’t be elevated beyond his current position, a high court JUDGE. He will, i think, retire as a high court JUDGE.

  6. When that happened, I was still in school. I remember one particular teacher brought up the issue to encourage a class discussion about current affairs. At that point in time, I was blurred as a sotong. I didn’t know what was happening. But I remember that teacher imposing his ideas on us and basically what he told us was that TSA was sacked because he wrote a letter of resignation to TDM and then withdrew it. It’s procedurally incorrect, that’s why he was removed.


    Such was the quality of the teachers even back then.

    I knew the real story (well, part of it anyway) many many years later. Suffice to say, I believe TSA is a man of integrity and an honourable judge.

    Reds: The are a number of good and honourable judges in our current judiciary, Hishamuddin is only one of them. There are others in higher courts as well and hopefully they can regain the honour that was once lost. Let’s not make too much generalisation against the judiciary now ok.

  7. Some time last year, NSTP frontpage carried an interview with a good friend of mine, former High Court judge Y.A. Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid, director of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA). It was most revealing and clearly showed a man of integrity who suffered in silence for what he truly believed in. He had opened a can of worms about corruption in the judiciary and was put in ‘cold storage’, although he didnt quite ‘suffer’ like Tun Salleh.

    I believe nothing came out of the NSTP ‘expose’.

  8. I was an attachment student at one of the law firms in KL when the surat layang purportedly written by Syed Ahmad Idid was circulating in court. I read the whole thing, and boy oh boy, aren’t the stories juicy!

    In the end, SAI was the one who resigned and those named in the surat layang continued doing what they were doing. What can I say… life’s a bitch.

  9. Buku Mayday for Justice sebenarnya ditulis oleh K Das. Tidak ramai rakyat Malaysia yang baca. Saya rasa sepatutnya buku itu diberi judul Nay Day for Justice. TSA percaya bahawa ungkapan Allahu Akhbar itu patut di amalkan dalan kehidupan harian, maka beliau melawan mana mana pihak yang cuba menjadi maharaja yang ingin menggugat kedudukan Judiciary.

    Beliau sebenarnya bukan berlawan dengan seorang megalomaniac yang cuba melemahkan Judiciary, tetapi beliau behadapan dengan satu sistem yang sedang dibina, satu jentera yang hingga kini masih berkuasa dan mewarnai kehidupan kita.

  10. Dearest Clark Gable, Nuraina, Reds, Sue, Anon, Zorro, Ancient Mariner and Rastom,

    Thank you for the thoughts.

    And Huhu,

    Many are still waiting for your answer as to why you think Tun Salleh is a “whatever word you used”.

  11. Dearest Elviza

    Salam for you and also for Fatimah az-Zahra binti Muhammad s.’a.w.w.

    This vicious kutu has handed BOS to Lord of The Ring and National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs).

    but, i think they will only accept Elviza as one of the mentors, not protégé.

    Hope, with the blessing of your dearest husband, this kutu can be your protégé.

    Hope you can be my TESL teacher. My English, as you know, is kind of hantam saja la labu English, pakai taram ja English.

    Tun Salleh – saya dah baca lama dah yang ni, tapi tak modai nak komen. Yang paling saya ingat, ialah isteri Tun Salleh. Dulu, masa dia dekat2 nak kena pecat, saya selalu pi baca Yassin di rumah dia.

    Ada la sekali, belah siang, saya pi rumah Tun, ingat nak cari berita sikit. Tun tak dak. Terkejut beruk saya bila isteri dia punya la baik. Dia layan saya macam mak layan anak.

    Saya tak bercampuq dgn org besaq2, mana la saya sangka isteri org besaq2 pun ada yang baik bukan main.

    Salam for you and your family.

    Its me who wants to be your protege! Dan tolonglah, my english is bad, esp the grammar – tanya Zorro he was english teacher before! Takpe lah Sang Kutu, jom kita hentam sajelah.

    Some people Sang Kutu, they are not changed by status and accomplishment, Tun Salleh’s family is one of them. Terima kasih sebab jenguk blog say nih…jemputlah datang lagi!

  12. The problem is that not all Malayan judges had the backbone to live the Law. Instead of proclaiming the rule of law from the very beginning some of them were seduced into delivering “development justice” (or ‘palm tree’ justice you may have heard of practised by colonial officers sent to farflung outposts of the British empire in days of yore) wherever the Govt was involved. There was no turning back from that slippery slope. The only people to blame for the current system are the judges themselves including this man you so admire. He never ever spoke against the clear rape of the Constitution that took place before he too was booted out. He is, like all of us, fallible. But he was also a member of the Inns of Court, an esquire by virtue of his office as a barrister, first lord of the Law in Malaysia – all worthy in their own right. But what was he doing when his brother judges were giving out “development justice” in the highest courts of the land? They failed the people who looked up to them. Now the only place one can practice real Law is outside Malaysia. You are sorry for this man because you are compassionate. This is all and good. But few us can forgive him or his ilk for their lack of spine when it counted.

    Dear Goodman, a freshing comment from your point of view. However, like I said, it does not matter what TSA did or didnt do, but the public deserves to know the true story the day Judiciary was undermined. Thanks for dropping by Goodman, come again soon

  13. Im a law student and recently someone told me about Tun Salleh Abbas and im pretty impressed on how he stood his ground in the face of tyranny. I think tunku abdul rahman did not expect that the country that he helped create would turn out like this. Rampant and blatant corruption to the core! I think Malaysia should pull a “Thailand”, where the king will flex his authority and purge the government in Malaysia of all the corrupt and parasitic politicans and people who abuses their trusted position of power.

  14. Pingback: Penguin March « Write Away

  15. Dear Author,
    Kindly refresh my memory? What really happened to T.S. E. Abdool Cadeer?
    Was it suicide? Any source where I can read his biography?

  16. At the very most (or least?) Tun Salleh Abas got some cash. The High Court Judge Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid LOST more than RM2 million (the loss of his remuneration and perks on the Bench) and lost his pension. Loss of pension will kill him because he cannot get hospitalisation or medications for his heart ailment. Maybe Mahathir and Gani planned to kill this judge in this way…deprive Dato’ Syed Ahmad Idid of his pension and kill him in the process. Our new Malaysian Modus Operandi..kill by (mis)using the Government apparatus!
    Still Malaysians just don’t care to right wrongs. Then one day you will suffer and that will be too late.

  17. Im not a lawyer or a person who sit on the bench. My profession directly related to innovations whereby it relates to IP&L some how. I don’t have great words to described about Tun Salleh Abbas, but i just want to say ” I LOVE HIM VERY MUCH” and an only person that enrich and demonstrated integrity, right thinking and judgement. A super soul indeed and always my prayers for him to have good in health. I can claimed and be proud to be born in malaysia soil and proud to be malaysian simply because of Tun Salleh Abbas. God Blessed.

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