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.