Laman Webantu   KM2A1: 4808 File Size: 5.1 Kb *

Asiaweek: Daring to Rule
By Arjuna Ranawana

23/6/2001 10:52 am Sat

[Keputusan dua hakim menyentuh isu keganasan polis dan pengundi hantu telah mengaibkan Mahathir. Makin aib lagi kerana hakim Eusoff Chin yang dipanjangkan tempoh khidmatnya (oleh Mahathir juga) itu terlibat di situ. Dan bertambah-tambah aib lagi kerana kedua-dua hakim itu melayu. Ini menunjukkan sudah tidak ujud ketakutan lagi hakim untuk memberi keputusan yang tidak berpihak kepada kerajaan kerana undang-undang dan pelembagaan serta keadilan itulah yang lebih diutamakan. Patutlah Mahathir senyap tidak terkata - yang bising cuma Rais sahaja kerana dia pendek aqal sebenarnya. Sebaliknya Mahathir cuba mencetus simpati kununnya Umno pula yang menjadi mangsa SPR padahal ia diam seribu bahasa bila untung sekian lama. - Editor] artsciences/0,8782,132680,00.html

Daring to Rule

The new Malaysian chief justice's quiet campaign to raise courtroom standards has given his judges an independent streak

A fortnight before he was due to retire, Muhammad Kamil Awang dropped a judicial bomb. The judge in the court of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia's Sabah state earlier this month annulled a ruling coalition candidate's victory in state assembly polls two years ago. That was shocking enough. But Justice Muhammad went on to say he had acted despite receiving a phone call from a superior asking him to drop the case. He declared in his ruling: "God has given me the strength and fortitude . . . to truly act as a judge and not as a 'yes man.'"

For critics who have long alleged that there is excessive government influence over the courts, Justice Muhammad's story was grounds for renewed hope. All the more so because of the bold message being sent out by Malaysia's new chief justice, Mohamad Dzaiddin Abdullah. Since his appointment in December, Dzaiddin has warned that negative impressions of Malaysian courts are harming the country. "Multinational corporations and foreign investors are reluctant to invest because they perceive there is no level playing field in the courts," he said shortly after his appointment. Since then, Dzaiddin has urged judges to lift professional standards, said contempt must not be used to suppress criticism, and denounced excessive libel awards as a danger to freedom of expression.

Muhammad's rebellion came soon after another judge had refused to bow to the authorities. Hishamudin Mohamad Yunus, a High Court justice in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur, on May 30 ordered the release of two opposition activists arrested under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial. Justice Hishamudin said the arrests were in bad faith and violated the detainees' constitutional rights. "When one judge gives such a decision, it is an isolated incident," says Syed Husin Ali, a political science professor and opposition politician. "But when (two decisions) come soon after one another, it becomes a movement."

Malaysia's judicial system has been under a cloud for some time. Opposition politicians point to the case of Anwar Ibrahim, once Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's deputy and heir apparent, now serving 15 years for s###my and corruption. Anwar claims he was railroaded by a conspiracy engineered by his former mentor, a charge Mahathir denies. But the problem goes beyond political cases. Yusuf Abdul Rahman, a corporate litigator, says he has to restrain client expectations on their chances of winning lawsuits in Malaysia. "Even when a businessman has a good claim, he can lose," Yusuf says. "This is really bad for business."

Dzaiddin's campaign has raised hopes that Malaysian courts can boost their independence and integrity. Human rights group Aliran said it hoped Justice Hishamudin's decision on the ISA detainees was "the signal of the end to years of judicial reluctance to challenge draconian legislation and oppressive rule." On the business front, litigator Yusuf says: "Now there is some hope of improvement."

The government has kept its cool, releasing the two detainees and launching a police investigation into Justice Muhammad's accusations. Former chief justice Eusoff Chin says he called Muhammad, but only to urge speed. Mahathir has distanced himself from the controversy, saying: "There is a separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive." But in consolidating his authority after taking the premiership 20 years ago, the judiciary was one of the first institutions he fought to rein in. That struggle culminated in the dismissal of the country's top judge in 1988. If the trickle of judgments against the authorities turns into a stream, Mahathir could find that his grip on Malaysia is loosening.