Friday, February 17, 2012

Is Our Judiciary Finally Awakening?

Recently a retired chief justice of Malaysia claimed HERE that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir was responsible for 'forcing' the judges to 'take orders' from politicians by passing new laws that make the judiciary arm answerable to Parliament instead of being independent, which of course Dr M denied HERE. Following that de facto law minister Nazri Aziz admitted there was some truth to the allegation in THIS report. Legal expert Aziz Bari blamed the judges for allowing their authority to be eroded as reported HERE and not to complain.

Pakatan jumped at the opportunity and promise that it will restore the judiciary to its pre-1988 status as reported HERE if elected to power.

Today I read two interesting developments that may point to a soon to happen revival of judicial power coming strongly from the high courts. I think the above development signal the timing for judges to act as arbiters rather than followers, to be fearless in ruling accurately and independent of any political influences especially from the top brass.

The first is the anti-Lynas campaign which is now gathering momentum. The judge will have to decide if he should rule in favor of the government or the plaintiffs. In effect it is a battle between the powerful and the helpless affected residents. The judge must carefully decide on the case and not become a 'political stooge' again if he believe the case belongs to the people.

The second case of even greater significance to the government especially prime minister Najib Razak is the blockage by a group of FELDA settlers against the transfer of FELDA Holding shares to FELDA Global Venture which plans to list FELDA on the stock exchange. If this succeed it will be a major setback and embarrassment to Najib who was very sure of the listing timeline. It will also be a victory to Pakatan.

Another test case of smaller proportion but stealing some limelight recently is that of a businessman going on hunger strike to force the Pahang state government to pay him the RM70 million damage accorded to his company. It would appear that the state government is challenging the judicial decision or is delaying payment.

In the coming weeks it will be interesting to see how many court cases will be delivered to warrant an impression that our judges are now reclaiming their power they once lost. The most sensational release of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charge by a high court judge has been appealed by the Attorney General. Will the appeal fail?

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