Judicial Rot Started from Eusoff’s Time, Says Zaid Ibrahim

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Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim is the latest to add his voice to the formation of a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to scrutinise the allegations of judicial impropriety.

He said an RCI with the proper terms of reference would be useful.

“The judiciary has been filled with unsavoury and sometimes shocking news of judicial impropriety, misconduct and possibly criminal acts allegedly committed by some judges.

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“This started in the days when Eusoff Chin was chief justice (from 1994 to 2000),” he told Malaysiakini this afternoon.

Calls for an RCI intensified following Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Ab Backer’s Valentine Day bombshell, where he made explosive allegations in an affidavit.

Among others, Hamid had claimed that certain members of the judiciary were colluding with politicians and private entities to swindle public funds.

He also expressed regret that newly-minted Chief Justice Richard Malanjum was not pushing for an RCI to look into these abuses.

The affidavit was filed in support of lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo’s to declare that the chief justice failed to defend the integrity of the judiciary over the alleged instances of judicial interference involving her late father Karpal Singh’s sedition case.

Meanwhile, Zaid also noted how the revelations of former judge Syed Ahmad Idid in the mid-1990s were never acted upon.

“Now a senior judge (Hamid) has revealed more shocking revelations. An RCI will do the judiciary a lot of good, even if we are not able to punish one from the past. It will be good for the future,” he added.

In 1996, when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister, Syed Ahmad was forced to resign for writing an anonymous letter which was sent to a select set of high officials.

Among others, the letter revealed Eusoff had gone on a holiday to New Zealand with senior lawyer VK Lingam, who appeared before the then chief justice in court on a number of cases.

However, Syed Ahmad’s letter mysteriously found its way into some government departments and then spread to the media.

Lingam was later implicated in a video showing him having a phone conversation with then chief judge of Malaya Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Halim in 2001 over the fixing of judges.

Kuek Ser Kuang Keng/Malaysiakini

This eventually led to an RCI in 2008 during the tenure of prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. At the time, Zaid was the de facto law minister.

The five-member panel had proposed that action be taken against Lingam, Eusoff and four others, including Mahathir.

However, until today, no action has been taken against any of the six.

Mahathir has since returned as prime minister and when asked if the government would set up an RCI on the latest allegations last week, he replied: “I am not in the position to say anything. If there will be an RCI, we will study the proposal first.”

Zaid declined to share his thoughts on who should be appointed as panel members if the government greenlights the setting up of an RCI.

“The Pakatan Harapan government knows who can serve in the commission. They always appoint the right person for the job,” he said.

During his tenure as law minister, Zaid also prompted the Abdullah administration to tender a public apology to former lord president Salleh Abas and the judges affected by the 1988 judicial crisis during Mahathir’s tenure as prime minister.

Abdullah later announced ex-gratia payments to Salleh and six former Supreme Court judges who lost their seats on the bench. He also conceded that the judiciary crisis continues to haunt the nation.

Last year, Mahathir said he was prepared to swear on the Quran that he did not sack

Salleh and once again shifted the blame to the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Iskandar Ismail.

“Salleh was sacked not because of me. Unfortunately, in order to save the good name of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong then, my name was used as though I had given the instruction to sack Salleh, but I didn’t interfere in the matter.

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“I am willing to enter the mosque and swear on the Quran that I didn’t give any such instruction. Salleh said that I had instructed his sacking, but it was the Agong who gave the instruction,” he added.

When Mahathir had made a similar allegation in 2015, the late Sultan Iskandar’s son Tunku Bendahara of Johor Tunku Abdul Majid Idris claimed that Mahathir had “used” his father to remove Salleh. – Malaysiakini