Judge recuses self from hearing QC’s bid to represent Najib

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A High Court judge recused himself from hearing UK lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw’s bid to be admitted before the courts here so he can represent Najib Razak’s SRC International appeal.

Judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said he was previously with Umno and served as a senator before becoming a judge.

He said one of his immediate family members was a leader in Umno, the party Najib used to lead.

“In light of the factual narration that I alluded to earlier, my continued hearing of this motion (for admission) and eventual decision, one way or the other, would not be seen as purely from the legal perspective devoid of any extraneous predilection or preferences.

Zabidi Tusin/The Star

“I would invite unnecessary criticism that would compromise the integrity of the judiciary,” he said.

The mention for Laidlaw’s application for ad hoc admission was initially fixed for today.

Wan Farid had earlier asked if the parties were comfortable with him hearing Laidlaw’s admission.

Shafee Abdullah, who is representing Laidlaw, told the court they had no reservation, adding that the judge was not involved in any SRC International or 1MDB-linked matters.

However, lawyer V Sithambaram, who is leading the prosecution in the SRC International case, said he needed to seek instruction from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

Malaysian Bar lawyer Bastian Vendargon and Kuala Lumpur Bar representative Vivekananda Sukumaran told the court they needed to seek instructions from the office bearers.

Wan Farid then told the lawyers that “this is the very thing that I have to avoid despite running the risk of being accused of abdicating my judicial duty”.

He said that although the AGC, the Bar and Laidlaw’s representatives did not make any formal request, he should not hear this petition for ad hoc admission.

“The public perception of the independence of the judiciary should not be put in doubt. It is not a matter of trial and error.

“An independent judiciary is a precious gift to any society. Once it is lost, anarchy reigns.

“The independence of the judiciary must therefore be defended at all cost,” he said.

Laidlaw’s bid for an ad hoc admission is now fixed before another High Court judge, Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid. – FMT