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Saturday June 21, 2008

Former judge hits out at Dr M

KUALA LUMPUR: A retired Federal Court judge has lashed out at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad alleging that the former premier had wanted to amend Article 121 of the Federal Constitution because he wanted the judiciary to be under his control.

“I believe the Prime Minister at the time wanted to become a dictator; I may be wrong but this is my conclusion,” Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin yesterday told reporters after receiving ex-gratia payment from the Government for the pain and loss he suffered during the 1988 judicial crisis.

Previously, Article 121 stated that judicial power of the Federation was “vested in a Supreme Court and such inferior courts as may be provided by federal law” but it was replaced in 1988 to place the courts’ jurisdiction in the hands of Parliament.

Azmi, 75, who received the payment from de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, said: “He wanted to amend Article 121 which calls for the separation of powers. He already headed the Legislature and Executive. Now, he also wanted the judiciary under him.”

Adding that Dr Mahathir was “very clever” and always “killed two birds with one stone”, Azmi alleged that Dr Mahathir’s agenda was tied to the Umno 11 case involving then Umno vice-president Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah whose supporters had challenged his post as Umno president.

“With the judiciary under him, he could tell judges what to do. I am sure he will deny it,” said Azmi who was among six judges involved in the judicial crisis two decades ago.

Tun Salleh Abas, sacked as Lord President of the then Supreme Court (renamed Federal Court in 1994), also received his payment yesterday. The others who have already accepted the undisclosed payment were then Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Wan Mohamed Salleh and Datuk George Seah.

Compensation was also given to the families of the late Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh.

Azmi broke down and cried when he started talking to reporters at his house. He said his remaining 10 years as a judge were the worst days of his life where he only heard “simple cases” and lost the opportunity of being promoted.

“It (the payment) brings to an end the shameful episode of 1988.”

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