Judicial reforms are taking shape

PUTRAJAYA: The judicial reforms, which have been much-talked-about since the assault on the judiciary system in 1988, are taking shape.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) dropped the biggest hint on restoring credibility and integrity when he said that the appointment of judges and certain other positions would go through Parliament before the names were submitted to the King.

Towards this end, he said a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) would be introduced to vet candidates for certain positions before their names were submitted to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“Judges do not have to be afraid to carry out their duties fairly.

“The main thing here is justice ... not because they are afraid of not being appointed or not being promoted by certain people,” he said.

Dr Mahathir added that when something was not in accordance with the spirit of the law, it was the judicial system that the people went to.

“Judges have to be free from all influence. They cannot be involved in politics and they cannot side their family or friends.

“Judges should follow laws that have been enacted and if something is against the law, it is the judges who will determine whether it is right or wrong,” he said in his address at the monthly assembly of the Prime Minister’s Department yesterday.

It was during Dr Mahathir’s first term as Prime Minister that the independence of the judiciary was shattered. The appointment of judges became the prerogative of the Prime Minister who would advise the King.

However, the returning Prime Minister unveiled the Pakatan Harapan manifesto this year where it was revealed that among other things to be done within five years was to set up a PSC to appoint judges.

The PSC would effectively take over the role of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) that was set up in 2009 to appoint judges.

The JAC was formed to ensure unbiased selection of judicial candidates for the consideration of the Prime Minister, who had the final say regarding the appointment of judges to the superior courts.

However, the Prime Minister appoints the majority of the members of the commission and has unfettered power to remove four of the five appointed members without assigning any reason.

The overwhelming power of the Prime Minister over the JAC and appointments of its members tends to cast doubts on its independence.

Consequently, it does not lend support to any attempts to shore up the view that appointment of judges is free from political interference or discretion of the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported the Prime Minister as saying that all the people in the country, even the administrators and the Rulers, had to abide by the laws because this was important in the ongoing process of rehabilitating the country.

The Prime Minister, in reminding everyone about the Rule of Law principle of the Rukun Negara, said non-compliance with the laws could lead to chaos and make the recovery process difficult.

“We have to abide by the laws in everything that we do. The Prime Minister or the Rulers, ministers or administrative officers, the police or military must abide by the laws in their every action. Not going by the rules can cause chaos in our country.

“This is of utmost importance because we are trying to revive the government of this country. If we are not guided by the laws, then the recovery will not happen,” he said.

Dr Mahathir said the government needed noble laws and those which uphold justice and do not put pressure on or marginalise anyone.

He said that no one could do whatever he or she pleased just because he or she had the power, even if that person was the Ruler or the administrator.

The Prime Minister said laws that really protected everyone should be allowed to exist and put into practice.

“The law should be fair to all. Any law that suppresses the people or makes them uneasy should be reviewed and, if it is unjust, should be repealed or amended,” he said.

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