Friday, May 1, 2009

Appointment Of The Royal Commission Of Enquiry On The Video Clip

Parti Keadilan Rakyat welcome the appointment of the Royal Commission. Parti Keadilan Rakyat had asked for a Royal Commission from the beginning when the video clip was released on September 19, 2007 to enquire into the improper appointment of senior positions in the judiciary. We had also from the beginning asked that the Royal Commission enquire into the corruption in the judiciary and to restore confidence of the people in the judiciary and the rule of law. This should have been done earlier instead of the appointment of a panel that did not have proper powers.

We are concerned that it is not appropriate for three of the persons named to be in the Panel of Commission of Enquiry. They are Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor, Datuk Mahadev Shankar and Tan Sri Amar Steve Shim Lip Kiong.

The video clip is part of the larger picture of the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary which started with the sacking of Tun Mohd Salleh Abas in 1988. Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor was then the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court. It is reported in the judgment of Harun Hashim SCJ in the case of Attorney General Malaysia v Manjeet Singh Dhillon [1991] 1 MLJ 167 at 171 that Tan Sri Haidar had played a role in the denying the Court facilities to the Supreme Court Judges in hearing an application to restrain the tribunal formed to impeach Tun Salleh from submitting its report to the King. The report states as follows: -

“So when it became apparent that there was a possibility that the special sitting of the Supreme Court may be convened without his [Tun Hamid] authority, he issued instructions to the Chief Registrar that the court staff should not attend and assist such a sitting, if convened, unless authorized by him. Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and the other four judges were informed by the Chief Registrar of this when they decided to accede to the request of Tun Salleh’s solicitors for a special sitting that Saturday morning. They nevertheless held the sitting and made the interim orders.”

The Supreme Court Judges [Wan Suleiman, George Edward Seah, Azmi Kamaruddin, Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Wan Hamzah] who held the sitting were suspended on 6 July 1988. In their press statement made on the same day of their suspension, they said the following: -

“We would add that when we sought to sit in court, we were informed by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Haidar bin Mohd Noor, that instructions have been given by Tan Sri Abdul Hamid bin Haji Omar, the Acting Lord President, that none of the court staff should be present in court and the court doors should not be opened and we should not have the use of the facilities of the court including the Sealed of the Supreme Court. In those circumstances, it even became necessary for Tan Sri Wan Suleiman himself as the presiding judge to sign the order which we made which in fact should have been the duty of the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court.”

Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor shall be required to attend before the Royal Commission to explain his role in the proceedings. Therefore, it is inappropriate for him not only to head the Commission but also to be a member.

Further, both Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor and Datuk Mahadev Shankar were members of the first panel appointed by the Cabinet to look into the authenticity of the video clip. Having taken part in such earlier proceedings and having submitted their report to the Cabinet, it is inappropriate for Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor and Datuk Mahadev Shankar to be in the present Commission.

With regard to Tan Sri Amar Steve Shim Lip Kiong, his name is mentioned in the video clip by Datuk V.K. Lingam as having been conferred the award of Tan Sri. It will therefore be inappropriate for Tan Sri Amar Steve Shim Lip Kiong to be investigating into the video clip where his name is mentioned although it may not be a significant feature.

We call on the Prime Minister to reconsider the appointment of the three persons in the circumstances. We also call on the three to recuse themselves from the Commission. The Commission is the first step to rectify the problems in the judiciary and it is important that the work of the Commission is not affected by the members of the Commission being seen to be having an interest in the proceedings. This is because justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

We are disappointed with the narrow frame of reference given to the Commission. The Panel appointed by the Cabinet has already given their report as to the authenticity of the video clip. It appears to be redundant for the Commission to enquire into this again. The issue is to enquire into the causes for the erosion of public confidence in the judiciary and to recommend actions to be taken to enquire that the judiciary functions without fear or favour, that all including the ordinary citizen as well as the rich and the powerful are equal before the law and that the country follows the rule of law and the separation of powers of Government is enforced.

We call on the Prime Minister to review the term of reference and not allow the opportunity to restore the judiciary to its proper place be wasted.

13 December 2007

William Leong Jee Keen
Treasurer General

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