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Monday, November 5, 2007

Justice must be seen to be done

The Sun (31/10/2007): There is indeed merit in the call for the restoration of public confidence in the judiciary. Not just because the call was made by Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, a former Lord President, at the Malaysian Law Conference on Monday and elsewhere on other occasions, but because other people too have voiced similar concerns about the country’s judiciary.

It matters little that only several thousand people of the country’s total population of about 25 million seem to think that all is not well with our judiciary.

Even if only one person complained that justice was denied him by the courts, the nation should be concerned, what more when there have been all kinds of stories about the judiciary dating back two decades, especially after the controversial sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988. And what more when one of the public suspicions about judges – that some of them do not write down their judgments – was confirmed in the press recently.

People must have confidence in the judiciary as, in the end, it is the only bulwark against injustice and arbitrariness. And for this to happen, the judiciary must be completely independent. Judges must not only be independent but must be seen to be independent. As special people who sit in judgment of others, judges must live up to the special standards expected of them.

As the sultan said, judges "must piously resist the lure of socialising with business personages and other well-connected people". How much more proof do we need before it is acknowledged that this has happened. Thus, it is important that judges "resist the lure" in order to be seen as impartial especially when they are deciding on a commercial transaction.

It is also important that foreign investors must never for one moment doubt the impartiality of our judges. As far as they are concerned, their interests here are guaranteed by the law. And in this regard, especially when Malaysia is now a trading nation, more and more of our judges should become increasingly competent and qualified to deal with complex commercial disputes.

As pointed out by the former Lord President, our judges must never for one moment forget that they live in a multi-racial and multi-religious country. When making decisions relating to culture, race and religion, they must be completely objective, impartial and dispassionate. They must honestly and sincerely prevent their cultural, racial and religious background from clouding their decisions.

And, above all, they must courageously safeguard and defend the Constitution in which is reflected what our founding fathers agreed to when they decided to establish this secular, democratic and multi-cultural nation.

While the rakyat depend on the judges, the judges too must be assured by the vigilance of the justice-loving people of this country.


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