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Monday, November 5, 2007

Perak ruler’s role in CJ appointment

The Sun (5/11/2007): Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah, a former distinguished highest-ranking judge, is believed to have played a crucial role in the matter of filling the vacancy of Chief Justice of the Federal Court.

According to sources, the decision to fill the position of Chief Justice following Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim’s retirement was based on the outcome of discussions between Sultan Azlan Shah and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, with consultations with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

The result of these discussions was conveyed by the ruler to the Conference of Rulers, which agreed to the recommendations before the commencement of the Conference of Rulers last Wednesday.

"The Conference of Rulers, headed by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had asked Sultan Azlan Shah to use his expertise and experience to discuss the appointment of the Chief Justice with the prime minister," said a palace source.

The source said as the Perak Sultan was a former Lord President, he was the most qualified to advise the rulers and consult the government on the candidate for Chief Justice.

The source said contrary to previous news reports and what had been posted on several blogs, the Conference of Rulers did not discuss the re-appointment of Ahmad Fairuz as Chief Justice at last Thursday’s conference.

"There was nothing to discuss as the rulers agreed with the choice of Datuk Abdul Hamid," said the source, adding that a letter from the government concerning Ahmad Fairuz’s extension as Chief Justice was withdrawn before the commencement of the Conference of Rulers.

Court of Appeal President Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamad was appointed Acting Chief Justice to fill the vacancy left by Ahmad Fairuz who, at 66, had reached the mandatory retirement age for judges.

Abdul Hamid is second on the hierarchy and the Conference of Rulers had agreed with the government that Abdul Hamid, 65, would fill the post until a suitable candidate is found.

The source said due to Abdul Hamid’s age (he will be 66 in April), the rulers, on the advice of the prime minister, agreed that his post shall only be that of an acting capacity until a suitable candidate was found.

"The acting capacity is not a reflection on Abdul Hamid’s capability. If the rulers feel he is deserving, they will agree to his term being extended once he reaches retirement age," said another source.

Ahmad Fairuz had retired under a cloud of controversy when his name was mentioned in an audio-visual recording showing lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam on the phone purportedly brokering the appointment of judges.

The source said the rulers were also concerned that the whole Ahmad Fairuz episode had given the impression that there was a conflict between the sovereign and the executive.

"This is not true as the executive respects the suggestions and advice of the rulers, while Their Highnesses are receptive to the advice and views of the government," said the source.


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