17 April, 2008

After 20 years: 'Regrets', compensation in the offing to sacked judges

Prime Minister Abdullah hopes to bring closure to traumatic, contentious issue.

After 20 years, the government is expected to offer a statement of regret tonight to “victims" of the 1988 judicial crisis.

If the Abdullah administration goes ahead – with the support of the Opposition – to amend the Constitution and reinvest judicial powers to the judiciary, it will strengthen the concept of separations of powers in Malaysia.

But all eyes will be on what he says to the victims of the 1988 judicial crisis. Some of his Cabinet colleagues have ruled out an apology, saying that a mea culpa would make them liable for an action done by a previous administration.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also expected to announce that the government will pay back wages and reinstate the full pension of each of the judges who were sacked or suspended in 1988. For former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and Federal Court brothers – Datuk George Seah and the late Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman – the compensation could reach RM1 million each.

With this move, Abdullah will hope to draw a line under one of the most traumatic and embarrassing episodes in Malaysian history – an event that many feel opened the door to two decades of manipulation and government interference.

The PM has been talking about judicial reform for sometime but the combination of lack of political will, resistance from Cabinet colleagues and inertia put paid to any hopes of him rehabilitating this important institution. But the results of Election 2008 and the sense that the public wanted strong institutions vaulted judicial reforms to the top of his agenda.

Source:" 'Regrets', compensation in the offing to sacked judges"

PM to outline judicial reform

(New Straits Times ) - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is expected to announce several measures to reform the judiciary at a dinner organised by the Malaysian Bar at a hotel here tonight.
Some 500 guests, including Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, retired judges, representatives of non-governmental organisations, diplomats and senior government officials are expected to attend.

Former lord president Tun Salleh Abas and family members of the Supreme Court judges who were sacked in the 1988 judicial crisis, have also confirmed attendance.

It is learnt that at the function, Abdullah will announce measures for judicial reforms and would bring closure to the issue of the sacked judges which had plagued the nation for two decades.

In the judicial crisis, Salleh, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah were suspended. They faced a tribunal on the grounds of judicial misconduct. Eusoffe and Wan Suleiman have since died.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim had recently said that the government should apologise to all five judges for the serious trangressions committed by the previous administration.

In reply, Abdullah had said his government would not apologise to the judges for the 1988 incident but would "compensate" them.

Bar Council secretary Lim Chee Wee said they were anticipating some good news from Abdullah in tonight's function themed, "Delivering Justice, Renewing Trust".

Source:"PM to outline judicial reform"

In 1988, Tun Salleh Abas was brought before a tribunal convened by the then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad on the grounds of misconduct. The tribunal was chaired by Tun Hamid Omar. In response to the tribunal, Tun Salleh Abas filed a suit in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur to challenge the constitutionality of the tribunal. While proceeding with the suit, Tun Salleh Abas applied for an interim stay against the tribunal until July 4, 1988. The request was denied.

Later however, five judges of the Supreme Court convened and granted Tun Salleh Abas an interlocutory order against the tribunal. Upon receiving the order, Tun Salleh Abas' solicitors proceed to the Parliament to present the chairman of the tribunal the interlocutory order. The gate leading to the Parliament however was locked and Tun Salleh Abas' representative had to call in the police to be guaranteed a passage into the Parliament. Eventually, the order was presented to the tribunal chairman.

Soon after, the five judges were suspended. The judges were Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah.[18] This effectively suspended the Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court suspended, the challenge toward the legality of the tribunal could not be heard. The tribunal later removed Tun Salleh Abas from his office. Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Datuk George Seah were also removed from office. The other three judges were later reinstated.

The irregular dismissal of Tun Salleh Abas led the Bar Council of Malaysia refusing to recognize the new Lord President. Around the same time, the Federal Constitution was amended to divest the courts of the "judicial power of the Federation", granting them instead such judicial powers as Parliament might grant them.

Source :"1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis"



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