Zaid: Fixing Malaysia’s judiciary

By Zaid Ibrahim

KUALA LUMPUR — If there’s one lesson to be learned from March’s elections, it’s that business as usual in Malaysia is no longer acceptable. This is a challenge to the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, and to me, as law minister. And it’s why our recently announced reforms to the judiciary are so important.

When a videotape surfaced last September of a prominent lawyer purportedly trying to fix the promotion of a senior judge, the government swiftly appointed a commission comprising three senior judges, a former solicitor general and a prominent academic to investigate these events. The commission’s report was made public last Friday, and the government has now pledged to further investigate the allegations of wrongdoing contained in the report.

I believe it is important the government acknowledge that serious transgressions have occurred, even if those actions were not taken by the present administration, and to take steps to restore faith and trust in our judiciary. It is important for our people and for Malaysia’s reputation in the world.

A fair and impartial judiciary is also critical to sustain Malaysia’s strong economic growth and its record as an attractive destination place for foreign investment from prominent companies such as General Electric, Google and Virgin Group. The business community in Malaysia has been concerned about the fairness and capacity of Malaysia’s judiciary in settling disputes, which affects perceptions of our country’s economic competitiveness.

To me, the significance of the prime minister’s proposals extends beyond matters of law. Traditionally, the judiciary is an institution that is least amenable to change. By honestly recognising its problems and acting to bring renewal, the prime minister is sending a signal to other institutions: that the government has heard the people’s call for greater transparency and accountability, and will bring reform where it is needed. This is a historic moment for our country, and I am proud to be part of it.

Full article here.

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Well, I guess this is his reponse towards the Lingam Tape, and how judges were ‘fixed’, and how the name of judiciary in Malaysia has been fed to the dogs.

All that Zaid is saying is good. But how much of it can really transpire, given the current state of affairs? UMNO has got to be one of the most unstable political parties in Malaysia at the moment, if not THE most. With UMNO’s sec-gen involved in the Lingam tape investigations, and Dr M calling it quits, and even 100+ UMNO members from Kedah announcing their resignation from UMNO until Pak Lah is removed from the top post.

All this is happening in the midst of all the other things important to us rakyat. We want to see the Lingam tape fully investigated. We want to know that the people involved will not be let off the hook with a “no further action”. We want to be assured that there will NOT be any favouritism. We want, like what Dr M wants, them to be brought to court.

But a solid judiciary is not the only thing that’s on our minds. We also want free press, released from shackles of political affiliation. We want human rights to be acknowledged, meaning the ISA has to go. We want equality in so many areas.

There are bread and butter issues to look at. The rising price of food is starting to scare the people. Then there’s the rising price of fuel. There’s less and less work to do. There’s corruption in the highest ranks of the government, but it boils down to being unfair to those who slog on ground.

Maybe Zaid is right in “ignoring”, in a way, the Dr M sandiwara, and concentrating on things that really matter. Because the way I see it, UMNO is not going to get anywhere by focusing on whether they should call Dr M’s bluff or not. And because BN is the government in present day, I cannot bring myself to want BN to end up in a messy heap, because it would only mean that the bulk of the suffering is going to end with the people.

Pull your socks up. Do what you have to do. Don’t dawdle on the “sideshows”. The main event is all that matters.



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