I love the way some people spin things. Especially when the spin is so shallow that all it manages to do is to boomerang back and hit the spinner's forehead. Spinning is an art. And if it does not take off, it would fall flat. And worse still, it might boomerang back to the spinner's face.
I am talking about the High Court's decision in the Nizar v Zambry case. Before the decision was given, I was telling my friends that in the event Nizar succeeds, the BN spinners would surely spin it by saying that Nizar's success is definite proof that our Courts are independent. Fair enough, yesterday, after the Court delivered its judgment, the newly minted Malay Mail Chief Editor published this post on his blog, Rocky's Bru.
That post encapsulates the Barisan Nasional's simplistic and almost nonchalant attitude towards the independence of the Judiciary. Coming from the Chief Editor of a national newspaper (or rather in Malay Mail's case, I would rather call it a national tabloid) makes the post laughable. The shallowness it portrays befits the image of the BN, and particularly UMNO, nowadays. If they are finding life difficult nowadays, they have nobody to blame but themselves as they continue to dig the proverbial hole and unconsciously preparing to jump into it.
What he and his BN masters don't realise is that the people's perception about the partiality of the Courts towards the Government is not something new. It is also not something which suddenly appeared, as if one fine day, the people of Malaysia woke up and decide to distrust our Courts. This perception is not the product of one or two cases in the last few months. It began a long time ago. And if people like Rocky - and his BN masters - still need reminding on how this perception started to bear itself and then morphed itself into a sub-conscious super glue, then dare I say that the BN has no business governing this country as much as the Mat Rempits have no business guarding a bank vault. What crap!
The reputation of our Courts as one of the best Courts in the Commonwealth was not built in one night. It was built over years and years of excellent judicial tradition. Judges were courteous to lawyers and litigants. They were conscientious. Hard working. Knowledgeable. Through the years, Malaysia produced towering Judges who were at par with those law Lords presiding in the House of Lords. Judges like the late Tun Suffian and Tan Sri Eusoffee Abdoul Cadeer. Judges like Datuk VC George, Mahadev Shankar, Harun Hashim, KC and LV Vohrah et al.
Although Rome was not built in one night, it could just disappear in one day. The same with our Courts. It just took a couple of months for ONE man to desecrate our Courts, groped its chest, molested and raped it beyond recognition and rendered it powerless and almost useless! Life has never been the same again ever since. And if people like Rocky or the BN government still need to ask what was it that I was referring to, then probably all of us Malaysians should just commit harakiri, like, now.
It has been 21 years since. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge. And just because Nizar had won but ONE case does not in any way show that our Courts have regained its full independence and impartiality. True, there have been a spate of decisions which are in favour of civil societies, such as the one delivered by Justice Dato' Syed Helmy in the RPK ISA case. But those are few and far between. And it takes the braveness and conscience of the Judge to come up with such decisions.
So, please. Don't treat us like some morons. One case does not make the Courts great again. Just wait and see what will happen from today, in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court. Then we can make conclusions.
If you asked me, the only way to bring back some resemblance of the glory of our Courts is to reintroduce the right to appeal to the Privy Council. That is the only way to check the excesses, mistakes and even down right stupidity displayed by some of our Judges.
For the uninitiated, the Privy Council consists of 5 House of Lords' Judges in the United Kingdom. They can be convened to hear appeals from Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia. Before 1984 (if I am not mistaken), litigants in Malaysia may appeal to the Privy Council from decisions of the Malaysian Federal Court. These law Lords would then hear the appeals and they would advise our King on the case.
There were many cases which were referred to the Privy Council. Many of the cases were on points of law relating to the Federal Constitution and also on judicial review of governmental acts. Needless to say, the Privy Council decided according to the law and nothing else. Malaysians Judges therefore had to be on their toes. They cannot be partial. Their judgements must be well reasoned. They must conduct themselves in the highest tradition of the Common Law Judges. If not, the Privy Council would tear into their judgements and make them look really stupid. Of course that was not good. Was it?
Guess who abolished the right to appeal to the Privy Council. It doesn't take a genius to know. Well I give you a clue. It wasn't Winnie the Pooh.
Can you all imagine if the right to appeal to the Privy Council is brought back now? Our Judges would be trembling in their tiny little underpants! Any judicial indiscretion, any judgement not strictly based on the law, any moronic conclusion which defies logic and intelligence would be opened up by five law Lords in the Privy Council, dissected, commented upon and consigned to the bins of idiocy for the whole Commonwealth to see.
The Privy Council would have the last say. And I am sure they are above everything else BUT the law and the law alone. Just by one stroke of the pen, the Malaysian Courts' reputation would regain some form of normalcy.
Don't you all think so?
By the way. The Times, on April 24th 2009 has this report:
A district judge has been sacked for “inappropriate, petulant and rude” behaviour towards solicitors appearing before her in court.
In the first judicial sacking for decades, Judge Margaret Short has been removed by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice after a “history of complaints”.
The decision was announced yesterday by the Office for Judicial Complaints, which said that the decision to remove the judge followed a judicial investigation started in 2006.
That found that as well as being rude and petulant, the judge had taken annual leave when told not to; refused to hand over papers to assist the investigation into her behaviour and made serious “untrue” allegations against support staff.
I hope some of our Judges read this report. Especially one or two who think they are gods, or some creature closed to gods. They know who they are.
Corrigenda: Rocky from Rocky's Bru has pointed out that he is not the Chief Editor of the Malay Mail. I must admit that I did not verify that fact before writing this post. Apologies for the mistake.