Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Judgment-Fixing and Influence Peddling in the Judiciary: The Evidence Stacks Up

From Malaysiakini: Read here the Editorial, "Will We Miss the Boat Again?" by Steven Gan

Malaysian Unplug says:

" We humbly appeal to His Highnesses in the Council of Malay Rulers not to stand by any more and allow the continuing deterioration in the rot of the sacred institution of the Malaysian Judiciary, caused primarily by the lack of courage of this Government to bring this long-standing problem facing the nation to a closure."


" Featured (in the video clip) was (Lingam's) well-connected tycoon friend, (Vincent) Tan. By 2002, Chief Justice Eusoff Chin had already retired. His protégé, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, is embroiled in this scandal. Playing the supporting role is Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a junior minister but a trusted aide of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Together they were the UNTOUCHABLES - the Masters of the Malaysian Universe, so to speak.

Apparently, THEY STILL ARE.

Almost a generation has suffered because of our 'tidak apa' attitude to the judicial crisis.

Here's another chance for us to make amends.
- Malaysiakini Editorial (Sept. 25, 2007)

Excerpts of the Malaysiakini Editorial : Read here for more in Malaysiakini

"... It's been 20 years since (Tun) Salleh Abbas and two other top judges were unceremoniously sacked. Three others were suspended but later reinstated.

That episode was a watershed in our judiciary, kicking off a dark era where justice goes to the highest bidders and litigants can choose the judge before whom they wish to appear.

Almost a generation has suffered because of our ‘tidak apa’ attitude to the judicial crisis.

(In 1994), influential lawyer VK Lingam was representing tycoon Vincent Tan in a law suit against veteran journalist MGG Pillai, whose appeal in the Federal Court, the country's highest bench, was heard by a three-member panel headed by Eusoff Chin himself.

Pillai was sued by Tan and Lingam for the temerity to suggest that the duo have an inside track with the judiciary. The court had ordered him (Pillai) to pay RM2 million in damages.

Others slapped with (similar) defamation suits included top lawyers Tommy Thomas and Param Cumaraswamy, the former United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Also hit was Asian Wall Street Journal’s Raphael Pura. In his defence, Pura alleged that the High Court judgment on the Pillai case was in part written by Lingam himself. He had evidence to prove it, but this was thrown out of court in double-quick time.

The late Pillai must have felt vindicated by the latest expose. One can almost see Pillai - who eventually did not pay a single sen to Tan - smirking from where ever he is today.

Seven years ago we thought we had him (lawyer Lingam).

The Holiday Photos

The evidence was incontrovertible.

There were photos of him (Lingam) and the then-Chief Justice Eusoff Chin, looking very much like two buddies having a fun time on a pleasure boat in Lake Wakatipu (New Zealand). But the 1994 photos alone, which have been posted on the Internet for many years, were not good enough. After all, the two claimed to have innocently 'bumped' into each other while on holiday.

So we produced
more evidence - this time showing that the two flew on the same flight during their week-long trip, first to Auckland then Christchurch. And it wasn’t just being on the same plane, both were either in business or first class.

Earlier Calls for a Royal Commission

When Malaysiakini ran the story in 2000, there were repeated calls for a royal commission to probe the matter. The Bar Council sought an emergency general meeting but it was barred from holding it after a court injunction.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang demanded a special session of the Parliament to discuss the controversy.

The Same Cast of Characters

The (same) cast of characters were involved in last week’s disclosure of the grainy eight-minute video showing Lingam brokering the appointments of top judicial men. Also featured in the grainy eight-minute video was his well-connected tycoon friend, (Vincent) Tan.

By 2002 - the year the video was taken - Eusoff had already retired.

It was his protégé, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, who is embroiled in this scandal.

Playing the supporting role is Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a junior minister but a trusted aide of then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Together they were the untouchables - the masters of the Malaysian universe, so to speak. Apparently, they still are.

Ayer Molek Dispute

Lingam was involved in the Ayer Molek company share dispute, where he manipulated the court system in such a way that the case went before a 'friendly' High Court judge. Not surprisingly, he won.

However, the Court of Appeal later described the lower court decision as ‘an injustice’ and ticked off Lingam, who was representing one of the parties in the complex commercial dispute, for being ‘unethical’, and accused him of bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

The plot thickened when the case went up to Federal Court. The three-member panel which heard the appeal was headed by none other than Lingam’s holiday buddy, Eusoff.

To pad the numbers, Eusoff included a High Court judge on the panel. This was unconstitutional as the judge was not qualified to sit on the Federal Court bench.

Predictably, Eusoff and his colleagues OVER-RULED the Appellate court, ordered the comments against Lingam be expunged and berated the Court of Appeal judges for bringing the administration of justice into, yes, disrepute.

Govt's Untenable Response to the Video Clipping

The government took pains to cast aspersions on the authenticity of the video.

And while a few grudgingly concede that the video may not be 'doctored', still, you can't really prove who was at the other end of the line, can you?

But that should be a cake walk for the police. All they need to do is to obtain the telephone records of both Lingam and Ahmad Fairuz to see if any number matches.

Simple really.

Another Call for a Royal Commission

The 13,500-strong Bar Council has called for a full-blown royal commission to examine the rot in the judiciary since the sacking of chief justice Salleh Abas in 1988.

Rightly so, the investigation must begin with the Salleh episode and go beyond it.

There were other equally serious cases which ought to be re-opened

  • the Ayer Molek controversy,

  • the 'poison pen' letter by former High Court judge Syed Ahmad Idid,

  • the case involving then High Court judge Muhammad Kamil, who publicly admitted getting telephone directives from Eusoff over an election petition, and

  • the trials of ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim - the man who revealed the Lingam tape.
  • Clearly, the three-member independent panel announced by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today - and restricting the probe to examining the authenticity of the Lingam tape - falls way TOO SHORT.

    (NOTE: Read here Commentary on the composition of the 3-member panel.
    " One senior lawyer said the three personalities to the composition of the panel are NOT acceptable. They are Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye and Datuk Mahadev Shankar. He said: 'Haidar was involved in the 1988 Judicial Crisis. Lee (Lam Thye) has no legal training. Shankar served under Tun Eusoff Chin, and also in the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the black-eye incident involving the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim which only implicated the then Inspector General of Police, but took no action against police officers who were present at the time the former IGP Ramli assaulted Anwar.' " )
    An inquiry of this magnitude requires nothing LESS than a Royal Commission.

    We have missed the boat - not once but twice. Indeed, for the sake of the country, we cannot afford to blow this one chance. Only then will our country ‘come out well’ but probably not the way Lingam had intended it to when he made the remark.

    Here’s another chance for us to make amends."

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