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AWSJ: Appointment of New Federal Judge
By Leslie Lopez
16/11/2000 9:06 am Thu
From Asian Wall Street Journal
Appointment of New Federal Judge
By LESLIE LOPEZ Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah's appointment as
Malaysia's new top judge has won widespread support from the local
legal community, raising hopes that it could help repair the battered
image of the country's judiciary, lawyers say.
Tan Sri Dzaiddin, a former journalist, was appointed chief justice of
the Federal Court, the highest court in the land, on Thursday by
Malaysia's Conference of Rulers on the advice of Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad's government. Tan Sri Dzaiddin, who will take office
on Dec. 20, succeeds retiring Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin, whose
term was extended for six months in June.
Tan Sri Dzaiddin, who is 63 years old, was a reporter with Malaysia's
Malay Mail daily newspaper before practicing law for 16 years. He
became a High Court judge in 1982 and currently serves as a Federal
Court justice. Tan Sri Dzaiddin didn't respond to requests for comment
on his appointment.
Sulaiman Abullah, president of the Malaysian Bar, said, "We are
grateful to the prime minister and the Conference of Rulers for
choosing a successor to the top job who commands universal support."
Controversies involving the Malaysian judiciary date to 1988, when Dr.
Mahathir clashed with the courts over several rulings that went
against the government. That confrontation ultimately led to the
suspension of six Supreme Court judges and the subsequent removal of
three of them, including the then-head of the judiciary.
Over the past two years, criticism of Malaysia's judiciary has
intensified, largely due to the widely publicized trials of former
Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, which attracted international
scrutiny. Dr. Mahathir's former heir apparent, Datuk Seri Anwar is
currently serving jail sentences totaling 15 years for s###my and
corruption. Datuk Seri Anwar, who denies any wrongdoing, has
maintained that he is a victim of a Mahathir-mandated political
Four international legal organizations, including the International
Bar Association, issued a 121-page report in April saying there were
"well-founded" concerns about judicial independence in Malaysia.
"There is a widespread perception ... that in those cases where the
government has an interest, the judiciary is not independent," said
the report, which was prepared by a three-member panel led by a judge
Five months ago, controversy swirled again after a public
confrontation between Malaysia's law minister and Tun Eusoff over
photos posted on the Internet, which depicted Tun Eusoff on vacation
in New Zealand in 1994 with a prominent lawyer who appears frequently
in Malaysian courts. Law Minister Rais Yatim, when asked to comment on
the photos, said at that time that it was "not in keeping with the
proper behavior of a judicial personality." Tun Eusoff has insisted
that he did nothing wrong.
In any event, that controversy pitted the courts against the Bar
Council. The leadership of the Bar Council, which represents 9,000
Malaysian lawyers, has tried to convene special meetings to discuss
its concerns over the judiciary. But the proposed meetings have been
blocked by Malaysian courts on the grounds that such debates would
violate the country's Sedition Act and could erode confidence in the
"The news is electrifying," said V. C. George, a retired judge of
Malaysia's Court of Appeal and a former chairman of Malaysia's Bar
Council, the main body representing the country's lawyers. "One cannot
but accept that the credibility of the judiciary has taken a beating
in recent years and the appointment of Dzaiddin is definitely a step
in the right direction to undo the damage," he said.
"I think we are going to see better relations between the judiciary
and the Bar Council," added Param Cumaraswamy, a senior Malaysian
lawyer and the United Nations special rapporteur on the Independence
of Judges and Lawyers, which monitors judicial developments.
Write to Leslie Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org
Untuk menjimatkan 'ruang' pihak Editor kepilkan
wawancara Agenda malaysia dengan DSWA.
AM Interviews: WAN AZIZAH ISMAIL
By Zuraidah Omar
Looking at Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, one can easily imagine her as a
beacon, steadfast on a bedrock of inner spiritual strength, radiating
courage, resolution and determination over the surrounding seas of the
Her supporters and followers see, in her small and seemingly
vulnerable frame, a rallying point for their own hopes and aspirations
for a different type of government for Malaysia. This gracious and
soft-spoken lady has become the unifying force for a number of
disparate political groups, who are offering themselves to the
Malaysian people as Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front, or in
Undeniably a challenging role for someone who just two years ago had
been the wife of the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.
Her husband is now serving a jail sentence, and she has found herself
the president of a fledgling political party, Keadilan, and at the
forefront of a movement to present an alternative to the government of
Wan Azizah has done well, in the circumstances. At the last general
election, she won the parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh, which was
her husband's constituency, and is coming to the end of her first year
as a representative of the people. She is proving her mettle in
parliament, and her increasing confidence is seen in the way she
fields questions from the AgendaMalaysia team.
Having fractured her ankle in a fall in her home, Wan Azizah's
movements are a bit impeded. Nonetheless, she was able to participate
in a protest rally organised by BA on 5 November, albeit in a
Explaining why the rally was held on a highway, disrupting traffic,
causing a massive jam and inconveniencing numerous road users, Wan
Azizah said, "The authorities rejected our application to hold the
rally in Bukit Jalil and other public venues. So we decided to hold it
on a piece of private land. We were on our way there, when the police
blockaded the road and we were unable to get to our destination. We
were hemmed in and had no choice but to meet on the highway instead."
"We love our country," she goes on to say. "We love justice. People do
care and many choose to willingly come to our talks. Our supporters
are not paid, and yet they are willing to sacrifice a lot for our
cause. During the rally on 5 November, I was very close to the police
action, and I am thankful for the protection our supporters gave me so
that I was not harmed."
"Our supporters are not hooligans," she insists. "We have a great deal
of support from professionals and the middle class. We appeal to the
younger generation, and there is a great deal of potential there that
needs to be developed. All we want is to be able to voice out our
views. The police in some areas understand this and give us some
Wan Azizah agrees that Keadilan is currently urban-focused, "But the
rural people are coming forward. We are hindered in spreading our
message because we have no access to the mass media. The people are
however realising that the country's economic wealth is not filtering
down to them, and their support will come in time.
"The reformasi cry has attracted people's imagination," she adds. "The
base has been established and we need to build upon it."
Elaborating on her vision for Keadilan, Wan Azizah says, "We are a
multiethnic group with a new political culture, one that is not based
on ethnic or religious lines. Our appeal is that we are a party for
all peoples dedicated to the sharing of economic power, eradication of
poverty, equal educational opportunities, and better health facilities
for the people. We need to concretise these, but we are meeting
barriers at every step. It is a challenge but we are realistic. To
move forward in a restrictive and non-conducive environment is
difficult. Voters' sentiments also wax and wane."
Laughing at what she calls her 'rhetoric', Wan Azizah firmly declares,
"I truly believe in all that I say. These are values that are in our
psyche. They are universal values, and we are all human beings."
Wan Azizah denies that BA is not a realisable option to the present
government because of the differing stances of the component parties.
"Pas is open to others but this is not publicised," she says. "In
Kelantan, for example, the building of new temples and other places of
worship is approved. As for the DAP, we have Lim Guan Eng who lost his
parliamentary seat because he was jailed for defending the rights of a
She elaborates on the readiness of BA to become the country's
government. "We have several shadow bureaus looking at various
aspects, and each bureau has a chairman and a coherent structure. We
have frequent council meetings, and we meet regularly when parliament
is in session. We are not able as yet to form a shadow cabinet because
we do not have enough representatives in parliament. But we are
working towards the next elections. Should we win, we don't see any
problems in governing the country. The mechanisms are all in place,
but what the country needs are equitable policies. At the moment,
wealth is in the hands of a few."
On Keadilan's place in BA, Wan Azizah concedes that the party does not
appear to be prominent. "Pas has more seats in parliament and is the
leader of the opposition. Also, we use the opposition leader's room in
parliament for our meetings. Keadilan is also a younger party and
needs to mature. But then again, I chair all of BA's council meetings,
and Keadilan coordinates many of the activities of BA, including the
For BA to progress further, she says, "We need to dispel the ingrained
perceptions that we have of various personalities. We really need to
go beyond personalities."
Wan Azizah notes that the present government has made a concession
towards alleviating tensions by forming Suhakam, the human rights
commission. "It's a start," she says. "It's a place for people to go
to, and it is in the hands of very capable and credible people. The
rakyat must give it support so that Suhakam will have moral authority,
since it has not been given powers as such."
On a personal note, this lady in a tudung (headscarf) tells
AgendaMalaysia that "this whole experience has been a great
educational process for my children. I have been able to cope, thanks
to the help of my extended family and supporters. I visit my
constituency every three weeks. People come to our house every
Thursday and Friday night for prayers, and they bring food."
Wan Azizah then gathers her crutches and stands up shakily to wish us
goodbye. Declining our assistance to help her, she says, "Thank you,
but I have to do this on my own."
As she has been for the last two years, and will likely continue to be
for some time to come.