Work to restore public confidence, says Malaysia’s 1st female Chief Justice

Work to restore public confidence, says Malaysia’s 1st female Chief Justice

By MARK RAO / Pic By BERNAMA

The judiciary should work to restore public confidence in the court system and move from past allegations of judicial misconduct, said newly appointed Chief Justice (CJ) Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat (picture).

Tengku Maimun, the first lady appointed to the highest position in the country’s judiciary, said maintaining public confidence and managing negative perception are the main issues confronted by the judiciary.

She said many allegations against the judiciary are not grounded on facts, but propagated by social media.

“The media play a role, especially mainstream media, to report cases accurately. In terms of important or public-interest cases, what we have now is to prepare a summary for the press,” she said at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya yesterday.

“The reason behind this…(is that) it is easier to understand, rather than the whole judgement being given to the press. That means (the media) have the responsibility to report it accurately,” she said.

The new CJ has a huge task to repair the damage to the judiciary with allegations of judicial misconduct and abuse of power in the courts.

A 65-page affidavit from Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, which accused several senior judges of intervening in numerous cases, had worsened public perception.

On the content of the affidavit, Tengku Maimun said dwelling in the past would bring little benefit.

“Why do we need to go back to the things which happened in the past? We should move on, if at all there is any truth in it,” she said.

The 59-year-old also clarified that the transfer of judges, especially in the lower courts, is not part of the job scope of the CJ.

“The matter of transfer, especially among the officers in the lower court (Sessions or Magistrate judges), is a matter between the Chief Registrar after consultation with the Chief Judge of Malaya or the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

“The CJ has nothing to do with the transfer of officers,” said Tengku Maimun, who took over the role of CJ effective May 2.

She replaced Tan Sri Richard Malanjum whose six-month extension from his constitutional retirement age of 66 years came to an end in April this year.

Tengku Maimun has close to seven years to effect changes in the judiciary. She said it was too early for her to announce any immediate plans and she will instead consult with other federal judges, similar to the practices of the former CJ.

“I intend to practice what has been implemented by former CJ Malanjum, whereby all four of us (federal judges) will make a decision as a collective leadership,” she said.

The three other judges are Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri David Wong Dak Wah.

Tengku Maimun’s appointment was lauded by lawyers, the Bar Council and her fellow judges, and was perceived as a step in the right direction for Malaysia’s judiciary.

She is well-known and respected for her dissenting judgements in several high profile cases in the country, including the late Karpal Singh’s sedition trial and the High Court ruling in regards to M Indira Gandhi’s legal battle to track down her abducted daughter.

She stressed that integrity, competence, good knowledge of the law and the ability to convict based on facts are better criteria in determining the quality and ability of a given judge.

Her appointment comes as several high-profile cases are being tried in the country, including that of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak.

Tengku Maimun said the judiciary will treat these high-profile cases equally and the procedures of the court will be retained in all instances.

“As far as we are concerned, the cases are to be treated like any ordinary case. It is just public expectations that are likely making these case different than others,” she said.

“In terms of the court, we do not have a view that this case should be treated differently than other cases,” she said, adding that the judiciary could be proud of the high turnover of cases.

“We have always taken a consistent stance on adjournment, whereby once a case has been fixed, there should not be any adjournment unless a real emergency crops up.”

This is despite growing concerns over a backlog of civil and criminal cases faced by Malaysian courts today.

Nationwide, there are a total of 100,198 and 339,506 balance civil and criminal cases respectively that were carried forward in the month of February this year.

This is spread across the five courts, namely the subordinate Magistrates and Sessions courts and the superior courts comprising the High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court.