Malaysia chief Judge backs calls for reforms to boost judicial transparency

April 10, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Dato Abdul Hamid Mohd

Dato Abdul Hamid Mohd

Associated Press

Malaysia’s top judge on Wednesday supported calls for the creation of an independent panel to select judges.

Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad’s statement was the first clear sign from the judiciary that it is prepared to undergo reforms and free itself from the influence of the executive.

Abdul Hamid, speaking to a gathering of judges, said that such a move was ultimately a policy decision for the government, but noted that some people believe it could “help redeem the negative perception of the judiciary.”

“If it will help (us) to regain the confidence of the public in the judiciary…why not?” the national news agency Bernama quoted Abdul Hamid as saying.

Malaysia’s Bar Council, which represents more than 12,000 lawyers, has long called for an impartial commission to nominate candidates to become judges, saying the current system is too secretive and prone to political manipulation.

Currently, senior judges are chosen and recommended for appointment by the prime minister, though the king formally appoints them.

Calls for reforms have grown louder after opposition leaders leaked a video in September that showed V.K. Lingam, a well-known lawyer, allegedly speaking on the phone in 2001 to another former top judge, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, about the promotion of judges.

A government-ordered inquiry earlier this year held a high-profile investigation into whether the video was authentic, but the panel has not released its findings.

Malaysia’s de facto law minister, Zaid Ibrahim, recently indicated that he also favored the idea of an independent body to appoint judges.

SDP’s note: Will Singapore do the same?