PETALING JAYA: Two prominent retired judges have vouched for Richard Malanjum’s suitability for the post of Malaysian Chief Justice.
They said Malanjum, currently the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, had the seniority and all the qualities required to occupy the position following Arifin Zakaria’s retirement next March.
Retired Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus pointed out that Malanjum had been in his present position since 2006.
“In the context of the Malaysian spirit, I look forward to the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak this time and, indeed, for the first time since the formation of Malaysia, being appointed to the topmost post,” he told FMT.
Arifin recently said that he would use his six-month extension in the post to work out a succession plan. The Chief Justice is also the Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission.
The current Court of Appeal President, Raus Sharif, and Chief Judge of Malaya, Zulkifli Ahmad Makinudin, will retire next August and September respectively.
Both positions are second and third in the judicial ladder. Malanjum is at the fourth rung.
Hishamudin said it would be better to have Arifin replaced by a “substantive CJ” than an acting CJ.
He also said it would not be appropriate to appoint an “outsider” to the post. “Such an appointment is likely to cause unhappiness within the ranks, besides risking attracting a negative public perception.”
In 2007, Umno lawyer Zaki Azmi was appointed as a Federal Court judge and soon rose to become Court of Appeal President and finally Chief Justice.
Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram agreed on the point of avoiding the need to appoint an acting CJ.
“If Raus or Zulkifli is made Chief Justice,” he said, “either of them will be there for about six months and will not have much impact on the jurisprudence of the court.”
He said the Chief Justice must be someone who must be there for at least two years and Malanjum was the right candidate because he would be due for retirement only in 2019 and his tenure could be extended for six months.
Sri Ram noted that West Malaysians Ismail Khan and Lee Hun Hoe had served as Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak before. He said it was time to have an East Malaysian as Chief Justice.
“As a former lawyer, he has wide exposure and will command the confidence of the bars of the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.