PETALING JAYA: DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has deplored the appointment of Raus Sharif as an additional judge and the extension of his tenure as chief justice by three years as “unprecedented and unconstitutional”.
The Gelang Patah MP claimed that the move announced by the prime minister’s office last night had plunged Malaysia into a new constitutional crisis.
He said the ball was now in Raus’ court on whether he was prepared to “uphold the sanctity and integrity of the (Federal) Constitution” by declining the appointment as additional judge and the extended term as chief justice.
“Many jurists, including a former chief justice, a former federal court judge, a former law minister and the Malaysian Bar, have expressed their concern at the possibility of the appointment of an illegal and unconstitutional chief justice, but the prime minister and the attorney-general are both unmoved by their concerns and reasons,” Lim said in a statement today.
According to the announcement, Raus would continue to hold the position of chief justice for another three years from Aug 4.
The statement from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office had added that Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin would also have his appointment extended for another two years from Sept 28.
It added that under Article 122B(1) of the Constitution, the appointments for these posts was made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the prime minister and after consultation with the Conference of Rulers which convened in May.
The statement also said the appointment of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges after each of them reach the age of 66 years and six months was based on the suggestion and advice of the then Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria to the King on March 30 before he retired.
“The proposal and advice was accepted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in accordance with Article 122(1A) of the Federal Constitution,” it said.
The statement said the above decisions and procedure were consonant with the provisions of the Constitution now.
FMT had previously reported retired judges and the Malaysian Bar expressing reservations on the likelihood of Raus and Zulkefli being retained in their posts.
Abdul Hamid Mohamad , who served as chief justice for about a year until 2008, said any move by Raus to remain in office after retirement would compromise the independence of the Malaysian judiciary.
Hamid said retaining a chief justice beyond the compulsory retirement age would create uncertainty among other judges regarding their career.
Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram had said there were capable judges to take over the position of Raus as the top judicial officer.
He warned that if the government defied the constitutional and legal restraints and proceeded to extend the tenure of the chief justice, it would “sow the wind but reap the whirlwind”.
Malaysian Bar president George Varughese had also expressed concern that the extension of the tenure of the country’s top judge would not only be unconstitutional but would unfairly embroil Raus in a controversy.
Lim said criticism of a potential move to retain Raus as top judge had earlier also come from former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim, who is now a DAP member, and former Bar president Param Cumaraswamy.
He said the announcement might have been expedited by a query he had posed in a statement on Wednesday on whether the country would have an illegal and unconstitutional chief justice after Aug 3.