PETALING JAYA: DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has dismissed Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s argument defending the extension of Raus Sharif’s tenure as chief justice and his appointment as additional judge, calling the senior lawyer “a lone voice against the tide of informed opinion”.
Claiming that the move was unconstitutional, the Gelang Patah MP also called on Raus and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, whose term in office was also extended, to turn down the respective extensions to their appointments.
Lim said Shafee’s argument that no provisions in the Federal Constitution seem to prohibit additional judges to continue in their current positions was “shocking”.
“By the same argument, there is nothing in the Federal Constitution to forbid an assault on the fundamental principles of judicial independence and the rule of law as well as the doctrine of separation of powers,” the DAP parliamentary leader said.
“Is Shafee going to be in the forefront to defend any such assault on the principles of judicial independence and the rule of law as well as the doctrine of separation of powers?” Lim added in a statement issued today based on his speech at the Temerloh Pakatan Harapan Hari Raya Aidilfitri reception in Mentakab last night.
Shafee had yesterday said there have been precedents in the use of the Federal Constitution to reappoint judges.
He had pointed to the reappointment of Federal Court judge S Chelvasingam MacIntyre in 1965 and that of retired judge Jeffrey Tan Kok Hwa to resume his services at the Federal Court for an two additional years in September last year.
According to an announcement from the prime minister’s office on Friday, Raus would continue to hold his position for another three years from Aug 4 while Zulkefli 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 were made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the prime minister and after consultation with the Conference of Rulers.
The statement also said the appointments 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.
Lim alleged that the use of Article 122(1A) was a “backdoor for such unconstitutional extensions”.
He said former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad had publicly advised that a further extension to Raus’ tenure would be unconstitutional.
He also pointed to similar opinions expressed by former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram, former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim and current Malaysian Bar president George Varughese.