Sabah, Sarawak lawyers to make stand on judges’ appointments


PETALING JAYA: Lawyer groups from Sabah and Sarawak will soon make their stand known on the government’s decision to extend the tenure of two top judges.

President of the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak, Ranbir Singh Sangha, said the central committee would meet on Saturday to deliberate on the matter.

“We will make our position known after the meeting,” he told FMT.

Ranbir said Sarawak representatives would meet with the association’s counterpart from the peninsula, the Malaysian Bar Council, later this month to further discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Sabah Law Association president Brenndon Keith Soh said the group would make a decision “in due course”.

FMT understands that the Sabah and Sarawak chapters hope to make a joint statement on the appointments of Raus Sharif and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin as additional judges for them to remain as chief justice and Court of Appeal president.

The legal fraternity is of the opinion that no Federal Court judge can hold an administrative post after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 66 plus an additional six months of extension.

Raus was scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Zulkefli on Sept 27.

The Malaysian Bar will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Aug 3 at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall to get the views of its members before deciding on its next move.

Bar president George Varughese said on July 8 that the council, at its monthly meeting, took the view that the appointment of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges was “blatantly unconstitutional”.

A July 7 statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the king had approved former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s proposal to appoint Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.

It added that following the approval, the king, on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers which met on May 24 and 25, had appointed Raus and Zulkefli to remain in their present posts.

Raus’ tenure is for three years from Aug 4 while Zulkefli will remain in his current administrative post for two years from Sept 28.

Lawyers and the Malaysian Bar have since questioned whether Arifin’s advice to the king was constitutional.

Former chief justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad voiced his disapproval through a blog post in May, saying a further extension to Raus’ tenure would be unconstitutional and cause uncertainty in the judiciary.

In another posting last week, Hamid said the judiciary would be perceived as pro-government should Raus and Zulkefli hold on to their posts.

Similar opinions were expressed by former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram and former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim.

Former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman also said the decision gave the impression that existing judges in the Federal Court were not ready to be promoted.

However, senior lawyers Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Jagjit Singh took the stand that Arifin’s action was legal and the extension of tenure for Raus and Zulkelfi was constitutional.