Borneo lawyers want Raus, Zulkefli to reconsider posts

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PETALING JAYA: Sabah and Sarawak lawyer groups have urged Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin to consider the potential risk to public confidence in the judiciary in deciding whether to remain in office after their mandatory retirement age.

The groups said they had no doubts as to the sterling character and capability of both judges and the constitutional powers bestowed upon the king under Article 122 (1A) of the Federal Constitution.

“However, it is clear that the timing and mode of the appointments/extensions certainly give rise to various issues raised and specifically on the public perception and confidence in the judiciary,” they said.

Their concerns were expressed in a joint press statement released today by Sabah Law Society president Brenndon Keith Soh and the Advocates Association of Sarawak president Ranbir Singh Sangha.

Their response came following a government announcement on July 7 that the king had accepted former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s advice to appoint Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.

Further, the king, on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers, which met in May, appointed Raus and Zulkefli to remain in their present posts.

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

Both associations said various questions have been raised that include:

• Does Article 122(1A) allow for the appointment of persons presently holding high judicial office?

• Does Article 122(1A) allow for additional judges of the Federal Court to be appointed for specific periods of time as opposed to being appointed for certain cases?

• Does Article 122(1A) allow for the appointment of an additional judge of the Federal Court as chief justice or Court of Appeal president?

• Does Article 122(1A) allow for a chief justice to advise the king on the future appointment of an additional judge of the Federal Court, chief justice or Court of Appeal president for any period after his own retirement?

• Can appointments pursuant under 122(1A) be made when there are presently a sufficient number of judges of the Federal Court, and no large volume of important public interest cases requiring a larger panel of judges?

“It ought to be noted that should any one of the above questions be answered in the negative, the appointments would be unconstitutional,” the statement said.

Article 122 (1A) states the king, on the advice of the chief justice, can appoint for a specific term or purpose any person who has held high judicial office in Malaysia.

The association said the appointments were not made through the Judicial Appointments Commission and there were unanswered questions as to why other competent Federal Court judges had not been considered suitable to be appointed as chief justice and Court of Appeal president.