KUALA LUMPUR: There is a glass ceiling stopping Sabah and Sarawak judges from holding the nation’s top judiciary post, said Pakatan Harapan parliamentary leaders, who all appeared to share the same observation.
Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen said they came to this conclusion as the chief justice post had, for the past five decades, gone only to West Malaysian judges.
“The element of discrimination against Sabah and Sarawak was made more obvious in the case of denying Richard Malanjum the (chief justice) post, with the unconstitutional extension of Md Raus Sharif.”
Chong, who is Bandar Kuching MP, was speaking during a roundtable discussion on the extension of Raus’ chief justice tenure in the Parliament complex here today.
To emphasise his “glass ceiling” point, Chong spoke about his uncle, the late Chong Siew Fai, who was the former chief judge for Sabah and Sarawak.
“That’s the maximum he could go,” he said.
He also labelled Raus’ tenure extension and the one involving the president of Court of Appeal, Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, “unconstitutional”. This is because both have surpassed the age of 66, he added.
On top of that, the extensions would stifle the career growth of at least eight Federal Court judges, including that of Malanjum, who is even more senior than Raus, said Chong.
“Such discrimination is not in line with the spirit of equal partners among Sabah, Sarawak and the Federation of Malaya under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“At this juncture, when we are about to celebrate the 54th year of Malaysia Day, it will serve as a meaningful reminder to all about the long-ignored ‘equal partners’ spirit under the MA63.”
Chong’s statement was supported by DAP’s Kota Kinabalu MP Jimmy Wong, who said it wasn’t enough that an East Malaysian would never have a chance to become the prime minister.
Now they are also being deprived of a chance of becoming the chief justice, he added, claiming that it appeared that all the promises of “equal partners” made under the MA63 were being broken.
“We are like third class citizens,” he said.
Hence, it is time for the Sabah and Sarawak leaders to stand up and launch a petition calling not only for more autonomy for the two states, but also for them to start being treated as partners, said Wong.
“All citizens must sign the petition, including local parties. If they don’t sign, then they are not serious about autonomy.
“(The chief justice fiasco) is not only unfair to Malanjum, but also to all other senior judges,” he said.
Raus’ extension was criticised by the legal fraternity, with senior lawyers and former top judges questioning its constitutionality.
On July 7, the government said the king had approved former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s advice to make Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said the king, on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers, which met in May, 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.
Malanjum, who is a Sabahan, was appointed Federal Court judge in 2004 and promoted to his current position in 2006, surpassing the seniority of even Raus who was only appointed to the Federal Court in 2009.
He will retire in October next year.