Why have Parliament if constitution can be circumvented, asks MP

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KUALA LUMPUR: The extension of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif’s tenure without first amending the Federal Constitution has undermined the institution of Parliament, opposition leaders said today.

Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran said the constitution clearly stated the age at which Federal Court judges must retire.

Hence, for Raus’ retirement to be delayed, the constitution must be amended and this could only be done through Parliament, he added, saying the same applied to Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

“Former judges and ministers have said the retirement age (for senior judges) should be increased.

“But I think by extending Raus’ tenure, they have overcome this, and they don’t even have to come to Parliament to amend the law.

“They have circumvented this process by extending Raus’ tenure by another three years, and what’s there to stop them (the federal government) from extending it by another three years?

“What’s the purpose of Parliament being there then?”

Kulasegaran, who is Pakatan Harapan’s treasurer, was speaking during a roundtable discussion on the extension of Raus’ chief justice tenure in the Parliament complex here today.

He said the extension had brought about the biggest judicial controversy since the 1988 crisis which limited the courts’ judicial independence.

Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim shared the same view. He said several years ago, when the government moved to form the Judicial Appointments Commission, it was done with the view to make sure “problems of the past” would not be repeated.

He said the government had hoped to ensure the appointment of judges would be done in a transparent and proper manner.

“But I don’t think the appointments of Raus and Zulkefli were deliberated properly by members of the commission.

“So I would like them to clarify these points. Did they make the decision? Where was the meeting? Was Raus part of that decision-making team? Was Zulkefli part of the team?

“Was the issue of allowing a chief judge, who has passed the age of 66, to serve permissible? None of these questions were answered.”

He said until someone explained the justification for the extension of the tenure of the two judges, it appears that the country’s judicial system has gone back to the “old ways”.

“The chief justice is a very important position. It’s not the post of chairman or ketua kampong.”

Ipoh Timur MP Thomas Su expressed concerns that the extensions for Raus and Zulkefli, which the DAP has described as “unconstitutional”, would be a “backdoor” for future chief justices to extend their own tenures.

Raus’ extension has also been criticised by the legal fraternity, with senior lawyers and former top judges questioning its constitutionality.

On July 7, the government said the King had accepted former chief justice Arifin Zakaria’s advice to make Raus and Zulkefli 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.