KUALA LUMPUR: A parliamentary roundtable discussion yesterday to push for Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum to become the next chief justice was supposed to be a bipartisan event, however, not a single Barisan Nasional (BN) MP showed up.
DAP’s Julian Tan, who is Stampin MP, said this was despite the 10 opposition MPs from the two states having sent invites to their 46 BN counterparts – Sabah (21) and Sarawak (25) – for a discussion that was intended to push the East Malaysian agenda forward.
“This shows that BN lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak do not take matters concerning their home states seriously.
“At least come and we can discuss. If they take this seriously, they would at least come and have discussions with us,” Tan said during the roundtable.
Malanjum has been the preferred candidate for the head of the judiciary by those who oppose the extension of Chief Justice Md Raus Sharif’s tenure.
Supporters of the chief judge claim that he is the most qualified person to become chief justice as Malanjum is also the most senior Federal Court judge.
Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim, meanwhile, questioned if Sabah and Sarawak BN leaders, who always “thumped their chests” in wanting to be equal partners with the peninsula, would be content in having their chief judges perpetually being number four in the judicial hierarchy.
“Chief justice is number one, the president of the Court of Appeal is number two, the chief judge from here is number three.
“So you (Sabah and Sarawak) are the safe deposits for BN, but are stuck at number four.
“You cannot be partners (in the federation) if you are scared. You must fight for what is fair,” Zaid said.
DAP opposition leader Lim Kit Siang also expressed disappointment over the lack of BN participation at the roundtable.
“I’m gravely disappointed that Sabah and Sarawak BN MPs are not here. This shows they cannot be trusted.
“The people expect their MPs to uphold the constitution,” Lim said.
He added that by failing to attend the roundtable, BN MPs from Sabah and Sarawak also showed they couldn’t be counted on to reject PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s controversial bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.
Raus’ extension has been criticised by the legal fraternity, with the Malaysian Bar, opposition leaders 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 Court of Appeal president Zulkifli Ahmad Makinudin 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’s tenure is for three years from Aug 4 while Zulkefli will remain in his current administrative post for two years from Sept 28.