KUALA LUMPUR: British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell has hailed the late Eusoffe Abdoolcader, one of the senior judges suspended during the 1988 judicial crisis, as a man of integrity and said he was held in high regard not only in Malaysia but also internationally.
She said Eusoffe, who died in 1996, was a witty and wise man.
“Integrity, wisdom, humour, passion, romance are the words I came up with (to describe Eusoffe),” Treadell said at an event to pay tribute to the late judge at Kinokuniya Book Store’s Merdeka month celebration.
Eusoffe was lauded as “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth”, first coined by The Times of London. The “The Legal Lion of the Commonwealth: Judgments” book is the first in a series to revive the history of a man who has been called “Malaysia’s greatest judge”.
Malaysians, Treadell said, should be “so incredibly proud” of Eusoffe as his judgments were also respected by the international legal community.”
As a jurist, Eusoffe – who graduated with First Class Honours from University of London – was “second to none” and his laser-like intellect and photographic memory would often put someone on the spot.
Treadell also pointed out that Eusoffe was the first Malayan to be given the Keys to the City of London in 1950.
“I can assure you not everyone is given the Keys to the City of London. He must have stood out.”
Treadell went on to talk about how Eusoffe was a courageous man who was prepared to stand up to the government of the day or to senior figures in the government.
“If he felt the government had strayed beyond their constitutional place, he was not afraid of doing so and pointing out that actually, they were breaching the constitution and the law.”
Eusoffe was among the five Supreme Court judges who were suspended after granting the then Lord President Salleh Abbas an interim order against a tribunal for misconduct.
This after Salleh opposed a bill – that sparked the judicial crisis in 1988 – which sought to divest the courts of the “judicial power of the Federation”, giving them only such powers as Parliament granted them.
Salleh went on to express his disappointment with the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a letter that was addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and other state Rulers. Salleh was suspended two months later before being removed as Lord President in August of that year.
Inspired by Eusoffe’s life and legacy, his judgments will be used as a teaching tool for young people in a series of human rights writing workshops called “VastWords”, part sponsored by Think City, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional.
Between Nov–Dec 2018, the VastWords programme will train 400 students in Kuala Lumpur.
The best essays from the initiative will be published in a book, promoting diverse opinions and giving voice to young people’s perspectives on human rights issues in Malaysia.