Sarawak lawyers want 5 to resign from judges’ selection commission

Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria is a party in a constitutional reference brought by the Advocates Association of Sarawak and the Malaysian Bar to challenge the appointments of two former top judges. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) wants the five persons appointed by former prime minister Najib Razak to recommend candidates for appointments and promotions in the judiciary to resign as there could be a conflict of interest.

Its president Ranbir Singh Sangha said former chief justice Arifin Zakaria, an eminent person in the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), had been named as a party in a constitutional reference brought by AAS and the Malaysian Bar to challenge the appointments of two former top judges.

The Sabah Law Society had come in as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

The Federal Court has reserved judgment on whether the appointments of immediate past chief justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin are constitutional or otherwise.

Arifin had been named as first defendant as he had recommended on March 30, 2017, the appointments of Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges in order for them to remain in their administrative positions.

Najib appointed Arifin to the JAC soon after the latter retired on March 31.

Other eminent persons appointed were retired Court of Appeal judge Anantham Kasinather, former Sarawak attorney-general Abdul Razak Tready and Universiti Malaya (UM) law professor Choong Yeow Choy – for a two-year term.

Najib also appointed Federal Court judge Azahar Mohamed to the JAC.

The suit had challenged the constitutionality of their respective appointments.

Arifin, being an active litigant, ought not to be sitting in the JAC which might influence the appointment of judges, Ranbir said in a statement.

He said the rest had endorsed Arifin’s recommendation and it did not seem proper for them to continue in their present positions in the JAC as well.

“It is the perception of the public and the legal community that matters,” he added.

He said the perception of the public and the legal community might also be
coloured and affected as all the five were appointed by Najib who was now charged with various offences.

“We believe, given the negative perception, the present members of the JAC should consider doing the honourable thing by tendering their resignations so that the JAC can start anew with a clean slate,” he said.

Ranbir also suggested that the present government appoints representatives of the Malaysian Bar, Sabah Law Society and the AAS to the JAC to select suitable and qualified persons as judges for the prime minister’s consideration.

“Appointment of representatives from the three Bars to the JAC will provide a more diverse pool in the selection process and criteria. After all, it is the Bars who know and represent their respective members best,” he said.