Elevate CJ of Sabah, Sarawak to CJ of Malaya, says ex-judge

Approval for the new chief justice is expected from the Conference of Rulers by the end of this week.

PETALING JAYA: A retired judge has proposed that the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) look into elevating the current chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak to chief judge of Malaya.

Gopal Sri Ram said David Wong Dak Wah is the most senior holder of an administrative post after Chief Judge of Malaya Zaharah Ibrahim, who retires on May 16.

“Elevating Wong would not be not unusual. After all, Ismail Khan from Malaya once became chief justice of Borneo (1968-73). Nobody complained.

“If that could happen, why can’t someone from Borneo become chief judge of Malaya?” he asked.

Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge, said Wong’s experience in administrating the courts in Sabah and Sarawak would come in handy if he is entrusted with the role.

However, Wong can only be in office until February next year, if he gets an extension of six months. Judges retire at 66 plus an optional six months.

JAC will be holding its monthly meeting soon, among others to suggest a name to the prime minister to fill the post of chief judge of Malaya, the third highest in the judiciary.

In accordance with a provision in the Federal Constitution, the prime minister advises the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the appointment after consulting the Conference of Rulers.

Alternatively, Sri Ram said, JAC could propose one of the three names submitted to the prime minister to be appointed as chief justice.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak David Wong Dak Wah.

“Once one of them is appointed, one of the remaining two could be appointed as chief judge of Malaya and later become president of the Court of Appeal once Ahmad Maarof retires in November,” he said.

On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he expected the approval for the new chief justice by the Conference of Rulers to be given by the end of this week.

The post has been vacant since Richard Malanjum retired on April 12. Ahmad, who is Court of Appeal president, has been performing the function and duties of the top judge.

The other choice, Sri Ram said, is to appoint one of the Federal Court judges after looking at his or her administrative capacity and ensuring that the constitution will be safe in that person’s hands.

“We do not want to establish a constitutional wrecking crew which will undo all the fine work done by Malanjum and former Federal Court judge Zainun Ali,” he added.

Another option, he said, is to get someone from the High Court and appoint that person as chief judge of Malaya.

“But I doubt this will happen although there are several good candidates,” he said.

Sri Ram said the final choice is to get an outsider straight to the Federal Court to hold the position of chief judge of Malaya.

“There are some very fine lawyers out there who will do a first-class job,” he said.