2019 sees women judges making strides in apex court

Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat at a press conference in May this year after her appointment as chief justice.

PETALING JAYA: It has been a year of milestone achievements for women judges in Malaysia’s apex court, including the appointment of Federal Court judge Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat as the 16th chief justice and the first woman to head the judiciary.

At 59, Tengku Maimun who was appointed as chief justice in May, became the youngest to occupy the position since Suffian Mohamed Hashim who served from 1974 to 1982.

Her meteoric rise took many in the legal fraternity by surprise as she was only appointed as a Federal Court judge six months earlier, in November 2018, and had held no other administrative post.

She was appointed as a judicial commissioner in 2006 and confirmed as a High Court judge the following year before being elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2013.

Before that, only Siti Norma Yaakob (2005-2007) and Zaharah Ibrahim (August 2018-May 2019) had held the post of chief judge of Malaya, the third highest position in the judicial hierarchy.

Early this month, meanwhile, Federal Court judge Rohana Yusuf, 63, was elevated to Court of Appeal president following the retirement of Ahmad Maarop last month.

She became the first woman to hold the position since the inception of the Court of Appeal in 1994.

Rohana was appointed as a judicial commissioner in 2005 and a High Court of Malaya judge in 2011. She was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2013, and the Federal Court in April last year.

For the first time, there are also six women judges in the Federal Court with the promotions of Zaleha Yusuf, Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim from the Court of Appeal.

They join Tengku Maimun, Rohana and Nallini Pathmanathan.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said Malaysians should be proud to have women occupying the number one and two administrative positions in the judiciary.

“The appointment of Tengku Maimun and Rohana, plus four women judges in the nation’s top court, is a feat that cannot be matched soon by the executive or the legislature,” he said.