Abang Iskandar the next chief justice of Sabah and Sarawak?

Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim was appointed to the Federal Court in November 2018. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Federal Court Judge Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim is said to be the front runner to be appointed the 10th chief justice of Sabah and Sarawak (CJSS) next month, sources said.

A source said Abang Iskandar was the likely choice because he was more senior than another Federal Court judge, Abdul Rahman Sebli, although both are 60 and natives of Sarawak.

“The Judicial Appointments Commission would have proposed his name due to his seniority,” the source told FMT.

Last week , Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said incumbent CJSS David Wong Dak Wah’s successor had been identified but declined further information.

“A swearing-in ceremony (for the new CJSS) will take place on Feb 19,” she told reporters after attending the opening of the Legal Year in Kuching.

Wong will retire on Feb 19.

Abang Iskandar was appointed judicial commissioner in March 2007 and elevated as High Court judge in October 2009.

He was elevated as Court of Appeal judge in September 2013 and to the Federal Court in November 2018.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman was made judicial commissioner in September 2008 and elevated as High Court judge in 2010.

He was promoted to the Court of Appeal in September 2014 and to the Federal Court five months ago.

Should one of them be appointed, it would mean that a native from Sarawak would assume the position after a long time. The last was Mohamed Jemuri Serjan (1991-1994).

The first CJSS was William Campbell White Wylie (1963-1965), followed by Philip Ernest Housden Pike (1965-1968), Ismail Khan Ibrahim Khan (1968-1973), Lee Hun Hoe (1974-1990), Jemuri (1991-1994) Chong Siew Fai (1995-2000), Steve Shim Lip Kheong ( 2000- 2006) Richard Malanjum (2006- 2018) and Wong (2010-2020).

Meanwhile, retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said whoever was appointed to the coveted position must ensure the rights of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak was preserved

“In several Federal Court rulings, especially on land rights, judges from West Malaysia had been instrumental in diminishing what is provided for in the law and the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Sri Ram commended Wong who, in a number of cases, though in the minority, had exerted the rights of both states and their people .

“He was also very conscious of the rights of the natives and I hope his successor will continue with that trend,” he added.