From Walter Sandosam
It appears the circus has come to town. One usually anticipates trapeze artists, clowns, animal trainers, jugglers and the like.
However, here in Malaysia, the circus comprises the judiciary, the Bar Council, former Malaysian Bar chiefs, ministers, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), an MACC oversight panel chairman, senior lawyers, and a political party.
It appears that they are there to add flavour and to elevate to a higher platform what should be or should not be.
Such is the stage at which we find ourselves wherein we are “all but actors playing out our role on stage”, to paraphrase William Shakespeare.
The Chief Justice has made her views crystal clear on an investigation involving a member of the judiciary conducted by the MACC when delivering a Federal Court judgment.
The choice of words – “timing”, “collateral” and “possible lack of good faith” are penetrating.
Protocol was referred to but some senior lawyers had indicated that they are not aware of any.
The rakyat is none the wiser. They remain in the dark. Perhaps it should be published to clear the air and put paid to negative aspersions.
The Bar Council president has come out strongly to further highlight the “independence” of the judiciary and the extent to which the MACC is limited when it comes to investigations involving the judiciary as judicial ethics is out of the MACC’s remit and not “within the competence nor understanding of the MACC”.
This is an arguable point as no evidence has been provided to back this assertion leading one to assume that it is merely a viewpoint as to the extent of training provided to the MACC on investigations.
Such training, or lack thereof, is not public knowledge.
It appears that the CJ can take a back seat now as much is being said by another party pertaining to an issue concerning specifically the institution of the judiciary.
Further comment, if any, from the CJ is superfluous.
Many past presidents of the Bar have come out strongly in support. Perhaps they need to be refreshed as to a Federal Court judgment recently on the Bar in relation to not following due process (“protocol”) when handling a complaint against one of their own – which should have been rightfully discussed first by the disciplinary board.
It appears “not following protocol (procedure)” is a professional hazard in wanting to get things moving along, and the MACC is apparently not the only party guilty of such conduct.
Perhaps the Bar should also reflect on their stance in relation to the judiciary in 1996.
It is relevant also to point out that currently, two senior lawyers have filed cases against the Bar on issues related to “unprofessional conduct”.
A comment by a prominent social activist that “MACC has acted as judge, jury and executioner” only goes to confuse the public and more dangerously reflects the ineptitude and lack of thinking skills of the commentator, given that MACC has no prosecutorial powers.
In any matter related to the judiciary and/or any other investigation, the MACC’s job ends after the investigation is completed.
It is then submitted to the Attorney-General (AG) for a decision to prosecute or not. This is standard procedure.
It is public knowledge that there was an investigation into a specific member of the judiciary as there was a “back and forth” between the AG and the MACC.
Incredulously, at one point, these investigation papers were lost in transit with both parties commenting that the papers were “not with them”.
The public is perplexed. Did the CJ and the AG go to different law schools?
The AG seems to have missed the point on “protocol”, not to mention the lack of knowledge in this arena by the MACC.
If one concedes that MACC lacks competence, shouldn’t the AG be better informed? Or perhaps the AG needs a refresher conducted by the CJ on the judiciary.
One can’t help but wonder who counselled the MACC to submit the “investigation papers” to the CJ in February. Should this not have been “nipped in the bud”?
The chairman of the independent MACC operations review panel and MACC Academy head have recorded their views on MACC’s domain.
In the meantime, the Bar Council has scheduled a public forum to “educate” the public. One wonders what it will achieve given the forum constituents.
Whether the MACC has jurisdiction to “investigate” is the million-dollar question here.
Meanwhile, a political party has filed a lawsuit on the MACC’s jurisdiction when it comes to probing judges.
This matter can be put to rest by the judiciary explaining the process it had instituted in its internal investigation to ensure that due process and “protocol” was followed in dismissing the “unfounded issue” of ethical breaches on a specific judge, including the comment by a blogger on unexplained funds.
Perhaps a tribunal or proceedings or a Judiciary Ethics Committee had run the course and the public is not aware.
Many quarters have called upon the AG to comment. There has been a stoic silence.
Why is this so when the credibility of the institutional framework is being called into question?
The public has a right to know the state of integrity of its institutions. The players need to “act out their role” to put this issue to rest. Let’s stand down on unproductive “sandiwara”.
Walter Sandosam is a former MACC oversight panel member and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.