KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — The Tunku Bendahara of Johor has claimed that his father, the late Sultan Iskandar Ismail had been “used” by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to remove the country’s top judge in the late 1980s.
Nearly three decades on, Tunku Abdul Majid Idris Ibni Sultan Iskandar sought to reignite debate over the controversial sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President by holding the former prime minister accountable for the act that triggered the 1988 judicial crisis.
“Mahathir used my father to remove Tun Salleh, period.
“Tun Salleh is a good man and my father acknowledged that. He has already made his peace with Tun Salleh,” the 44-year-old wrote in a short Facebook post yesterday, taking a leaf from another Johor prince’s playbook.
“Mahathir, please don’t blame people who can’t defend themselves anymore,” he added.
Tunku Abdul Majid’s remarks follows Dr Mahathir’s assertion Saturday that the late Sultan Iskandar had disliked Salleh and was instrumental in removing the judge from office after the latter complained about the noise from the king’s house that was being renovated.
“The Sultan of Johor, who was Agong, was very annoyed. This was a wrong thing to do, and he asked me to dismiss Salleh Abas,” Dr Mahathir told a forum at the Cooler Lumpur Festival here over the weekend.
The 89-year-old said a tribunal was then set up, adding that the Attorney-General at the time did not want to mention the Agong’s name, but made Dr Mahathir out to be the main complainant against Salleh instead.
Dr Mahathir, who was in office from 1981 to 2003, said he has never restricted judges and denied ever talking to them, except to the Lord President who would inform him about official matters like promotions and appointments.
Dr Mahathir first made the claim that Salleh was sacked for complaining about the noisy construction work at the Agong’s house in his first autobiography, “A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad”, published in 2011.
The former Umno president had denied removing the former Lord President, along with five Supreme Court judges, in retaliation when the court declared the party illegal after the 1987 Umno election that saw Dr Mahathir narrowly defeating Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
“I’ve explained this over and over again – I did not interfere. I’m prepared to go as a Muslim – we swear before Quran and all that.... I didn’t ask anybody to dismiss Salleh Abas. But I got that reputation,” Dr Mahathir said.