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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — The Chief Registrar of the Federal Court must explain the “compulsory attendance” of lower court judges and other judicial officers for Datuk Seri Najib Razak's National Transformation 2050 (TN50) programme prior to GE14, Lawyers for Liberty said today.
Lawyer N. Surendran, who is also the group’s adviser, claimed to have proof to back up his claim, adding that this was also in conflict of the separation of the doctrine of powers.
“TN50 has been widely criticised as a political gimmick of Najib and the Barisan Nasional; it is thus an overtly political activity.
“It also has nothing whatsoever to do with enhancing judicial or professional skills as those who attended the courses said that the contents of the programmes were political and pro-BN,” he said in a statement.
He also questioned the office of the Chief Registrar who claimed BTN was brought in to organise the courses to “save costs”.
“Is it logical to undermine the doctrine of separation of powers simply in order to 'save costs'?” he asked.
Surendran’s latest challenge follows his earlier assertion that Sessions Court judges, registrars, deputy registrars and other judicial officers had been made to attend “propaganda” courses organised by the National Civics Bureau (BTN) last March that were in support of the then ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
The Chief Registrar yesterday issued a statement denying elements of propaganda in the BTN courses, saying it had collaborated to organise the courses for the judges and judicial officers as part of cost-cutting measures.
Today, Surendran said the TN50 programme had been held prior to the BTN courses, noting that three courses were held with the first at Akademi Kenegaraan, Jalan Bellamy, between March 16 and 18.
The second was held at Kem Bina Negara in Tanjung Rhu, Sepang, between March 23 and 25, while the last course took place at Kem Bina Negara in Kulim, Kedah, between April 6 and 8.
“The executive has no business to give any lectures to judges, who must be seen to be completely independent,” he said.
He demanded the Chief Registrar release the full contents and audio recording of the BTN programmes to back up claims that it was not political.
“The response made by the Chief Registrar’s office yesterday has merely created more disturbing questions, and produced no satisfactory answers.”
“An independent panel of inquiry must be appointed to investigate the systematic undermining of judicial independence and to make the necessary recommendations for action,” Surendran said.
BTN is an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department established in 1974 and tasked with promoting patriotism, but has repeatedly been accused of spreading racism.