Ex-CJ Zakaria shrugs off doubts over credibility, says ‘conscience clear’

Former chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria speaks to reporters in Putrajaya after being appointed to lead a royal inquiry on the mass graves and human trafficking in Wang Kelian on March 5, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Former chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria speaks to reporters in Putrajaya after being appointed to lead a royal inquiry on the mass graves and human trafficking in Wang Kelian on March 5, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, March 5 — Former chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria said today questions about his human rights credentials are merely "a matter of perception", and have little significance to his ability to lead a royal inquiry into the gruesome discovery of mass graves in 2015.

"My conscience is clear," he said when asked by Malay Mail to comment on the criticism leveled against him.

Arifin will lead a seven-member Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2015 discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps in Wang Kelian, Perlis.

The panel, announced by Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin here, comprise mostly former top government officials.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) on March 1 questioned Arifin’s human rights record after the former chief justice was appointed to lead the RCI.

The human rights group pointed out that Arifin had made many unconstitutional decisions during his tenure that ran counter to human rights.

Among them, he upheld the Sedition Act 1948, upholding PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction.

Arifin had also advised the King to appoint then Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif and then President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Zulkifli Makinuddin as additional judges to keep them in office beyond the retirement age.

In response, the former CJ merely said his critics will always judge him regardless.

“They can judge me but it’s a matter of perception,” he said.

Muhyiddin, speaking at the same press conference, defended Arifin’s appointment.

“Note that the panel lineup had been approved by His Royal Highness the Agong,” he said.