New CJ credits meteoric rise to God’s will, pledges to continue predecessor’s reform agenda

Chief Justice Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya May 6, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Chief Justice Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya May 6, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, May 6 — With her petite-build and soft-spoken demeanour, one might not fathom that Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat is the Chief Justice of a country.

But the 59-year old has enjoyed a sound legal career, which later saw her meteoric rise to being appointed as the country’s foremost judge.

Despite her achievements, and being a relatively young Chief Justice compared to her predecessors, Tengku Maimun remains very much rooted to her humble beginnings.

Her sudden rise to her current position, however, had raised questions in recent days, as to how her more senior colleagues in the judiciary would view her appointment.

However, Tengku Maimun had only one reply: God’s will.

“Well firstly, this is not a position which was requested. This is rezeki decided by Allah.

“So I believe though I am a junior, I believe the seniors whom I had bypassed, do not harbour any uneasy feeling, because as Muslims, we believe that if it’s meant to be for us, it will be for us,” she told a press conference here.

Unlike her more senior predecessors in the past decade who all had relatively short tenures save for Tun Arifin Zakaria who served for five years and six months, Tengku Maimun is now the chief justice exactly two months before she turns 60 years old.

Having worked in Kelantan, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, Tengku Maimun then went on to the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya when she was appointed as a Court of Appeal judge on January 8, 2013 before being elevated over five years later as a Federal Court judge, on November 26 last year.

What this means is that Tengku Maimun can continue to serve as a judge for another six years until July 2, 2025 when she hits the retirement age of 66, and can subsequently provide further service for an additional six months well into early 2026 if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong approves it.

This will be unlike her immediate predecessor Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, who had the briefest tenure in history at just nine months before his April 12 retirement and who nevertheless made his mark as a reformist keen on modernising the judiciary and as a defender of constitutional rights.

“At this point, what I can say is that any reforms started by Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, we will continue, and the rest, whichever is at the infancy level, we will start is, or make it better and such,” she said, adding that many initiatives kickstarted by Malanjum must be continued to reform the judiciary.

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