Lawyers’ group says resignation of country’s two top judges a welcome move

Eric Paulsen said the previous BN administration had eroded judicial independence by ushering in the duo’s appointment despite the barrage of criticisms and legal challenges filed against them. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Eric Paulsen said the previous BN administration had eroded judicial independence by ushering in the duo’s appointment despite the barrage of criticisms and legal challenges filed against them. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA, June 13 — Lawyers’ group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) welcomes the resignation of Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration had eroded judicial independence by ushering in the duo’s appointment despite the barrage of criticisms and legal challenges filed against them.

“Their departure is only the first step in restoring the tarnished reputation of our judiciary while senior and more qualified judges should no longer be overlooked and frozen out of promotion in favour of junior judges.

“The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) must also be reformed to ensure that the selection and elevation of future judges will be devoid of political consideration,” he said in a statement today.

Eric added the current top judiciary heavy composition of the JAC should be diversified and the other members of the commission should no longer be appointed by the prime minister as formerly practised.

“A prominent example was to emulate the United Kingdom’s JAC which comprised of 15 commissioners, 12 of whom were appointed through open competition while the remaining three are selected among judges by the judges’ council.

“The commission also includes a healthy mix of members from civil society, academia, lawyers and judges from all levels of the judiciary who were appointed in their own right and not representative of their respective professions,” he said.

He said efforts must be made to include representatives from Malaysian legal bodies and not just the respective heads of the Superior Courts in Malaysia as commissioners.

“The road ahead to restore Malaysia’s judiciary to its past glory will be long and arduous, and the resignation of Raus and Zulkefli is just the beginning.

“We look forward to a time when Malaysia’s judiciary will be truly independent and be respected once again in the Commonwealth,” he said.

According to the Chief Registrar’s Office statement today, Raus and Zulkefli had met Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on May 15 — just a few days after the new government was voted in — and informed him of their intention to resign and asked for the resignation to take effect at a “reasonable” date to allow for their duties to be completed first.

Their resignations are effective July 31.

Both Raus and Zulkefli had held their positions as Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal since April 1, 2017, with their term for these positions controversially extended past their constitutional retirement age under the Najib administration.

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