Thursday, June 12, 2008


Judges sent to ‘boot camp’ or indoctrination: Report


Malaysian judges were sent to an indoctrination “boot camp” and threatened with dismissal to pressure them into making pro-Government decisions, a senior judge said according to reports Wednesday. In explosive allegations made in open court, Justice Datuk Ian Chin said he was threatened by former Premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over his handling of high-profile cases, one involving a close associate of the then-leader. “Now, though he is no longer the Prime Minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges, the coalition Party that he led is still around,” he said, according to The Borneo Post. Justice Chin made the allegations, which were picked up by the national press Wednesday, before hearing a dispute over results of March general election in Sarawak. He said he was targeted by Mahathir after refusing to award “astronomical” payouts in two libel cases in 1997, while a judge who agreed with the then-Premier’s views was promoted to the Federal Court. Justice Chin reportedly said that he was later packed off to a five-day boot camp with selected judges and Judicial officers. It was without any doubt “an attempt to indoctrinate those attending the boot camp to hold the view that the Government’s interest as being more important than all else when we are considering our judgement,” he said. Cabinet Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who is in charge of legal affairs, indicated he believed the allegations, and that they would harm the reputation of the nation’s justice system. “I can’t say I’m surprised by the revelations. There have been many stories in the past,” he told reporters. “It is regrettable that it has happened, it is a bad reflection oil our country. We have to make sure it does not happen again,” he said. “You should not tell judges what they can or cannot However, he dismissed calls from the Bar Council for in official probe into the allegations. “An investigation will not reveal anything more than what we know. What we need to do is restore Judicial independence and make sure such incidents do not happen,” he said. Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenavasan said the allegations were “both startling and damning.” judges, both present and past, must be encouraged to come forward and provide information on any such instances of interference so that further action may be taken,” she said according to the New Straits Times. Mahathir stood down in 2003 and his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised for failing to carry out his promises to tackle corruption, which is deeply entrenched in politics and business. Justice Chin’s allegations add to the pall cast over the country’s Judiciary by a recent royal commission into a sensational Mahathir-era video clip that showed a top lawyer brokering judicial appointments with the help of politicians. The commission found in May that there was evidence of an “insidious” conspiracy to influence the appointment of judges, and the Government promised to investigate those implicated. Mahathir, who has fallen out with his successor and accused him of corruption and nepotism, has previously challenged the authorities to charge him. His spokesman told AFP the former Premier would respond to Chin’s comments “in due course. Meanwhile, the Star picked up the report in The Borneo Post on Tuesday that Chin made the allegations before he was hearing an election petition challenging the results of the Sarikei parliamentary seat, which was won by a Barisan Nasional candidate by just 51 votes. “In a report in The Borneo Post on Tuesday, that comes hot on the heels of the findings of the Royal Commission on the V K Lingam video clip,Justice Chin said the threat from the former Prime Minister came after he handed down two judgments in 1997,” the Star said. One was a judgment on a libel case involving MGG Pillai and Tan Sri Vincent Tan where he refused to give what he considered to be an astronomical award. Justice Chin said the other judgment was in an election petition on Bukit Bangunan in the Sri Aman Division that he ruled in favour of Independent candidate Donald Lawan against Barisan Nasional candidate Mong Dagang. “Shortly after the two judgments, the Judges Conference was held from April 24, 1997 where the then Prime Minister issued a thinly veiled threat to remove judges by referring them to a tribunal and stating that, though it maybe difficult to do so, it was still done.” Justice Chin said the former Prime Minister expressed unhappiness with what he termed ‘the Borneo Case’. “Everyone knew which case he was referring to,” he added. Justice Chin said after the threat, the former Prime Minister said people should pay heavily for libel and he only got a single response from a Court of Appeal judge who asked if he would be happy with a sum of RM1 mil as damages for libel. “He approved of it and later made known his satisfaction by promoting this judge (since deceased) to the Federal Court over many others who were senior to him.” A month later, Justice Chin said he and selected judges and judicial officers were packed off to a boot camp from May 26-30, 1997 where there was an attempt to indoctrinate them with the view “ that the Government interest was more important than all else.” “Stating this devilish notion was no less a person than the President of the Court of Appeal. Everyone was quiet during the question sessions.” Justice Chin added “the perversion of justice” continued and recounted an episode when a fellow judge Muhammad Kamil Awang told him he had received a telephone call from the then Chief Justice asking him to dismiss the election petition that he was going to hear in Kota Kinabalu. “We went into the possibility of making a police report or of writing to the Chief Justice a letter to record what he had said over the telephone but in the end he decided against it since it would be his word against that of the Chief Justice,” he said. Justice Chin said he was happy to later on learn that Kamil did not bow to the pressure and went on to hear the petition, thereafter making a decision based on law and evidence. Justice Chin said he wanted the parties involved in the current petition and their counsel to hear his disclosure in case they wanted him to rescue himself. The High Court Judge said he had twice The High Court Judge said he had twice stood unsuccessfully as a Barisan Nasional candidate for a Parliamentary and later for a State seat in Sabah in the 1980s and in one of those elections he was defeated by a DAP candidate. “Now, though he is no longer the Prime Minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges, the coalition party that he led is still around” and the second respondent was a Barisan candidate and “may cross someone’s mind that I may have an axe to grind against the party concerned or any party thereof.”