(Malaysian Unplugged) Who We Appoint to the Seat of Justice is a Matter of LIFE and DEATH for Malaysians “….Who are THESE JUDGES who wield such power over us, a power reserved for GOD? Who are these MERE humans with the power to wrest children from their mothers and to condemn men to death or cage them like beasts in penitentiaries? Who possesses the power to strip us of our professions, our possessions, our very lives? THEY make law. THEY may take away your wife or your good name or your freedom or your fortune or your life. THEY are omnipotent. And the question is: To whom have we so carelessly granted that power? Are THEY the kind who would understand YOU , who from their experiences would know something of the fears and struggles you have faced? Will THEY care about YOU or about JUSTICE?” – Gerry Spence, American lawyer Judicial Diversity Creates Confidence by Roger Tan Read here for more How does Malaysia fare with judicial diversity? Is ours a more representative bench?
There is (are) a fair number of women and non-Malay judges at the High Court level, but not in the appellate courts. In fact, since Merdeka, only one white, two Chinese, one Indian and one womanwere appointed to head the High Court of Malaya. They were, respectively, Tun James Beveridge Thomson (1957-1963); Tan Sri Ong Hock Thye (1968-1973) and Tan Sri Gunn Chit Tuan (1992-1994); Tan Sri Sarwan Singh Gill (1974-1979); and Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob (2004-2006).
JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS COMMISSION Further, the members of our Judicial Appointments Commission comprise: six Malays, one Chinese, one Indian and one east Malaysia bumiputra, and only one of the nine members is a woman. To my mind, the situation could be due to a dearth of non-Malays in the Judicial and Legal Services, but overall women still outnumber men in this sector. SESSIONS COURT Currently, in respect of Sessions Court judges, there are: 119 Malays (56 are women), two Chinese (women), five Indians (three are women), nine east Malaysia bumiputras (four are women) and one Others (a woman).
MAGISTRATES COURT For Magistrates, there are: 139 Malays (84 are women), two Chinese (men), one Indian (woman) and four east Malaysia bumiputras (all men). However, there are probably MORE non-Malays serving in the Attorney General’s Chambers. But if other judicial officers such as deputy and assistant registrars are added, women would almost double men. This is not a new phenomenon as, in the last two years, women have doubled the number of men entering the legal profession.Of course, non-Malay law graduates prefer to enter the legal profession rather than join the Judicial and Legal Services with the view, whether rightly or wrongly, that private practice is more lucrative. In fact, with the revised remuneration scheme, the current basic pay of a magistrate who is a fresh law graduate is RM1989.45 (with additional perks worth about RM1,000 depending on the location where the magistrate serves). This, of course, is far better off than his predecessor in earlier days, like in the early 1980s when a magistrate’s basic pay was only about RM1,050. In any event, if the reason for under-representation in the appellate judiciary by NON-MALAYS is due to a lack of meritorious candidates in the Judicial and Legal Services, then resort should be had to the pool of meritorious candidates among senior members of the Bar just like in the case of Jonathan Sumption, QC who recently made history by being the first lawyer to be elevated directly to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Having said that, let no one mistake me as advocating a quota system or positive discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and religion in judicial appointments because that would go against Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution. I am also mindful of the views expressed by some women judges themselves, such as the former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé. She argued that it was not enough to have simply more women or minorities on the bench.“What we need”, as she was quoted by Australian judge, Justice McHugh, “is a change in attitudes, not simply a change in chromosomes.” I disagree. If there exists a total absence or a huge disproportionate presence of women and minorities at appellate courts, something must be wrong somewhere. It is my considered opinion that the Judicial Appointments Commission should always encourage a diverse judiciary which is more representative of the make-up of our country. We must also correct any perception that our judges, who are the arbiters of civil laws, are not fair and independent especially when they adjudicate upon sensitive issues such as race and religion. It follows that who we appoint to the seat of justice is a matter of life and death. As one of America’s finest trial lawyers,
Gerry Spence, put it so trenchantly: “Who are these judges who wield such power over us, a power reserved for God? Who are these mere humans with the power to wrest children from their mothers and to condemn men to death or cage them like beasts in penitentiaries? Who possesses the power to strip us of our professions, our possessions, our very lives? “They make law. They may take away your wife or your good name or your freedom or your fortune or your life. They are omnipotent. And the question is: To whom have we so carelessly granted that power? Are they the kind who would understand you, who from their experiences would know something of the fears and struggles you have faced? Will they care about you or about justice?” It is, therefore, my honest view that judicial diversity and meritocracy should go hand in hand because a judiciary which does not reflect the society’s diversity will ultimately lose the confidence of that society. In other words, the strength of any judiciary is primarily dependent on public confidence even if seated on the bench are monolithic judges who are most meritorious. This is achievable if there is the political will, and one only need to look at how successfully Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did in bringing diversity to the American judiciary.
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Kamal’s article sets Kamal apart from all the propaganda or opposition paid propagandists. A paragon of Malay honesty. Will Mohd. Kamal bin Abdullah be fetted for a Malay title? This sort of honesty is certainly PM material in the making, brutally honest and not slithery about the facts and figures. Run for candidacy Kamal if you can endorse the below 3 items :
1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism
2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.
3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.
;if if possible set up a political party of your own! If Tengku Haris, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar and Sreekant Pillai are not using RPK blab-outing as an excuse to not run for politics, you guys (alongside those dozen or more sacked from DAP including potentially Dr.Ramasamy DCM of Penang) could form the core of a REAL political party that is UNHCR compliant (Articles 1 and 18 being the toughest to implement properly) and free from Islamic sin of Asabiya. Then consider the various other issues I have highlighted as well like TERM LIMITS for MPs, Assemblyman and political party committee bearer posts, EMINENT DOMAIN ABOLISHMENT, ALLODIAL implementation, non-4D based gambling outlets, and adult services industry venues, non-Muslim zones (so that Singapore can be re-assimilated). Some of us have been sabotaged into non-viability (may still try), but others have not and should not just run off at the first chance (the above 3 mentioned) or as in Kamal’s case, not even try at all despite the admirable honesty that some you-know-who’s dare not even want to mention – Allah (or your choice of deity or non-deity) help us if they are crypto-racists! Kudos to Kamal and all Malays who believe in the above 3 items. Run against the racists and put an end to the misery of so many living in Malaysia!