Thursday, October 30, 2008

New CJ,can he prove his critics wrong?

Fresh hopes to regain past glory

Everytime a new Chief Justice(CJ) is appointed,the peoples' hopes for the rejuvenation of an ailing judiciary is rekindled. It is no different this time around with the appointment of Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi as the 12th.CJ.However the pledge by newly-appointed CJ, to get tough on errant judges, whom he accuses of besmirching the image and reputation of the judiciary is encouraging.

He may have passed the first test by coming out of a state of denial to admit the existence of a group of judges, although may be small, who have failed to fulfill their responsibilities with honour and integrity and that their irresponsible actions have tarnished the image and brought great disrespect to the judiciary as a whole. The recent Lingam videotape scandal is a bitter reminder of that shame that was inflicted on our once renounced and respected judiciary. It has yet to recover from that disgrace that shook our judiciary and the nation to the core.

The appointment of Zaki was shrouded with controversy from the very beginning. The Opposition, the legal fraternity, NGOs and many members of the public were overtly critical of his appointment as the CJ because of his past relationship with Umno. They cast serious doubts as to whether he can be truly impartial and independent in discharging his duties with such political affiliations in the past.

However his hard-hitting, impressive and positive maiden speech after his appointment appears to be at attempt to dispel those doubts and if he lives up to his pledges he would go a long way to prove his critics wrong. He must act fast to correct the wrong public perception of the judiciary that it is subservient to the executive. It should be his top priority and it is encouraging that rightly he appears to have made it so.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has promised to accomplish the badly needed judicial reforms before his departure, especially with regards to a more transparent and impartial system of the appointment of judges. Will the new CJ rise up to the expectations of the Prime Minister who has described him as a man of reforms? The people are waiting and watching for him to prove that he is indeed such a man of reforms who can implement them boldly without fear or favour of the powers that be.

The judiciary is the last frontier of the nation and if people have no confidence in the courts, there will be chaos. The rakyat’s hope for ultimate justice depends on a judiciary that is seen as clean, fair and independent and not subservient to any parties. Unless it can convince its impartiality beyond doubts, it will never gain the confidence of the people. The new CJ has no option but strive to prove his critics wrong in order to gain the trust of the rakyat whose demands are exceptionally high.

Zaki must quickly initiate the changes for the judiciary to regain its past glory. The ordinary man on the street has nowhere to turn to justice except the judiciary and if the institution, that is established to grant him justice fails or even seen to have failed, it would be a great tragedy not only to the person who seeks fair play but also the institution itself.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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