Malaysia’s king has the say

Hamid and Alauddin/NSTHamid and AlauddinHamid and Alauddin

Malaysia’s king Mizan Zainal Abidin has approved two new senior judicial appointments, ending an almost eight-month long stalemate with his prime minister and affirming that the country’s constitutional monarch has the final say in the appointment of judges, state officials and analysts say.

They say the appointment of two very senior Federal Court judges to the high office of the President of the Appeal Court and the Chief Judge of Malaya of the 13-state Southeast Asian federation could signal the start of judicial reforms to restore public confidence in a judiciary that has fallen into disrepute over allegations of impropriety of its judges.

Federal Court judges Abdul Hamid Mohamad, 65, who will be the new President of the Court of Appeal, and Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, 61, the new Chief Judge of Malaya, are elevated to the bench because of their seniority, integrity and diligence in their duties, state officials say. The posts, ranked second and third respectively in the judiciary, had been vacant since May and January respectively due to death and retirement.

Analysts say the king and his eight other hereditary Malay rulers have proven that they are not intransigent. They say they rejected Abdullah’s earlier candidates because they were said to be “too junior and unsuitable” for such high office. 

However, they say Abdullah’s troubles are far from over. He has to deal with Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, 65, who, they say, is proving to be recalcitrant and audacious in the face of allegations that he has promoted lesser and errant judges to important judicial posts. 

Despite Abdullah’s order to him to answer charges, Ahmad Fairuz, analysts say, remains defensive of his judges; particularly, Federal Court judge Hashim Yusoff who has been accused of failing to write his judgment in 35 court cases that he has heard. 

Ahmad Fairuz, according to the New Straits Times, has also written to the king to ask him to extend his office by six months. He is due to retire on 1 November as Malaysian judges retire at age 66. The king’s response is not known but analysts say he might accede to Ahmad Fairuz’s wish if he could assure him that he could clean up his judiciary in that time. 

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