I know many of you are expecting a story from me on the embattled Malaysian judiciary. I can’t publish my story yet because I’m still waiting for a break. At this moment, except for innuendoes, we’ve no confirmation that Mr V K Lingam, the Malaysian lawyer in private practice, was brokering the appointment of judges with the Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim (then the Chief Judge of Malaya) as portrayed in the video clip recently released by former deputy premier Mr Anwar Ibrahim.
A denial from Mr Ahmad Fairuz will be enough for me to publish my story. But to borrow a phrase from Mr Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, the de facto law minister, the Chief Justice is “clever enough” not to do so.
Otto Von Bismarck (1815-1898), Germany’s first Chancellor, says: “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” All journalists should remember this maxim.
I don’t think an official denial from the Malaysian judiciary or the government is forthcoming. But I’m sure I’m going to have my break soon. Someone is going to make a faux pas.
2.1 Judicial independence is sometimes mistakenly perceived as a privilege enjoyed by judges, whereas it is in fact a cornerstone of our system of government in a democratic society and a safeguard of the freedom and rights of the citizen under the rule of law. The judiciary, whether viewed as an entity or by its individual membership, is and must be seen to be, independent of the legislative and executive arms of government. The relationship between the judiciary and the other arms should be one of mutual respect, each recognising the proper role of the others. Judges should always take care that their conduct, official or private, does not undermine their institutional or individual independence, or the public appearance of independence.
2.2 The judicial oath provides:
“I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this Realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
In taking that oath, the judge has acknowledged that he or she is primarily accountable to the law which he or she must administer.
2.3 The oath plainly involves a requirement to be alert to, and wary of, subtle and sometimes not so subtle attempts to influence judges or to curry favour.
Moreover, in the proper discharge of duties, the judge must be immune to the effects of publicity, whether favourable or unfavourable. That does not of course mean being immune to an awareness of the profound effect judicial decisions may have, not only on the lives of people before the court, but sometimes upon issues of great concern to the public, concerns which may be expressed in the media.
2.4 Consultation with colleagues when points of difficulty arise is important in the maintenance of standards. In performing judicial duties, however, the judge shall be independent of judicial colleagues and solely responsible for his or her decisions.