Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Malaysiakini Updates: Tan Sri Zaki Azmi as CJ

It is a move that is sure to stoke controversy because Mr Zaki was once legal adviser to the dominant political party.

From Malaysiakini
Emergency motion on 'new CJ' rejected
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz | Oct 21, 08 12:12pm
breaking news updated 3.10pm Kubang Kerian MP Salahuddin Ayub's attempt to file an emergency motion to discuss the matter is rejected by the deputy speaker

A FORMER prominent lawyer who had close links to Umno, Tan Sri Zaki Azmi, is to become Malaysia's next head of the judiciary, sources said yesterday.

It is a move that is sure to stoke controversy because Mr Zaki was once legal adviser to the dominant political party.

Sources told The Straits Times that Malaysia's nine hereditary rulers consented to Mr Zaki's appointment yesterday, after a two-day discussion which also raised concerns over the controversy that is likely to erupt with the appointment.

Other names for the post were also discussed. But Mr Zaki's integrity eventually convinced the Conference of Rulers to give its consent, a move necessary under Malaysia's Constitution.

Incumbent Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamed retires today.

Mr Zaki, 63, is currently the Court of Appeal president, the No.2 post. His father Tun Azmi Mohamed was Malaysia's first local head of judiciary, and held the post from 1966 to 1974.

'It is with mixed feelings that we hear this news. On the one hand, he is a good judge with integrity; on the other hand, there's bound to be controversy with the public,' said a retired judge.

Mr Zaki made history last year when he was appointed a judge in the country's apex court without going through the lower rungs. He rose to the No.2 position two months later.

His fast rise through the judicial system had sparked protests from the opposition, which raised the matter in Parliament last year. At that time, then-parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang had described it as a prelude to Mr Zaki becoming 'Umno's chief justice'.

However, since then, lawyers and judges have conceded that Mr Zaki has taken pains to avoid hearing cases linked to the government, and has become known for good judicial temperament.

Nevertheless, his appointment will stir controversy as it comes at a time when Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has promised to undertake judicial reforms to ensure a more transparent appointment process.

At present, the Prime Minister makes the appointment, on the recommendation of the incumbent Chief Justice. The Conference of Rulers has the final say, and has flexed its muscles only on very rare occasions.

The appointment will be seen as an indication, or otherwise, of the willingness of the beleaguered Barisan Nasional government to listen to public perception and opinion.

The Malaysiakini news portal has reported that the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance has already sent a memorandum, urging the rulers to consider public opinion.

'The appointment of the chief justice is important to ensure the integrity and credibility of the judiciary,' the letter said.

Mr Zaki obtained his Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln's Inn and was called to the Bar in England in 1969. He served in the Malaysian government before going into private practice in 1985.

He was also a senior consultant for Kuala Lumpur-based law firm

source: Controversial new Chief Justice
Straits Times, Singapore