Viewpoint: Chief Jester’s Circus And Charade Comes To A Close (Part 1)

Zaki Azmi has retired as the Chief Justice (CJ) of Bolehland. Weeks before the final curtain, he held himself in high regard in press interviews by giving rave reviews of his own tenure. He felt “very satisfied with the judiciary's achievements in less than three years” (Bernama).

For a long time, the mainstream press had portrayed  Zaki as a “reluctant” CJ. But as his retirement date drew nearer, the Malay Mail (MM) revved up the farewell accolades by revering him as the “Judiciary’s Renaissance man” (25.08.11).

According to MM’s executive editor Terence Fernandez, the feedback he received from Zaki's contemporaries in the Federal Court including Arifin Zakaria, Raus Sharif, James Foong, Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin and Abdull Hamid Embong was that Zaki “has revolutionised the judiciary”.

Praise for Zaki’s tenure also came from the Bar Council. Its chairperson Lim Chee Wee lauded him as one who has “surpassed the Bar's expectations as he has implemented many positive changes”. Lim listed 11 of the changes (Malaysiakini, 06.09.11).

Zaki’s changes may have been impressive but the reputation of the judiciary was sullied irreparably during his term of office. In the eyes of the public, the judiciary sunk so low as to allow itself to be intimidated, its independence and impartiality interfered with, and its integrity reduced to ignominy.

He may have “performed very well” (according to Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee) but Zaki’s judiciary continued to be a convenient playground for the ruling elite to stay in power, persecute their opponents, punish dissenters and promote their political agenda, through the perversion of the rule of law. Further, it became so predictable!

Zaki took great pride in reiterating that he has never presided over any Umno-related cases during his tenure. He did not need to. His cohorts, especially in the appellate courts would run the judicial circus on his behalf and even readily run riot with their ridiculous judgments, reducing the country into a judicial backwater!

Little wonder the ‘Perak cases’ for example were made the exclusive domain of the few judges who were already looked upon with increasing dismay by the public for their perceived political partisanship. It was not difficult to guess why the well-regarded judges in the Federal Court were kept out.

The latest indictment on Zaki’s judiciary was in the form of an unsworn statement from the dock by Anwar Ibrahim in his sodomy trial. He explained that he was opting to testify from the dock, because he had no confidence he would be tried fairly and he showed in detail the court’s undeniable bias against him thus far.

He called the entire court process “nothing but a conspiracy by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to send me into political oblivion by attempting once again to put me behind bars… this is not a criminal trial. It is a charade staged by the powers that be to put me out of action in order that they remain in power.” He was putting the judiciary on trial!

It is very evident that the “Judiciary’s Renaissance man” left behind a legacy of a judiciary scandalously compromised, shamelessly cowed and a slew of shocking contradictory and convoluted judgments. He failed to put his house into order so he shifted his furniture around to impress some of the people, like those in the Bar Council!

Zaki’s supposed judicial reform  was shredded into smithereens and his judicial show and sham laid bare by respected, renowned and retired Justice N H Chan who was increasingly furious at how the judiciary which he had served so faithfully has been reduced to a farce run by those who are "intellectual frauds”.

N H Chan accused Zaki's judges of “putting themselves beyond the pale… just like pariahs”. He showed why he considered some of the judges, especially those in the appellate courts - “ignorant”, “incompetent”, “inconsistent”, “imposters” and even “idiots”!

The then Chief Justice remained silent! His conspicuous and continued silence gave credence to the court of public opinion that it is one of "quiet subservience". Evidently, it would be safer to maintain the status quo and to say that he was “very satisfied with the judiciary's achievements in less than three years”.

There were those who interpreted Zaki's silence as him allowing, approving, aiding and abetting with members of the judiciary who had left behind a dead constitution, “bad” and “perverse” decisions, dubious declaratory orders, judgments devoid of reasoned grounds, and disgraceful double standards.

The Government must have been very pleased with the fine performance of their reliable Renaissance Man. It even made a recent revision of a remuneration law in Parliament so that Zaki can ride into the sunset with a full pension after serving only for less than three years! Zaki was so touched, he invited the PM for a cup of tea but it created quite a storm!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Catholic Lawyers Society Kuala Lumpur. CLS makes no representation concerning, and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.

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