Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Will this former UMNO legal adviser be Head of the Judiciary one day?

Can or should the Minister even defend the appointment of Zaki Azmi to the Federal Court? Was he not appointed by the YDP Agung acting on the advice of the Prime Minister. The way Nazri is defending the appointment, it looks as though he had a role to play in the choice. It is the PM who should be answering (unless Nazri is really representing the Prime Minister here).

On Sept 5 2007, Zaki Azmi became the first person to be appointed direct to the Federal Court, bypassing the convention of first serving in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. (not really, previously we had Sri Ram who was appointed directly to become a Judge of the Court of Appeal.)

Wonder whether Zaki Azmi is going to be made Chief Justice - the head of the Malaysian Judiciary? That will really not be good for the perception of independence of the judiciary, and this perception is VERY important.

Nazri defends Zaki's appointment as judge
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Oct 30, 07 6:51pm

De facto law minister Nazri Aziz was the ‘man of the hour’ in Parliament today.

He ducked all shots coming from opposition MPs adamant to drill out answers on why former Umno legal adviser Zaki Azmi was appointed a Federal Court judge despite past involvement in the ruling party.

Replying to Karpal Singh (DAP-Batu Gelugor) in his winding-up speech, Nazri calmly said that Azmi was not holding any key positions in Umno and therefore the question of conflict of interest does not arise.

"He (Azmi) was just a member of Umno's disciplinary committee. It's unfair to deny him his rights simply because he was a Umno member," Nazri said.

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang then stood up and lambasted Nazri for the manner in which he replied describing it as a lackluster response.

First Umno judge?

"In the history of the appointment of judges, there was not one case where a judge appointed has any links to political parties... will Azmi be the first Umno judge?" Lim loudly retorted.

However, the minister responded by saying that Lim was viewing the matter from a narrow perspective.

"If we look from that angle, of course, we would reach such a conclusion. As for me, I believe Azmi has done a good service to the judiciary, he has been a good legal practitioner and therefore, I believe he has earned his place."

Nazri then argued that if Karpal - an opposition MP and also a practicing lawyer - was representing a defendant, it does not necessarily mean that his defendant supports the opposition.

"It's just a matter of perception. I believe Azmi is capable of performing his duty professionally and it is unwise to assume he cannot do his job because he used to represent Umno,

"I believe it would be even more difficult for him as the public will be scrutinising his judgments because of his past involvement with the party and given the circumstances, do you think he would still be doing Umno any favours... I do not believe so," he reasoned.

Nazri also said that the appointment of Zaki was constitutionally correct under Article 123 read in conjunction with Article 41 and 41A of the Federal Constitution.

On Sept 5, Zaki Azmi became the first person to be appointed direct to the Federal Court, bypassing the convention of first serving in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Several quarters have criticised his appointment as a politically motivated move and cast doubts as to whether he could perform independently due to his past involvement with Umno.

'AG can do as he pleases'

On another matter, Nazri managed to duck further questions from M Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh Barat) regarding the attorney-general's move to appeal against a judge's decision that was in favour of former ISA detainee Malek Hussin in his civil suit against the government.

Kulasegaran reasoned with Nazri that if Malaysia is truly a democratic country, the AG should not appeal against justice Hishamudin Yunus' judgment that forced the government to compensate Malek RM2.5 million for being illegally detained and tortured.

A smiling Nazri replied that the AG was free to do whatever he wants as long as the he has the reasons for it.

"If the judgment went against Malik and he is to appeal against it, nobody would say anything and why is this? Just because he is an individual? Because he sides the opposition?" the minister asked.

He then argued that the AG's action is not a matter of "what he should or should not do" rather a matter of "whether he can or he cannot" indicating that from the legal angle, the AG may do so.

Nazri also said that he cannot do anything as a minister as he belongs to the executive and reasoned that it is unethical to temper with the AG's decision as it would mean that he is encroaching into the independence of the judiciary.

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