Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tan Sri Zaki Azmi- The Unsolved Jigsaw Puzzle.

After an almost comical ride to the top post in Malaysia’s judicial hierarchy, Tan Sri Zaki Azmi keeps us guessing on what he has left to offer. Let us start by briefly looking into his controversial journey towards becoming the 12th Chief Justice of Malaysia. As a lawyer, he created history in September 2007, becoming the first lawyer to be appointed directly to the highest court. The controversy of his appointment was fueled by his close ties with UMNO, in which he was their legal advisor. He also held several posts in UMNO, including the Chairman of Disciplinary Committee. Following his appointment, the public openly expressed their doubt over his integrity with regards to the highly held separation of powers notion, given his previous links with the country’s largest and most dominant party. Three months on, more eyebrows were raised when Zaki Azmi was appointed the Court of Appeal President, thus, occupying the No. 2 position in the judiciary. Today, Tan Sri Zaki Azmi is our Honorable Chief Justice of Malaysia. His credibility was also clouded by the infamous divorce case with his second wife, with whom he got married to in a ceremony conducted by a Thai kadi in a textile shop in Perlis three years ago. He allegedly burned the marriage certificate to hide the marriage from his first wife, as reported by The New Straits Times. Now, he may argue that this is a personal issue and has no bearing on his conduct as a professional, but being a Chief Justice, Yang Arif, I’m afraid some of the acts that you have resorted to, including burning the marriage certificate, in one way or another, gives us the right to question your integrity. You are no ordinary man, and your actions do reflect the image of our country in the eyes of the world.

In less than two weeks after occupying the country’s top judiciary position, in his first speech in his capacity as Chief Justice, he vowed to get tough of errant judges who destroy the reputation of the institution.

“And for those in the practice of toadying, I say ‘stop it’. This small group have failed to fulfill their responsibilities and have affected the image of our institution. If they are being dishonest, they are also being irresponsible.”

The above is a few extracted lines from his speech, in which, he appeared to have acknowledged the rot in the institution, caused by certain corrupt judges. He did not mince his words, and neither did he attempt to deny the true color of the judiciary system. Although it was a promising speech, many of us Malaysians were still very much skeptical about it. To us, he was merely playing to the gallery. History did not favor him either.

Two major judgments were delivered last Friday, one in Raja Petra’s habeas corpus application, and the other in the prosecutors’ application to have the Anwar Ibrahim sodomy trial be transferred to the High Court. Both cases were politically motivated, and surprisingly, both cases handed the Government knock-outs. In previous times, we rarely witnessed the Government been given a blow in judgments, but on the 7th of November 2008, many of us pictured the Government on their knees giving out blow j***. Yes, it was a double blow to them.

Now, how does this fit in? We practically have an UMNO man as the Chief Justice, but the courts did not rule in favor of them. While it is understandable that it is not possible for all judgments to go in favor of UMNO even if their very own man occupies the seat, the vital and highly critical ones would’ve surely swung towards their side. Raja Petra would continue to bash UMNO and implicate their leaders, particularly Najib, for his alleged misconducts and Anwar, even if some may disagree, still poses a great threat in soon forming the Federal Government. Therefore, the stakes are too high for the government to slip up.

Should the credit for these court verdicts, which most of us consider just, go solely to the judges? Did they stand strong and weather the pressure and threats that came in their way for the sake of justice? If they did so, well done and thank you.

Did Tan Sri Zaki Azmi really practice what he preached in his opening speech by ensuring a free trial for all without exerting any pressure upon the judges? We wouldn’t really know, would we? If he did so, well done and thank you too.

However, the million dollar question would arise if Tan Sri Zaki Azmi did conduct himself professionally to ensure a free trial; why on earth did he do that? Well, it could be because of all the negative remarks that have been piled on him, and he sees this as an opportunity to clear his name even if it is at the expense of irking the wrath of those in UMNO.

But, there is an alternative answer to it, which is probably the one we are looking for. Ironically, it is the spicier answer. If we go back to the drawing pad, we would see the answer at the very beginning. It lies with Zaki Azmi’s history of being an UMNO man. It is no secret that Najib, along with Muhyiddin, have been the crafters that planned Abdullah Badawi’s early exit. Abdullah Badawi had no choice but to concede as the tides were moving strongly against him. Now, in his final few months, he has got nothing to lose. Until March 2009, power is something that he can still execute. Vendetta, perhaps? Tan Sri Zaki Azmi was appointed as the Chief Justice during Abdullah Badawi’s tenure as a premier, which only establishes the fact that they have good ties between them. Through Zaki Azmi, Abdullah Badawi has a chance to get back at Najib and give him a beating of his life for being ‘disloyal’. Raja Petra’s release would surely help. As for Anwar’s claim to take-over the government, the pressure is on Najib and Muhyiddin, not Abdullah Badawi. He is stepping out, with nothing more to gain or lose. The only thing he can do within his capacity now, is to create a platform for the battle, and enjoy the show with a cigar when it erupts.

But then again, is that who Zaki Azmi really is?

Whoever he may be, let us hope that during his term as Chief Justice, judgments would be delivered without fear and favor. Good judgments are not defined by the degree in which it favors us; it is defined by the ability of the court to interpret laws in a fair manner without any interference. For that purpose, and also for the sake of justice, I hope that these decisions favored Anwar and Raja Petra because the courts were acting impartially on the grounds of evidences presented before them, and not because they simply happened to be part of a political ploy.

by Argus Eye.

also published in Malaysia Today- http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/14787/84/


Anonymous said...

One sparrow does not a summer make.
Neither do two.
Two good judgements does not judicary reforms make.

Argus Eye said...

Agreed. It's too soon to call.

KongKor said...

Talking from a layman point of view, Zaki's career track record is something to be proud of, and that is if it is EARNED and not just because he is an UMNO man. As we all know by now, UMNO is corrupt to it's CORE.

Nevertheless if Zaki has any dignity or pride, he should have refused the appointment based on his track record be it personal or professional. What's more, a petition of more than 30,000 Malaysian. (towards this, I am dissapointed that DYMM Agung consented to the appoinment)

Simply put, the CJ office is a third branch of the government and integrity is above all else. A small tinge no matter how small, is still a tinge. Black can never ever be White. I'm sorry, that is the reality of perception.

Anonymous said...

Please help to inform Malaysia Today that the email function in MT is not working! Although I received an immediate return mesage indicating an email had been sent to a recipient, the user did not get that mail at all! Thanks.

Argus Eye said...


perception may not reflect the truth and many of us can instead, choose to say that 'for as long as my conscience is clear, i give two fucks about perceptions laid up upon me'.

however, just as you have acknowledged, the CJ's office depicts nothing but integrity, and as far as that is concerned, there is NO room for doubts, let alone controversies.

im with you on this one. he should not have accepted it.