Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ah, Zaki!

Tan Sri Zaki Azmi is not a stranger to controversy but his intended appointment as the President of the the Court of Appeal could reach scandalous proportions, based on what prominent human rights lawyers Malik Imtiaz and Haris Ibrahim are arguing on their blogs.

At Disquiet, Malik, who is president of Hakam, wrote that he has had had the privilege of dealing with Zaki as a lawyer over a period of time, and more recently as a judge, and has always found Zaki to be "courteous, incisive and approachable, key attributes of a good judge".
"His appointment as President is however, notwithstanding, a basis for concern," Malik said.
".. shows that the Government is blind to the crisis that the Judiciary, and consequently the legal system, is in the throes of."

Haris, who runs the popular The People's Parliament blog, is sending another petition to the Agong on the intended appointment of Zaki. In Ampun Tuanku, patik-patik petisyen lagi Haris argued that Zaki is too junior, too close to Umno for comfort, too corporate, and too colourful (which is my word; Haris said Zaki "had previously been embroiled in a very public personal scandal in which he was implicated of destroying documentary evidence, a matter that led to his voluntary resignation from the UMNO discplinary committee for fear of impeaching the integrity of the other members of the said committee".)

My own experience with Zaki was limited to the usual misunderstanding between a newspaper editor and an unhappy subject of a news article that the newspaper has just run. This was when Zaki was sitting on the board of a major rail company. Like Malik, what struck me was how professional and very courteous this man was.


  1. Anonymous5:21 pm

    Pemimpin2 Malaysia kenapa begitu mudah membuat satu keputusan penting dengan tidak berhati2 dan tidak bijak.
    Kenapa beri peluang kepada masyarakat untuk mencerca tuan2 dengan keputusan2 yg tak cermat dan merbahaya. Ini membuatkan orang marah dan benchi kpd anda semua.

  2. A person may have all the best personal attributes for a job but if he can't separate his personal interests and objectivity demanded of him, he will be exposed to controversy.

    Being a member of a ruling party makes it worse,esp for a judge. Even if he has resigned does not make it better cos loyalty always comes first. He will always be perceived to serve the interest of the party than justice.

  3. Anonymous10:54 pm

    Many judges and lawyers were already unhappy with Zaki b eing parachuted to the Federal Court. This was unprecedented for hte Federal Court. Asa for the Court of Appeal, you have Gopal Sri Ram, who was prepared to do alot of things ...

    Zaki elevation to the Federal Court and the appointment as presidnet of Court of Appeal was unacceptable because he had by many other good judges. I see no good reason for the government to want to put Zaki there unless Badawi has his personal agenda to use Zaki to do some dirty job in the Court of Appeal.

    Our judiciary has gone to the dogs with no hope at all. This country under the leadership of Bodowi is a big joke!!!

  4. Anonymous11:10 pm

    A nice person is not a precondition for a good judge. With Zaki's background I very much doubt that he can be impartial. He will have to play balls with Bodawi, khairy and Kalimullah unless Badawi kicked the bucket soon. Then Khairy and Kalimullah will have to do what Marcos did i.e. runaway from the country.

    Bodowi is just brainless or a scattered brain ohterwise he would have announced the terms of reference of the Royal Commission but until this very day he is still not announcing it.

    We all should demand for the immediate publication of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. The PM sleeps too much! So let kicks his arse to do some work. Announce the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on the judiciary.

  5. Dear Rocky:

    I too read Harris's insightful discussions on Zaki's potential elevation to the the top judicial slot. I left my comment on his blog. Thought I would share it with your readers. Bakri

    Dear Harris:

    As usual, you have rightly highlighted many important points regarding Justice Zaki Azmi. As a lawyer in the field, your views command even greater respect.

    Regarding his junior status (Points 5.1 and 5.2), this should not by itself be a negative. I argue the very opposite; we rely too heavily on seniority status, especially in the public service, at the expense of competence. If Zaki is otherwise competent and eminently qualified, he should be appointed.

    President Bush appointed Justice Roberts as the US Chief Justice, ahead of some very senior and distinguished fellow Supreme Court judges. That did not in any way detract on the competence or integrity of his colleagues.

    Similarly your point that Zaki being a "corporate man" should disqualify him, I argue the contrary. We need judges who have as wide an experience as possible. The problem with Malaysian judges is that they are very insular, intellectually and by experience; they are all products of the government service. Increasingly in today's world, litigations often involve complex business issues. How can we expect judges who have no inkling of the corporate world to render judgments on such complex disputes?

    Already many multinational corporations in Malaysia require an arbitration clause in their contracts in case of disputes. This reflects their distrust of our judges. Lee Kuan Yew appointed Yong Pun Huw as Chief Justice; he too was a corporate man and that enhanced his reputation and ability as a judge.

    As for the various corporate scandals in which Zaki was allegedly involved, yes they should be investigated fully; and where criminal liabilities exist, they should be pursued vigorously regardless whether it is a lawyer, accountant, or politician involved.

    Regarding your point that Zaki's involvement in UMNO (5.3) should disqualify him, I disagree. Again I argue that this fact could potentially enhance his ability as a judge. Chief Justices Warren and Burger were all politicians once (both were elected state governors) and both went on to be legendary chief justices. Likewise Justice O'Connor's experience as a legislator gave her a unique perspective. Her legal reasonings are much more grounded in the real world.

    Our highest court should have a variety of individuals with equally varied backgrounds and perspectives.

    To me, the most important disqualifying factor with Zaki is your last point (5.6). Because of his personal scandals regarding his marriage in Thailand and his subsequent attemtpt to nullify that marriage has on the surface all the elements of obstructing justice. He should be prosecuted for that. If guilty he should be jailed, much less appointed a judge.

    If UMNO considers him unqualified to sit on UMNO Disciplinary Council, or if he himself considers it so because of the above issue, how can we expect him to sit on the highest bench?

    Again, I appreciate reading your blog and the insightful discussions you bring to the fore.

    M. Bakri Musa

  6. Anonymous1:29 pm

    What ever happen to : Judges must not only be trully independent but also seen to be independent ?

  7. Anonymous3:09 pm

    i think ppl who complain about judiciary should be happy that the senior ones are bypassed (the ones most likely to be infected already with irreversible rot?) and a relatively junior person from 'outside' the traditional judiciary clan is appointed - provided that the guy is competent and clean. if want to criticise, pls put forward actual flaws, like corruption examples, suspicious earnings, etc. 'experienced' doesn't always mean the person is good - depends on whether the 'experience' is good or not right?