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1988 Judicial Crisis: Remove their burden and set them free

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salleh abasAliran welcomes the Prime
Minister’s announcement that a Judicial Appointments Commission
will be appointed so that the nomination, appointment and promotion
of judges will be carried out in a ‘transparent and representative

This is something civil society has been
fighting for ever since the Judicial Crisis of 1988. This is a
positive move to redeem the judiciary that has been rotting in the
doldrums these past 20 years.

Indeed, it was the Barisan
Nasional that destroyed the judiciary in its desire to make it
subservient to the Executive. In this scheme of things, questionable
judges were appointed and promoted so that they would be beholden to
the Executive.

We have witnessed shocking
judgments that denigrated the judiciary and bewildered litigants who
had turned to the judiciary in seeking justice. How can we reconcile
ourselves to the fact that deserving litigants were robbed of their
just dues because of a corrupted judiciary? Who will undo these
wrongs and bring to justice the dubious judges who had betrayed their
oath of office to uphold justice?

In referring to the 1988
Judicial Crisis, the Prime Minister openly acknowledged the revered
stature of the judiciary then. He mentioned, “Many felt that the
judiciary then was a venerable institution which could be trusted to
deliver justice. Some even hailed Malaysia’s judiciary as a model
for other countries – independent and credible.”

Indeed our judiciary had
such a high standing in the international community that our judges
were greatly respected. Some of their judgments stand as landmark
decisions to this day and are looked upon as truly great judicial

The six judges who were
victims of a political plot to subjugate the judiciary in 1988 were
men of integrity, representing the best traditions of the judiciary.
Three of these brave and honest judges were unjustly sacked only
because there were judges who were willing to do the bidding of the
Executive. The Executive thought that it could sully the names and
tarnish the reputation of these upright judges in its wicked scheme to
achieve its political aim of turning the judiciary into a convenient
tool to serve it. This it achieved and that is why in these last 20
years the judiciary has lost its lustre and integrity as an
institution serving the cause of justice.

The Prime Minister is
aware of the outstanding qualities of these judges when he stated,
“…the government would like to recognise the contributions of
these six judges to the nation, their commitment towards upholding

Then why were these judges
of sterling qualities convicted by a farcical tribunal? It has always
been Aliran’s stand that they were wrongly and falsely charged and
convicted by a kangaroo court. We want this wrong to be undone and
the injustice to be exorcised. We want them to be rescued from the
shameful episode of the past so that they can heave a sigh of relief
and say, “Free, at last!”

To achieve this it is
necessary to revisit the past to put things right. We have to
re-examine – this time through a Commission of Inquiry – the
circumstances surrounding the crisis to verify that the charges
levelled against the six judges were without merit and that the
composition of the tribunals itself was a travesty of justice. Aliran
totally disagrees with the Prime Minister’s contention, “I do not
think it wise or helpful to revisit past decisions as it would only
serve to prolong the sense of crisis – something our nation can do

You are wrong, Mr Prime
Minister. These judges have suffered long enough. The pain and
anguish that they and their family had to undergo and endure cannot
be compensated by ex-gratia payments. The burden of the false and
wrong accusation must be removed formally so that they will be seen
and viewed as innocent victims of a tyrannical government. We, as
caring human beings with the means to rectify a terrible wrong, must
act to remove this wrong and set them free.

P Ramakrishnan


18 April 2008

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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P Ramakrishnan has been an Aliran member since its inception in 1977, serving on our executive committee for 36 years, half of that period as Aliran's president (1994-2011). He continues to serve as an Aliran member, highlighting issues of public interest to a larger audience
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