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  • Mohtar’s Federal Court appointment 'an obstacle'
    K Kabilan

    4:37pm, Tue: Former Attorney-General (AG) Mohtar Abdullah’s appointment today as a Federal Court judge was immediately criticised by an opposition leader who saw it as a potential problem to reforms in the judiciary.

    “It is unfortunate, but Mohtar’s appointment could be an obstacle to the reforms promised by the Chief Justice,” DAP chairman Lim Kit Siang told malaysiakini.

    Lim said Mohtar’s appointment was the first “shock-wave” in the system of justice following promises of reforms made by Chief Justice Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah.

    He asked if Dzaiddin’s promises of judicial reforms were at peril even before such changes could take place.

    Dzaiddin, who was appointed as the Chief Justice on Dec 20 last year, replacing Eusoff Chin, has said that his first priority was to reverse the negative public perception on the judiciary and to restore public confidence in the institution.

    The Malaysian judiciary, under Eusoff’s leadership, was a constant subject of adverse criticisms by the international legal and judicial community over the handling of many high-profile cases, including the criminal cases involving former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.


    Mohtar, whose terms of service expired on Dec 31 last year, was the AG for the past six years and was hotly tipped to replace Eusoff as the Chief Justice. However following Dzaiddin’s appointment to that position instead, it has been an open secret that Mohtar’s appointment today was imminent.

    Lim said he was of the opinion that Mohtar was unsuitable to be appointed a Federal Court judge.

    “This is apparent in the prosecution of Anwar as well as to what is contained in the Justice in Jeopardy report prepared by four international legal organisations,” he said.

    Prepared last April, the report concluded that there were “well-founded” concerns about judicial independence in Malaysia.

    It said that Mohtar should not have involved himself in Anwar’s corruption trial as “he was deeply implicated, both personally and by reason of his position in the government.”


    PRM president Dr Syed Husin Ali expressed similar sentiments when contacted.

    “Mohtar has been a controversial figure as an AG and I don’t think it is a good decision to have controversial figures as federal justices,” he told malaysiakini.

    Syed Husin added that it would not be appropriate for Mohtar to now sit on the Federal Court where cases he prosecuted earlier may come up for appeal.

    He also said that Dzaiddin must be determined enough to pursue his reforms in the judiciary irrespective of however controversial and powerful his judges could be.

    Also appointed to the Federal Court today are appellate court judges Siti Norma Yaakob and Haidar Mohamed Noor.

    Mohtar, Siti Norma and Haidar received their letters of appointment from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong this morning and later took the oath of loyalty before Dzaiddin at the Federal Court complex.

    Mohtar told reporters that he was willing to serve the government in any post but refused to comment when asked for his aspirations in the judiciary. Mohtar, at 55, is the youngest Federal Court judge and is in prime position to progress further in the judiciary.

    Before being appointed AG in 1994, Mohtar was a High Court judge serving in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. He is also the first AG to be appointed as a Federal Court judge.


    Siti Norma, who was the first woman Court of Appeal judge, now holds the distinction of being the first woman Federal Court judge.

    Dzaiddin told the three new appointees to write quality judgments that will serve as a guide for the lower courts and will reflect how the law is being developed in the country.

    Dzaiddin refused to comment on the new appointments. He still has to fill two more vacancies in the Federal Court, as well as to find a replacement for Court of Appeal president, Lamin Mohd Yunus, who will retire soon.


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