Federal Court appointment 'an obstacle'
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
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
“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
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
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.