Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is deeply concerned with the reports that Court of Appeal judge, Hamid Sultan Abu Backer was issued a show-cause letter by the Judicial Ethics Committee for the allegation of judicial interference and his recent judgment on the Federal Constitution.
The judiciary is fundamental to our democracy and as such, must always be independent of any and all interference, both in practice and in perception. As the constitutional crisis in 1988 and the V.K. Lingam video clip has proven, any event that undermines judicial independence, or gives the perception of interference in the judicial process has a long lasting impact on the public’s belief and trust in the institution.
The failure for an open and transparent investigation into the allegation put forward by Hamid Sultan’s affidavit has left the door open for the public to doubt the integrity and independence of our judiciary. The decision to pursue the matter against Hamid Sultan as opposed to investigating the allegation will only enforce the perception that the allegations have merit and it is being suppressed. This will undoubtedly turn public perception against the judiciary and cast doubt as to the integrity and sanctity of the judicial process in Malaysia.
Furthermore, the suggestion that a judge can be issued a show-cause letter in exercising his or her duty inline in the Federal Constitution is another issue of concern. The show-cause letter will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on other judges who share a similar legal interpretation of the Federal Constitution. Any concerns with regards to Hamid Sultan’s judgment ought to be reviewed through a legal process and not through the ethics committee. Hearing it at the ethics committee suggests that the decision delivered was against judicial ethics, implying that judges are restrained by unspoken convention as opposed to the word of law in the interpretation of the Federal Constitution.
SUARAM calls for the Judicial Ethics Committee to review the decision to issue the show cause letter and address any concerns on Hamid Sultan’s affidavit publicly through a Royal Commission of Inquiry, and allow Hamid Sultan’s judgment to be challenged and addressed in the Federal Court as opposed to pursuing the matter through the Judicial Ethics Committee.