This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on December 6, 2019
PUTRAJAYA: Judges are duty-bound to uphold the principles of separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, said Chief Justice (CJ) Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
“As judges, our duty is undeniably heavy and we are always exposed to baseless criticism and slander.
“We recognise that we cannot prevent someone from commenting on a court decision, but quoting Lord Dyson, 'what is not fair or reasonable is to impugn the motives of judges or ascribe them to prejudices',” she said yesterday.
“In conducting your cases, the honourable judges must always observe the principle of ‘justice should not only be done, but they should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done',” she said in a speech after witnessing the swearing-in ceremony of the new Court of Appeal (COA) president Justice Datuk Rohana Yusuf at the Palace of Justice yesterday.
Besides the ascension of Justice Rohana as the new COA president, three COA judges were elevated to Federal Court judges, three High Court judges took oath as COA judges, and two judicial commissioners sworn in as High Court judges.
In addition to Justice Rohana being the first woman to hold the post, the three new appointments into Federal Court judges are notably all women, namely, Justice Puan Sri Datuk Zaleha Yusof, Justice Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof, and Justice Datuk Hasnah Mohamed Hashim. With the appointments, there are now 13 Federal Court judges.
In her speech, Tengku Maimun also stressed that the appointment of judges was not solely at the will of the CJ but is a collective decision of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Malaysia by way of secret ballot.
“In approving the recommendation by the JAC, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has upheld the independence of the judiciary as provided for under Section 2 of the Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2009,” she said.
According to the Act, the JAC must consist of nine members; they are the CJ who shall be the chairman, the president of the COA, the Chief Judge of the High Court in Malaya, the Chief Judge of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, a Federal Court judge to be appointed by the prime minister, and four eminent persons who are not members of the executive or other public service appointed by the prime minister.
Members of the commission hold the office for a period of two years and are eligible for reappointment but no member shall hold office for more than two terms.