‘Clean up the judiciary first’

By Teoh El Sen, Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian judiciary needs to improve to restore the people’s confidence in the courts, said lawyer-activist Edmund Bon. Bon said that until today, the perception that the judiciary is “executive-compliant” still remains.

“When people have no faith in the courts, then confidence in seeking a fair remedy will be at an all-time low,” said the Bar Council member and chairman of the constitutional law committee.

Bon admitted there are some “very, very good judges” but said he felt depressed that some do not get recognised or promoted because of their independence.

Asked what should be done, Bon said the judiciary first needed an internal clean-up following the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the VK Lingam judge fixing fiasco.

“Until now, there are recommendations in the report that the Attorney-General and the government have not implemented. There are also several sitting judges named… and allegations of corrupt practices which have not been dealt with,” he said.

Bon said the judiciary ought to look at itself, too, despite the Judicial Appointments Committee being set up to rid itself of the poor perception in the appointments mechanism.

Unrealistic goals

On the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) system, Bon said he believed that “unrealistic” goals have forced the standard of justice to drop.

“For all these years the courts have been lackadaisical in dealing with cases, then you change the system to be overly efficient overnight. It is extremely difficult for litigants and lawyers to cope. Many cases are struck out without the litigants getting a fair chance to have themselves heard,” he said.

The KPI system was introduced by Chief Justice Zaki Azmi for judges two years ago to clear the backlog of cases and create an efficient judicial system.

“This move by the Chief Justice is a breath of fresh air and is necessary. He has been proactive and responsive when there are problems, immediately sorting the complaints on a phone call. On the whole, the system works as the cases go on as scheduled and lawyers are able to collect fees on time and close files,” said Bon.

“We may have the best KPI and clear as many cases as we want, yet if the people do not feel that the judiciary is independent, we would have failed,” he added.