8 judges lose promotions as Raus, Zulkefli’s tenures extended

(FMT) – The tenure extension raises the question of whether there is a dearth of suitable candidates among the current members of the Federal Court to take the two top administrative posts in the judiciary, say legal experts.

At least eight Federal Court judges, including three women, will lose the prospect of promotion following the extension of the tenures of Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Court of Appeal President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin.

Raus’ three-year extension will see him leave office on Aug 3, 2020, while Zulkefli’s two-year term will see him vacate his position on Sept 27, 2019. Raus and Zulkefli were scheduled to retire on Aug 3 and Sept 27, respectively, after a six-month extension.

The mandatory retirement age of judges is 66 years but the King can give them another six-month extension.

Records available from the judicial website reveal that Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop, who assumed his position on April 1, will retire on May 24, 2019.

The fourth in the judicial ladder, Chief Judge of Sarawak Richard Malanjum, will retire on Oct 12 next year. He has been in the position since 2006.

Federal Court judges who will retire from the bench next year are Hasan Lah (March 3), Zainun Ali (April 4), Zaharah Ibrahim (Nov 16), Balia Yusof Wahi (Sept 25) and Aziah Ali (May 21).

Justice Ramly Ali will retire on Feb 23, 2019.

Only Justice Azahar Mohamed, who will retire on April 26, 2022, may see the possibility of a promotion, after Zulkefli retires.

On Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that the King had approved a proposal to appoint Raus and Zulkefli as additional judges.

Following the approval, the PMO statement said the King, on the advice of the prime minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers, which met in May, had appointed Raus and Zulkefli to remain in their present posts.

Former attorney-general Abu Talib Othman told FMT it was a pity that retaining both judges in their administrative positions gave the impression that the existing judges in the Federal Court were not ready to be elevated.

He asked why the appointments were made in such a manner, as it would continue to be questioned by the public.

Former Malaysian Bar president Zainur Zakaria said Raus and Zulkefli’s extension sent the message that other judges in the Federal Court were not of calibre to take over their positions.

Meanwhile, the Bar said the manner in which the appointments were undertaken was questionable and allowed the inference that there was a dearth of suitable candidates among the current members of the Federal Court.

“This perception will result in a widespread and severe erosion of public confidence in the judiciary and its independence,” its president George Varughese said.

Both appointments, he said, did an undeserved disservice to sitting Federal Court judges and other judges, who would be deprived of the opportunity for promotion and elevation.