Justice Hamid Sultan’s Affidavit : A Convenient but Contentious Closure
On one level the decision by the Judicial Ethics Committee to suspend a senior Court of Appeal judge may seem the best outcome. It was swift, smooth, seemed sensible, and did not scandalize any serving or retired senior judge. It was prompt, perfunctory but certainly not perfect.
He did not participate in the proceedings. His ‘suspension’ would be in force until the day of his retirement. The root or core issue, it would seem, is that he will draw his emoluments and perquisites until the day of his retirement and his other benefits thereafter.
In our society where money( with perhaps greed, infatuation, lust, and anger) is the root of all evil this may look like an acceptable and pragmatic outcome. The duties, responsibilities, and trust reposed in a judge cannot, in most circumstances, be reduced to financial terms or a monetary equation.
There is always a much much higher level of service, satisfaction, and sublimity beyond money. That higher plane is unquantifiable and it relates to character and impeccable conduct that impinges on love, loyalty, the spirit and letter of the law, the lofty ideals of humanity and leadership which transcend mundane matters. It cannot just relate to the prevailing practice in a local situation where a judge out of deference to a peer acts less impartially, Independently, and without integrity. This was the crux of the complaint of the Court of Appeal judge.
The state’s three branches of government are simply not equipped and incapable of implanting those high selfless ideals within their bureaucracy, workplace and hierarchical culture although they may be concerned ultimately with those ideals. Education, good upbringing and the gradual acquisition of good values based on honesty, faith, compassion, hard work, justice and fair play together with the inculcation of the right skills set are invaluable aspect of community development, nation-building and unity.
The suspended judge was apparently concerned with the holistic character and conduct related to this broad moral compass. In that regard he joins a highly respected alumni of our bench- Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman Pawan Teh, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Datuk George Shah, Datuk Syed Ahmad Aidid and others who faded away on account of frustration with a brick wall of systemic improprieties. Then there were those who could not be elevated to the Federal Court because they were formidable in their knowledge of the law, forthright , fair and fearless in dispensing justice.
Thirty-three years after the scandalous manner of mocking and sacking Tun Salleh Abas the country desperately needs a properly mandated Royal Commission of Enquiry to enquire into and recommend a reappraisal and restructuring of our legal and judicial system.
I found it instructive that Mohd Firdaus Ramlan( Malaysiakini ‘ Justice Gone Wrong’) a convicted former magistrate who was serving in Gua Musang provided such a good insight into systemic and well-oiled corruption practiced in a relatively small and secluded place in Kelantan.
We must trust this culture of corruption has not permeated into the rarified higher levels of the legal and judicial system.
Dato M Santhananaban
February 6, 2021.
The writer is a retired ambassador with 45 years of public sector experience.