By Yuktes Vijay
Former Lord President, Tun Dr Mohamed Salleh Abas has passed away just days after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 91 years old.
In his memory, let me share an excerpt from our ‘colourful’ political historical paradigm. I am sharing this with the hope that the days when legal bodies like the Malaysian Bar who have the balls to stand up against politicians in the name law and justice will return soon to our shores. These days, these organisations are the baruah pembangkang, the opposition lackeys who utter justice and law just to receive funds from the United States.
You can’t deny it. So don’t even bother trying.
NOW, let’s talk about THE MAN WHO LOST IT ALL BECAUSE HE TRIED TO LIMIT THE DAMAGE TO OUR JUDICIARY SYSTEM.
In 1987, the then President of UMNO who was also the Prime Minister of Malaysia at that time, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was expected to win the UMNO Presidency battle against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (Ku Li) by an overwhelming majority on the basis that Dr Mahathir had received more than one hundred nominations from the UMNO branches for the Presidency of UMNO, whereas his challenger Ku Li only managed to obtain nominations for slightly more than twenty branches of UMNO, despite being one of the three vice–presidents of the party and also a member of the Kelantan royal family.
Instead, Dr Mahathir only won by a narrow margin of 43 votes. Ku Li’s supporters claimed that a number of branches which had elected delegates to the conferences had not been registered by the Registrar of Societies, and that this was in clear violation of the Societies Act 1966.
Subsequently, a civil suit was filed by eleven members of UMNO (known as the UMNO 11) seeking a declaration “that the whole 1987 UMNO election was unconstitutional and illegal.”
But when the case was brought up before the Kuala Lumpur High Court, strange things happened. The judge, Dato’ Harun Hashim, out of the blue, declared that UMNO was an unlawful society.
You see, this decision did not make sense. The plaintiffs had sought, inter alia, a declaration that the general assembly election was null and void. What they got was instead the Judge declaring UMNO as an illegal organisation. In any civil case, the Judge either gives what the plaintiff seeks or agrees with what the defendant denies. This one the judge did something unprecedented in legal history around the world.
He declared something that no parties in suit sought. The parties wanted to know if UMNO elections were legal or not. But the judge said UMNO itself is not illegal. Amazing right? Judge tersohor dunia zaman Atuk (the most prestigious judge during Mahathir’s time) – a sarcastic quip about how great the justice system was.
Anyways coming back to our story…
It is clear that the High Court Judge purported to grant an Order which was not sought for either by the UMNO 11 or the Defendants. Perplexed by the rather ‘sasaufied decision’ (a decision that does not make sense), an appeal to the Supreme Court of Malaysia was lodged by UMNO 11.
Tun Salleh Abas, the incumbent Lord President at that time criticised the Datuk Harun Hashim’s judgement by calling it “confusing”.
Politics VS Law & Order
Politicians sometimes see in the courts the main source of limitation of their authority: and over the years political influence begins to erode judicial independence at its peripheries through a lowering of the morale of some of the weaker judges.
The prelude to this was sowed by Dr Mahathir in his saga as he cleverly manipulated his cards and got Tun Salleh suspended before the UMNO 11’s appeal could be heard and disposed of.
His crime – speaking out publicly in defence of the judiciary.
The crisis saw two other Supreme Court Judges also removed from the bench.
Sins Of Mahathir
Two decades on, in 2008, the Malaysian Bar found that all three had been improperly removed from office, and that Prime Minister Mahathir’s involvement in the crisis had been “unmistakably a direct unabashed attack on the rule of law with intent to subdue, if not subvert, the independence of the judiciary” (ironically, in less than 10 years after issuing this statement, the Malaysian Bar became a Mahathir lackey, or slave, if you prefer.
What happened in 1988 was unacceptable. Period. Malaysia’s judiciary has remained under a cloud since the 1988 constitutional crisis and is seen as the weakest among the the three branches provided under Article 128 of the Federal Constitution.
Dr Mahathir has tried, albeit in vain, to wriggle out of the responsibility for the sacking of former lord president Tun Salleh Abas and other Supreme Court judges many times. In fact, in 2008, Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog that the “actual truth” (in other words, the version that benefits Dr Mahathir) is that the case against Tun Salleh was triggered by his letters to the Yang di Pertuan Agong (YDP Agong) which was deemed as highly improper and insulting to His Majesty.
BN Lost Because BN Let Go Mahathirism
On 17 April 2008 while everyone acknowledged the wrongdoings on the judges by paying them or their families ex-gratia payments, the record against them remained unchanged.
Even with that gesture by the post-Mahathir BN government, Malaysian Bar still found that gesture to be not enough and launched a tribunal of their own. The tribunal decided that that all three had been improperly removed from office, and that Prime Minister Mahathir’s involvement in the crisis had been “unmistakably a direct unabashed attack on the rule of law with intent to subdue, if not subvert, the independence of the judiciary” (ironically, in less than 10 years after issuing this statement, the Malaysian Bar and also its then President, Ambiga Sreenivasen became a Mahathir lackey.
If you believe what Dr Mahathir wrote, you should go Lazada and shop for a brain.
The Spirit Of Tun Salleh Has To Return To Reinvigorate Malaysia From Further Political Decay
Amazingly, lawyers who were outraged in 1988 have so quickly forgotten or have lost their tongues when Dr Mahathir dangled power in front of them and successfully seduced them.
If only we had a Tun Salleh, not Ambiga, not Tommy Thomas, not any other Tom, Dick or Harry, and especially a Gopal Sri Ram to be in charge of the Malaysian Bar…. Nasib rakyat tidak akan hanya dibela di Facebook Page Najib Razak (the fate of the people should not just rest on Najib Razak’s FB page).
We will miss you, sir ♥️ – New Malaysia Herald