(The Malaysian Insider) - A high-level inquiry
found evidence that prominent government and judicial figures,
including former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, were involved in a
conspiracy to manipulate the appointment of judges, Minister in the
Prime Ministers Department Zaid Ibrahim said today.
The Associated Press said the Cabinet told the
Attorney General's office today to undertake immediate investigations
into the "possibility that offences against the law have been
committed," Zaid told reporters.
The revelation deals a major blow to the
reputation of Malaysia's courts and bolsters allegations by many
lawyers and opposition leaders that judicial corruption has tainted
verdicts stretching back more than a decade.Demands for reform have
jolted the judiciary after the opposition leaked a video in September
that allegedly showed a well-connected lawyer, V.K. Lingam, speaking
by telephone in 2001 to a former top judge, Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul
Halim, about the promotion of judges.
Zaid said a panel that investigated the video
found it was authentic and Lingam apparently conspired with his allies
in the judiciary, government and corporate world to broker the
appointment of judges.
The video, filmed by a visitor to Lingam's
house, shows him talking about ways to help Ahmad Fairuz become
Malaysia's top-ranking judge with the help of business tycoon Vincent
Tan and Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, a former Cabinet minister.
In the video, Lingam is heard saying that he,
Tan and Tengku Adnan had contacted Mahathir regarding judicial
The inquiry's report said "there was
conceivably an insidious movement by (Lingam) with the covert
assistance of his close friends (Tan and Tengku Adnan) to involve
themselves actively in the appointment of judges."
"In the process ... Mahathir was also
entangled," the report added. "Actions of the main characters
concerned have the effect of seriously undermining and eroding the
independence and integrity of the judiciary as a whole."
Zaid said Lingam and the others would be
investigated for possible offences such as obstruction of justice,
sedition and leaking state secrets.
Tengku Adnan did not answer calls to his
mobile phone. Aides to Lingam, Tan and Mahathir could not immediately
All of them denied any wrongdoing while
testifying at inquiry hearings earlier this year.
Lingam claimed he may have been drunk when the
video was shot. Ahmad Fairuz, who became chief justice in 2003 and
retired last year, denied speaking to Lingam. Dr Mahathir, Tengku
Adnan and Tan insisted they were not part of any conspiracy.
Dr Mahathir, had recently claimed to have read
an extract of the Royal Commission's report and had said that there
were attempts to implicate him even though there was no direct
connection to the brokering of judicial appointments.
In Malaysia's legal system, the chief judge recommends candidates for
senior judicial appointments and promotions to the prime minister, who
can accept or reject those names.
Malaysia's judiciary has long been plagued by
claims of favouritism and influence-peddling. Prime Minister Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi announced last month an independent panel would be
established to help select new judges as part of legal reforms.
Zaid noted in his press statement today that
the Cabinet has taken into account the recommendations from the Royal
Commission to reform the judicial appointment process.
In this regard, the government is now in the
process of preparing the necessary laws for the establishment of the
Judicial Appointment Commission. The government also proposes to
include the recognition of 'judicial power' as proposed by the
Commission, he said, but added that the government had decided to
pursue this particular course of action even before the report came
Copies of the Royal Commission's report will be sold to the public as
published and handed in to the King last Friday. However, the price
has not been determined as yet.
Extracts from the
On the authenticity of the video clip:
"In the final analysis, when all is said and done by the experts, both
local and foreign, stripped off all the technical jargon that they
used in their findings, when examined in the context of the direct or
primary evidence of the maker of the video clip, coupled with that of
the eyewitnesses, a simple question confronting the Commission can be
posed in layman's terms: Is the video clip genuine, real, reliable or
trustworthy and therefore authentic? We have no hesitation in
answering in the affirmative." page 45, paragraph 11.
On the identity of the person whom Datuk VK
Lingam (DVKL) was speaking to over the phone:
"In our view, when the testimonies of DVKL and Tun Ahmad Fairuz, which
consist essentiallyof bare denials, are examined against the direct
evidence elicited from the phone conversation in the video clip as
well as the evidence of two eyewitnesses and the circumstantial
evidence alluded to above, an irresistable inference can reasonably be
drawn, namely, that the person to whom DVKL was speaking on the other
end of the phone was Tun Ahmad Fairuz. In the circumstances, having
heard the submissions before us and having regard to the totality of
the evidence adduced in the Enquiry, we are constrained to come to the
conclusion that the identity of the other person concerned is none
other than Tun Ahmad Fairuz." page 52, paragraph 40.
On the identity of the "Chinese man" at the end of Lingam's phone
"The third part of the equation concerns the identity of the 'Chinese
man' shown in the video clip conversing with DVKL. This was after DVKL
had ended his phone conversation with Tun Ahmad Fairuz. On the
evidence, we have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that he is
Mr Loh Mui Fah. The other personalities mentioned therein shall be
identified in the course of our consideration on Term 3 of the
Reference relating to the truth of the content of the conversation in
the video clip." page 52, paragraph 41.
On the parties who interfered with the appointment of judges:
"In the final analysis, having regard to the totality of the evidence
and for the reasons stated, we are of the view that there was,
conceivably, an insidious movement by DVKL with the covert assistance
of his close friends, Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan,
to involve themselves actively in the appointment of Judges, in
particular, the appointment of Tun Ahmad Fairuz as the Chief Judge
Malaya and subsequently as President Court of Appeal. In the process,
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also entangled. That possibility was
ominous when examined against the factual circumstances surrounding
the rejection of Tan Sri Malek Ahmad as Chief Judge Malaya. Their
ultimate aim or purpose could not be ascertained with exactitude,
given the limitation under the Terms of Reference. It could be related
to the fixing of cases, as submitted by Counsel for the Bar and
others. Certainly, it is reasonable to suggest that it could not be
anything but self-serving." page 75 and 76, paragraph 99.
"In the circumstances, we are satisfied that the content of the
conversation dealt with in the course of our analysis, contains the
truth in substance and in material particulars." page 76,
On the impact on the judiciary:
"This issue has been satisfactorily covered in our Appendix (Detailed
Analysis of Evidence). As such, we would adopt the content therein. We
do not wish to regurgitate the details. It is sufficient for us to
state here that the collective and cumulative actions of the main
characters concerned, had the effect of seriously undermining and
eroding the independence and integrity of the Judiciary as a whole."
page 76, paragraph 102.
On the recommended legal action to be taken:
"The fifth Term of Reference relates to what appropriate action or
actions to be recommended. This issue is fully covered in our Appendix
(Detailed Analysis of Evidence). As such we need merely adopt the
recommendations therein." page 76, paragraph 103.
"For the moment, we would state that there is sufficient cause to
invoke the Sedition Act 1948, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1961,
the Legal Profession Act 1976, the Official Secrets Act 1972 and the
Penal Code against some of the principal individuals involved. We do
not discount the possibility of other laws being contravened. In any
case, the findings have, at the very least, provided the catalyst for
further investigations so that, hopefully, there would be complete
transparency and full accountability. This is absolutely essential if
we are to wipe out, once and for all, the stain of that remark once
made by Mr. Justice N.H. Chan, in reference to the Judiciary, that
'Something is rotten in the State of Denmark'." page 76 and 77,
On reforming the judiciary:
"In the circumstances, we are of the view that there is an urgent need
for the necessary judicial reforms to be effected by the relevant
authorities. In this connection, the Malaysian Bar Council has urged
the Commission to consider recommending to the Government the setting
up of two bodies, namely (a) a Judicial Appointments Commission and
(b) a Judicial Complaints Tribunal." page 175, paragraph 3.
On the reasons for establishing a Judicial Appointments Commission:
"In the evidence before the Commission, two issues appear clouded.
Firstly, the basis or criteria for the Chief Justice to nominate the
candidates for appointment as Judges of the High Court including the
Heads of various Courts (except the Chief Justice). Our concern here
is that there is no established and discernible system or criteria in
the selection process of Judges and their promotion. It therefore
follows that the power to nominate the candidates to the various
Courts if left entirely to the discretion of the Chief Justice. This
subjective approach appears to have also operated in the minds of the
Executive personages (i.e. the then Prime Minister and the Chief
Secretary to the Government (KSN)) and is a manifest structural
weakness in the selection process." page 177, paragraph 11.
"Secondly, from the evidence before the Commission, the meaning
attributed by the then Prime Minister and KSN to the word 'consult' is
so totally at variance with the ordinary meaning that they seemed to
have thought it was equivalent to the word 'notify'. This would
explain the Prime Minister's resort to the word 'prerogative' as a
rationale for conducting himself the way he did. ..." page 177,
"Given the perception by Tun Mohd Dzaiddin (the then Chief Justice)
that the then Prime Minister had the prerogative of rejecting his
recommendation on the choice of candidates for appointment as Judges
without assigning any reasons, it would appear that he (Tun Mohd
Dzaiddin) did not find it appropriate or necessary to question the
then Prime Minister further on the matter. He merely adopted what can
be described as the 'Hobson's Choice' and accepted the nomination or
suggestion made by the then Prime Minister. This presented an
unsatisfactory scenario which might well have been avoided with the
formation of a Judicial Appointments Commission." page 178,