Why is it so important to have a truly independent Judiciary?


Some in the legal fraternity ponder over the appointment of our new Chief Justice recently.  With one retired and the short tenure of the new one, who should take over subsequently?  Like it or not, the CJ can control the judiciary.  Since 1988, the tension between the Executive and the Judiciary is the result – I would say the inevitable result of the doctrine of separation of powers that may “disturb” the affairs of the government of the day.  Legally and strictly under that doctrine, the political system of a nation divides its governmental power between a legislature, an executive and a judiciary. In theory, the doctrine constructs a system that avoids concentrating too much power in any one body of government – the three powers are separated from one another and none is supposed to trespass into the other’s province.  Furthermore, no arm of government is supposed to abdicate power to another arm.  The premise of this construct is not a harmonious relationship but a checking and balancing of power. Inevitably, the checking provides the blueprint for, and generates, tension between the three arms of government.

Political theory regard this tension between the arms of power as indicating a healthy and well-oiled, working government.  They do not see the tension as a cause for alarm.  Writing extra-judicially, Lord Woolf has said:

“the tension … is acceptable because it demonstrates that the courts are performing their role of ensuring that the actions of the Government of the day are being taken in accordance with the law. The tension is a necessary consequence of maintaining the balance of power between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary …”

Lord Woolf has also said that the tension between the arms of government is:

“… no more than that created by the unseen chains which … hold the three spheres of government in position. If one chain slackens, then another needs to take the strain. However, so long as there is no danger of the chains breaking, the fact that this happens is not a manifestation of weakness but of strength.”

Tension between the Executive and the Judiciary is inevitable. It is unrealistic to think that it can be eliminated. But it can be reduced, if the Executive and the Judiciary recognise that each has a role to perform and that each is better equipped to carry it out than the other.  For the good of our society, it is better for the combatants to realise that they are there to serve the people, not their own ends, and to adapt their conduct accordingly.


GE14 around the corner?


I have been often asked when is the next GE. And I always answered only the PM knows.

Apparently after attending some of BN retreats and workshops (and being part of the Naziran team in Selangor), I am inclined to say that they are still very much believe in the 3Ms ie money, machinery and medias as the main strategies to win election.  Yes undeniably these are important requirements but previous results proved there is no guarantee to win comfortably with such strengths.

Some say Umno is prepared to sacrifice seats with a majority of Chinese voters. That is why they decided to concentrate on “focussed seats”.  On how they decide the latter, it is questionable.  I always warn some of the Malay politicians in BN, do not be surprised in GE14 it could be a Malay tsunami. So it is not wise to sacrifice the Chinese and Indian votes.

After the last 2 general elections some Malaysian Chinese as a community appears to have reached a crossroad both politically and socioeconomically.  In an age where democratic values have become a norm around the world and with the increased awareness of liberty and equality as universal values, they look set to settle nothing short of equal treatment among all races in Malaysia (putting aside other issues such as corruption; where ironically some BN leaders see it as only a perception issue).

By now most Chinese community realised that RUU355 or Hudud Pas is all about their political games. Perhaps not some of the Malay community or Umno and Pas members (or they prefer to be ignorant).

They are not prepared or do not want to change. Some especially the division chiefs are still in arrogance mode and of course the same applies to the opposition (the more so in Penang as they can afford to be so).

The reality is majority rules; like it or not it is about the numbers game for the time being. If one is to do the political calculation in depth, BN/Umno is unlikely to be defeated in GE14 especially with the support of rural and East Malaysia voters. As a result Chinese have to live with it or earn their living in the usual ways.

Those who are discontented and have the qualification or wealth could migrate but the harsh fact is most are not able to do so. Brain drain will always be a concern issue.  The country will never truly progress into a developed nation, so long as the conservative and narrow-minded mentality exists.

Sadly the ambition of being truly One Malaysia or Bangsa Malaysia or Malaysia Malaysians is still a long way to go.

Human Rights must be guaranteed but it should not be the only consideration


A couple of weeks back, I was invited to speak at Suaram’s new office.  Suaram is an NGO that champion human rights for many years.

In my endeavour along the similar struggles, I am inclined to say that it is impossible and impractical to achieve complete human rights in any country, organisation or a family. It doesnt makes sense though I have profound conviction in defending it.  There must be a balance.

A politician once said:

“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man”.

Corruption is one of the cause of traffic accidents


To me two of the major obstacles that deter us from moving forward in most aspects are our education system and corruption. The previous is about its quality where it relates to the latter. There must a strong political will to do so. Otherwise it will an uphill task to change the mindset of the 1.6 million civil servants.

Of late there are many fatal accidents involving buses, lorries, boats and even bicycles. It is reported yesterday that a trailer had caused the death of six innocent victims at Hulu Selangor due to its “tayar celup” or “botak” (recycled or bald tyres).

This is not something new. It is becoming a commonplace affair that because of these traffic accidents, resulting in fatalities and casualties, one is no more safe on the road regardless of how careful we are.

Each time I hear the news, I get seized with uncontrollable feelings of bitterness and anger. Every year, there are bound to have such related tragedy due to careless or ignored cause.

So far, we cannot find effective means with which to fight this battle and real law seems able get its teeth into the problem.

On the contrary, as laws combating traffic accidents are filling the books, the scale and severity of such accidents is increasing exponentially. It seems that these laws come to exist, in large parts, just to shift accountability to the unknown and to find no person to point the finger at.

Also quite often the authorities would take stern action once such an accident happens, but it’s back to square one after a while.

There seems to be no genuine will to enforce the related laws and empower them.

I believe a real solution to this problem is there, concealed in the existing gap between the law itself and what stands behind its effective implementation; corruption. Until this link is effectively broken, these laws will always be futile and may even result in the very real possibility of making the situation worse.

Circumventing laws the norm

Corruption is a major obstacle to law enforcement.

Certainly, it is an obstacle to achieving progress in lessening the number and severity of traffic accidents in the country and to which numerous social and economic problems are traced directly or indirectly.

However, either we fail to gain a higher vantage point from which we can see and understand the link between growth and corruption or, we intentionally turn a blind eye to avoid a serious debate about the major perpetrators who benefit from such a corrupt system.

Vehicles such as commercial buses and lorries are good examples. Owners may prefer to bribe the authorities to pass the inspection rather than spend a huge budget to ensure the vehicles are roadworthy.

Hence if we do not recognise and work out the real problem, we will forever remain trapped in a defective, corrupted system that manifests itself in every aspect of our lives and in the most basic ways.

Corruption is the hallmark of a self-destructive society that is befuddled by falsehood. It is not by chance that we have reached this alarming stage of traffic accidents; it is because circumventing laws has become the norm, aside from our tendency to opt for quick fixes and shortcuts.

Traffic rules are respected at the convenience of everyone and the concepts of incentive and punishment are no longer working because corruption opens the doors of impunity in every direction.

Even selective enforcement would indicate that the powerless and vulnerable citizens are at a big disadvantage in a country where all citizens are not treated equally before the law.

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