Former Lord President Salleh Abas has reacted positively to Zaid Ibrahim’s proposal that the government should apologise to him and the other top judges who were victimised and sacked in the 1988 judicial onslaught by the Mahathir administration.
Of course, Karpal Singh has a point that when he says that it is not the present administration who should apologise but Mahathir himself. He said that the two tribunals that were convened in 1988 were initiated by Mahathir.
While it is great that the government may acknowledge the terrible injustice that occurred in 1988, a mere apology without concrete measures won’t suffice. Those involved in the crisis must also be held accountable. I am thinking of the role played by people like Hamid Omar (who took over from Salleh Abas) and Haidar apart from Mahathir himself. Mahathir has a lot to answer for – and this time he should not be allowed to plead memory loss. If he is allowed to get away scot free – without any sign of remorse – what message are we sending to future PM’s who might be tempted to trample on the judiciary and subvert the system of check and balance?
We also need to set up an independent commission to revamp the whole judiciary, remove all those tainted judges and ensure that future judges are selected based on integrity, competence and independence. Of course, they must be committed to upholding basic rights.
Here’s what a friend told me: “I just read NST’s editorial though that argues for only an apology because anything more will amount to a witch hunt. Strange logic. How could it be a witch hunt when the culprits are well known?
“On the other hand, I think Badawi is interested in offering just the apology because it will be symbolically enough to shame Mahathir. Getting the latter to apologise is probably difficult because it will involve at least a hearing and/or review and Badawi may risk public dissatisfaction for going after Mahathir in his old age and with a recent bypass. A mere apology may get Badawi to appear more statesmanlike and project him as interested in cleaning up the judiciary.”
I believe that no attempt at reforming the judiciary can succeed until and unless we probe the events of 1988, cleanse/purge the system, and put in place legal and institutional safeguards to ensure that such a scandal can never be repeated.
What’s your take on this?