Judicial independence icon George Seah passes away


Datuk George Seah, one of six heroic judges who tried to protect the independence of the Malaysian judiciary when it came under assault during the Mahathir admininistration, has died at the age of 81.

Supreme Court judge George Seah
Supreme Court judge George Seah

Former Supreme Court judge Seah passed away while watching television with his family on 19 April, the eve of nomination day, as the country was on the threshold of possibly great change. He had been ill for a number of years.

Seah and five other judges – then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh – were suspended in 1988 after they had stood up courageously to defend the independence of the judiciary. (The latter three were later reinstated.)

Seah’s passing on the eve of nomination day provides a timely reminder of the terrible impact the Mahathir administration and the 1988 judicial crisis had on the independence of the judiciary. The judicial system has still not recovered from that body blow to this day.

Read George Seah’s ‘The hidden story’, a first person account of what transpired when the independence of the judiciary came under assault, published by Aliran in 2004.

The final word should appropriately go to Seah, who, in the conclusion to the five-part series, wrote:

… let me stress that history will be the judge whether or not I was guilty of misbehaviour as charged for faithfully discharging the functions of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Malaysia conscientiously and with the highest regard for the preservation of an independent Judiciary.

During critical and crucial times in the history of a nation, judges are expected to be the standard-bearers of justice. This is a moral obligation and under the circumstance they are expected to act positively and with a clear conscience.

The five of us who were embroiled in this difficult episode of the 1988 judicial crisis did not rally around the suspended LP but rather responded to the call of duty in the interest of justice.

No matter how facts are twisted, in the eyes of God, Truth will prevail from the 1988 Judicial Crisis.

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What is it that constitutes “a good judge?” This cliché is so often used in a highly charged political context. What people fail to realize is that the executive and the legislatue have the power under the constitution and under convention to dismiss judges and to remove them from office. The executive has many ways by which judges may be removed. Not all of them require an address to both houses of the legislature. The executive has the power to appoint and to remove. Each of these judges who have felt themselves to be victims took political decisions of their… Read more »


He was not only guilty of misconduct for traversing the role and authority of parliament and the executive. He was also an un enlightened member of the bench. Perhaps the government should have been criticized for having the likes of this man and Tun Salleh Abbas on the bench.

There is a better analysis of the situation which the writer and two of the judges involved in this farce discussed before the article titled ” Judicial Crisis: A Tragedy Staged by the Malaysian Bar.

salbiah ahmad

A sad day of the passing of a good judge in Malaysian Legal History


The Bar Council website posted an article fromThe Star with this note: Note from Bar Council: The Malaysian Bar notes with deep regret the passing of Datuk George Seah, and extends its heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. The funeral mass will be held at 11:00 am at the Church of St Thomas More in Subang Jaya, which will be preceded by a wake from 9:00 am. The address is: Lot 295, Jalan TP 5, Taman Perindustrian Subang Jaya, 47600 Subang Jaya. Please click here for the map and GPS coordinates for the church. http://www.stm.com.my/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=230 Source: Ex-Supreme Court… Read more »