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.
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.