Brave New World (The Star)
12 January 2012
It is not enough that our judges must be seen to be independent, we also need to know that the decision to prosecute or not is made without fear or favour.
IN the wake of the Anwar Ibrahim verdict, there has been much debate on how this proves the independence of our judiciary.
Praise has been lavished on the transformation plan as though it was this plan that improved the judiciary’s freedom.
If this is so, then surely the implication is that before the transformation plan there were problems with the Bench.
However, it would be too much to ask of anyone in the ruling party to admit to this.
After all they have been vehemently denying that there is nothing wrong with our justice system despite damning reports both from home and abroad.
So for the past few days, Barisan MPs and supporters have been going around saying: “I told you so, nothing wrong with the judiciary. I told you so.”
Well, to use a well-worn phrase, “a swallow does not a summer make”.
The loss of confidence in the judiciary is too deep to be revived with just one decision.
Let’s look at this judgment. A cynic would say that this was the best thing to have happened to Barisan.
After all, if Anwar was locked up the ruling party would have to deal with a “martyr”; and Azizah would once again be pushed into the foreground.
I am not suggesting for one moment that this is why the judge made his decision; I am not privy to the workings of his mind.
I am merely pointing out that it is not so easy to say with just one case that all doubts regarding the relationship of the judiciary and the Executive can be wiped out.
To restore faith in the legal system would take years. And it is not merely the Bench I am talking about here.
The independence of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and its prosecution service must also be restored.
It is not enough that our judges must be seen to be independent, we also need to know with absolute certainty that the decision to prosecute or not is made without any fear or favour.
Once trust is lost, it takes years to rebuild.
This is true between individuals; it is even truer when it comes to institutions as important as a country’s legal system.