Mamma Mia! It’s the Chief Justice!
Posted by Oscar the Grouch on December 22, 2008
I have always wanted to be a judge, ever since I was young; way before I actually enrolled into law school. As opposed to children who have pictures of astronauts or race cars posted on the bedroom walls, I remember a cartoon poster of a judge, complete with his hammer and black robe, plastered on the wall of my cupboard for a good many years, reminding me of my keen ambition.
There was no direct-route to be a judge, I later found out. So, I had to take up law and be a lawyer instead. This was not really a problem, for I didn’t really mind being a lawyer. I used to be enthralled by sensational murder cases of the 70s and 80s. I remember being captivated by the murder trial of beauty queen Jean Sinnappa during the late 70s. I was rapt by the daily reporting, though I cannot make out half of the facts and issues. Years later, when I was working in my first legal firm as a humble assistant, I had the opportunity to meet the legendary counsel who defended in that trial. To be made privy to his personal journals: consisting of notes, jottings and newspaper clippings; and to hear from the man who was himself there, was like a dream come true for me.
I jumped at my very first chance to attend the High Court when I was just a pupil. I was instructed to apply for an adjournment for a hearing. It was before the late Justice Abdul Malek Ahmad. I remember going into the large judges’ chambers, the very first time for me. It was a grim yet imposing room; in fact it was more of a hall than a room.
I sat myself on the counsel allocated seat, in front of me is the solemn and serious judge, looking straight at me, unblinking and unflinching. I swallowed, cleared my throat and begin my simple speech which I have practised many times the night before. But nothing came out. No voice, not even a squeak. I froze in front of the judge; obviously the occasion has taken over me.
The judge sat up, gave me a steely stare. “Aahh …” was all the blabber I could offer. “Ahh … ahh…”. More incomprehensible babble followed. I wanted the floor to open up and devour me. Here I was, in my very first historic legal duty in the High Court, and I lost my ability to speak.
The serious judge suddenly and unexpectedly gave me a kind and knowing smile.
“You are chambering? Your first time?”
I nodded like a nincompoop.
“You want an adjournment to this application set today, yes?” asked Justice Abdul Malek.
Again, I nodded like a fool.
“Adjournment granted.” And the kind judge gave me a date for the next hearing and sent me off. I left the court building relief, but foolish. But in many ways, my first encounter with the kind judge has fuelled my childhood ambition with even more relish.
But that incident was a good many years ago, when my youth was still shrouded by innocence. I found out later that not all judges are nice. Many are nasty, some spiteful, others viciously offensive. These are the ones that made me forget, over the years, of my childhood ambition to be a judge. I just did not want to be one of them.
But there were other reasons as well. Primarily, I found out that being a judge means leading a terribly lonely life. Which means: – no socializing, no friends, no party, no drinking (unless you are ok with drinking alone). I am no party animal, but to be devoid of a social circle seems a tad bit cruel. So, slowly, I begin to abandon my childhood ambition and concentrated instead on being a boring lawyer.
Until last Saturday. As usual, I had my cuppa of coffee and browsing lazily on the weekend daily, until I chanced upon a photo in the Saturday Metro (Saturday, 20 December 2008) under “Events”. There it was, a photo of Chief Justice Tan Sri Zaki Tun Azmi, standing grandly, attending the Mamma Mia! Gala musical show; flanked on his right and left by ministers and corporate leaders. Egad! I thought. Isn’t the Chief Justice socializing?
I did a quick check on judges’ conduct and found the following provisions in the Judges’ Code of Ethics 1994: –
Section 3 (1) A judge shall not-
(b) conduct himself in such manner as is likely to bring his private interests into conflict with his judicial duties;
(c) conduct himself in any manner likely to cause a reasonable suspicion that-
(i) he has allowed his private interests to come into conflict with his judicial duties so as to impair his usefulness as a judge; or
(ii) he has used his judicial position for his personal advantage;
(d) conduct himself dishonestly or in such manner as to bring the Judiciary into disrepute or to bring discredit thereto;
I am no expert on a judges’ code of ethics but the photo shows the Chief Justice surrounded by SP Setia director Datuk Eddy Leong, Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai, The Star’s group chief editor Datuk Wong Chun Wai and SP Setia managing director and CEO Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin.
Here is the Chief Justice, seen socializing with members of the corporate industry and members of the MCA. To make matters worse, the Mamma Mia! show that day was hosted by SP Setia and was dedicated to all of SP Setia’s business partners, corporate clients and customers. Which makes one wonders, who is the Chief Justice to SP Setia: – Business partner? Client? Customer?
The appointment of Tan Sri Zaki as Chief Justice has received a lot of flak due to his rather illustrious background. He holds many directorships in many companies prior to his appointment, including being a director to PETRONAS and the Board of Trustee for SP Setia.
He was also the legal advisor for UMNO. His rise in the judiciary has also been of concern, having being appointed directly to the Federal Court as a private practitioner, by-passing several senior judges along the way. All in all, he spent less than 5 years in the judiciary before being made the Chief Justice.
Tan Sri Zaki began his job by announcing that he would get tough and take action against errant judges to prevent the image of the judiciary from being tarnished. But judging from these Mamma Mia! photos, he has taken the lead in tarnishing the already battered image of the judiciary.
As for me, I have renewed hope and vigour in re-launching my childhood ambition of being a judge: – the Chief Justice has since open the door on socializing