Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yes, JC's term extended, but questions remain

Picked From Malaysian Insider
By Debra Chong

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 11 - Ridwan Ibrahim, whose term as a judicial commissioner (JC) in the Ipoh High Court became the subject of much public debate in the ongoing Perak constitutional crisis, has had his contract extended for another two years.

"Yes, it has been renewed. Effective 1st March," de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz confirmed the news today.

Nazri told The Malaysian Insider that Ridwan's two-year term as a JC expired last February 28, but a renewal letter signed by the Chief Justice of Malaya, Tan Sri Zaki Azmi, has effectively extended the controversial judge's term.

He explained the renewal of a JC does not require the involvement of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), the newly-minted body regulating the appointment of judges.

Asked when the letter was sent out, Nazri said he could not remember, but added it did not matter because the renewal can be backdated.

Ridwan recently made several controversial rulings in the Ipoh High Court, the most notable being an order stopping Perak Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar from holding "any unlawful assembly."

He also ordered Sivakumar to only use the services of State Legal Advisor (SLA), Datuk Ahmad Kamal Md Shahid, to represent him in another case where three elected representatives are suing him for declaring their state seats vacant.

But the constitutional wrangle has become more muddled with Sivakumar suing the SLA in a separate suit filed in the KL High Court yesterday.

For federal lawmaker M. Kulasegaran (DAP-Ipoh-Barat), the real question to be answered concerns the accountability of a JC compared to a judge with full tenure.

"How can a trainee judge be allowed to decide a constitutional matter of such monumental significance which concerns the public?" he asked.

"By right the case should be heard by an experienced judge," added Kulasegaran, a lawyer by training.

Kulasegaran explained a JC is a judge-in-training who is put on a two-year probation period, at the end of which he is usually confirmed, relieved of his duties or chooses not to continue as a judge, such as Raja Aziz Addruse, a notable lawyer who was a former Bar Council president.

He noted that JC Ridwan had added to the complexity of the issue when he made the decision barring Speaker Sivakumar from chairing "unlawful" assemblies in chambers instead of in open court where the public can follow the arguments of the lawyers from both sides.

"Justice must be seen to be done," Kulasegaran emphasised.

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