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Credibility of JAC appointee paramount

KUALA LUMPUR, 17 Dec 2008:  A backbencher said today the government has to ensure that the credibility of the four eminent persons to be appointed to the Judicial Appointments Commission is beyond question.

Barisan Nasional (BN) Member of Parliament for Rembau, Khairy Jamaluddin said the four people, to be appointed by the prime minister, should not have personal links to any member of the judiciary or corporate citizens.

“We have to conduct thorough vetting to ensure that these four people do not have any links at all with judiciary and would not forge links with the judiciary.

“They should also be free of any link with the corporate world as cases (involving corporate personalities) could be brought to court. If the eminent person is a chairperson of a company, will he be impartial when his company is brought to court?” he said when speaking during the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill 2008 in the Dewan Rakyat.

Clause 5(1) of the bill provides for the commission to have as members the Chief Justice of the Federal Court (as its chair), the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, and a Federal Court judge to be appointed by the prime minister.

The bill also provides for the appointment of four eminent persons who are not members of the executive or public service. The will be appointed by the prime minister after consultation with the Bar Council, Sabah Law Association, Advocates Association of Sarawak, the federal and state attorneys-general and any other relevant body.

Khairy also said that the consultations between the prime minister and the Bar Council should be conducted in a clear and transparent manner to avert any doubt as to the credibility of the eminent persons.

BN MP for Batu Pahat, Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, said the definition for eminent persons should be clear so that there would not be any confusion as to who should be appointed.

“We have to provide a comprehensive clarification on the meaning of eminent person; otherwise it would be assumed as being not transparent and we would be fearful we are appointing the wrong people,” he said.

He also suggested that the removal of any of the eminent persons from the commission should be explained so that there would be no speculation on their dismissal.

“This will maintain the people’s confidence in the legislation that we are going to approve,” he said.

A clause in the bill provides for the prime minister to revoke the appointment of any of the eminent persons without citing reasons for it.

Permatang Pauh Parti Keadilan Rakyat MP Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim suggested that the members of the commission be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, similar to the appointment of members of the Election Commission (EC).

“Why is a status similar to the EC not accorded (to this commission)?” he asked.

“It is uncommon in our country for the appointment of members of a commission to be made by the prime minister and referred to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“If the issue is the need to amend the constitution, we give the assurance that the three parties in the Pakatan Rakyat will back such a move by the prime minister,” he said. — Bernama


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