K. Haridas: Stand by Justice Hamid Sultan (Malaysiakini, 27 September 2020, 11.57am)

This is a nation where you rarely find anyone from the establishment taking a stand. This is because there is too much to lose. You soon realise that you are ostracised by the establishment and find yourself out in a limb. 

Those who take a stand, great characters like former lord president late Suffian Hashim, the late Ahmed Nordin or even Anwar Ibrahim, know the power of the elites.

It is in this context that one must applaud the great moral strength and courage exhibited by Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Backer (above) and the need for his affidavit to be closely scrutinised. He was on the dot when he stressed that the judiciary is expected to act as check and balance on the executive and legislature as provided for in our Federal Constitution.

Hamid Sultan continues to stand by the entire content of his affidavit and also his 101-page legal judgment delivered early in June this year. Whether you agree with him or otherwise he writes his judgment and stands by his conviction.  

It must have frustrated him no end that he eventually came out with allegations of judicial interference initially at an International Conference, and here one must respect his stand in support of the need for integrity in the judiciary. I am sure the learned judge would have seriously considered the implications that may arise. Many others may have felt the same but opted for silence.

Perhaps many may not realise that we have the Institute Integrity Malaysia. How many from this institute have ever stood up during the entire saga relating to the 1MDB? You cannot have integrity without conscience and had this institute and its directors stood up what a difference they would have made but being an institution under the patronage of the government they could only corrupt the meaning of integrity.

In a nation where power and patronage and doing the bidding of powerful individuals enhances the road to promotions, there are many who would sacrifice their noble views regarding justice and fairness and opt for silence and toleration of what should not be tolerated. 

After all, titles, promotions, patronage, directorships all remain an important lure after retirement. Sadly, patronage is not even considered a corrupt practice and if royalty is involved it is made even more acceptable. Patronage never contributes towards creating a level playing field.

Our history since the days of Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been one that has reduced the esteem with which the Malaysian judiciary has been held and there are numerous cases that amplify this reality from the VK Lingam fiasco to former chief justice Eusoff Chin. An earlier judge who had the guts to be a whistleblower also paid a great price. However, his consistent stand even after having left the judiciary attests to his integrity.

The lack of clear lines and the principle of separation of powers when sacrificed leads to grey areas. These are then exploited by the elites. The conspiracy of silence of many so-called good people is what led us to become a globally recognised kleptocracy. The trials of Najib Abdul Razak and Rosmah Mansor are just so shocking but all this characterises the lifestyle of the elites and the extent to which so many are complicit by their silence.

Some do so because they do not want to lower the esteem or maruah of their race, others because they want to be part of the accepted groups to be considered for promotions and many more who do not want to be seen as rocking the boat. What does character mean to such people? Religiosity without character is lame and exhibits hypocrisy. Where are the men of character in our present ruling elite? Many have become frogs!

Within this context you have a Court of Appeal judge standing up for the judiciary and what does he face? Instead of lauding his efforts, he is given a show-cause notice. He is a senior judge and would not have arrived at such exposure without facts and evidence. On the other side is the reality of powerful forces who are trying to discredit him.

Hamid Sultan knows the law and his book on contract law is much referenced. We studied syariah law together and I was grateful for his assistance and we passed out together. While over the years we have hardly met, I have always had a regard for his convictions. I was therefore not surprised by his bold stand.

How long can you go on rationalising your conscience and oath of office? Only an individual with deep convictions and values can develop a sensitive conscience. This is another instance that challenges the judiciary. Who will stand up and stand by to cleanse the judiciary and unless there is accountability nothing is going to shift. Systems and structures may contribute but ultimately it is the character of the judges that makes the critical difference.

For senior judges to intervene in the decisions of several appeals is not a small matter. The call for an independent commission has been brushed aside. His explosive affidavit challenges many powerful individuals and the vested interest will do much to damage his credibility. The Hamid Sultan I knew was a simple man and I believe he still may not be trapped by either patronage or money, hence his courage.

It is important in a country like Malaysia for us to take such cues and move forward the agenda for change and reformation. However, without openness and transparency, this is going to be difficult. Elites and powerful vested interests work in the dark, employing subtle means and they fear the light of the day.

The very fact that the establishment has reneged on a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) is indicative of how explosive the issues are that Hamid Sultan raised so courageously. It was Cicero the Roman statesman who said, “The fundamentals of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong, and that the public good be served”.

If the public good is the ultimate objective then the powers that be will make the right decision. We who believe in the public good must also support and encourage people who initiate change. Bravo Yang Arif Hamid Sultan.