Zaid says MB vs MB will be true test for judiciary

By Leslie Lau (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 — Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has applauded the judiciary for its independence and courage in a number of recent rulings, but points out that the true test of its mettle will be how it makes decisions in politically-charged cases.
The former Umno minister, who is now a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) strategist, cited the upcoming Federal Court decision in the tussle between Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir to be declared the rightful Perak mentri besar as key to restore public confidence in the judiciary.
“The decision… will be the deciding factor as to whether the courts under (Chief Justice) Tun Zaki (Azmi) will be different from the previous era.
“It will decide whether the practice of constitutional democracy and the rule of law will exist again in Malaysia,” he wrote on his blog today.
The Federal Court will deliver its decision next Tuesday in the appeal by Nizar to be declared the Perak mentri besar in a case which was sparked off by the controversial takeover a year ago of the Perak state government by the Barisan Nasional (BN) after three PR lawmakers defected.
Nizar had originally won the right to be mentri besar in the High Court here, but the Court of Appeal subsequently overturned the decision.
In his blog posting, Zaid compared the judiciary following the dismissal of a number of top judges by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad with the current crop of judges, and pointed out that the courts now appeared more independent and courageous.
He cited a number of recent rulings, including the Federal Court’s decision to overturn what it called the “blatant and obvious” mistake of the controversial 2000 Adorna Properties ruling which had resulted in victims of land fraud being unable to recover their property.
Another recent ruling which earned Zaid’s praise was the High Court’s ruling allowing the word “Allah” to be used by the Catholic newspaper Herald in its Bahasa Malaysia section following a ban by the Home Ministry.
“Independent and courageous in the context of judgments is being brave enough to make decisions based on facts, the law and the constitution without considering whether the decision is popular or not, or whether it is praised or mocked by the public.
“Judges should also not take into consideration whether the opposition or the government support their decisions. Fair and wise decisions are their responsibility.”
But Zaid said how the judiciary performs in politically-charged cases would determine whether judges are truly free or still bound by “the old ways of the Dr Mahathir era.”
The “old ways” were when “sub-standard” judges were used to give rulings in favour of the government by ignoring legal and constitutional principles, he said.
Zaid argued that the public would only be convinced that judicial reforms were under way if Nizar wins the case.