KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 ― DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said today that Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif's three-year extension as Chief Justice is not only unconstitutional, but also deprives a senior Sabah Bumiputera judge the chance to be elevated to the post.
The federal Opposition lawmaker also criticised the extension of Raus and Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin's tenure in office, claiming that it would affect the “promotional opportunities and prospects of at least eight Federal Court judges, including three women”.
Raus and Zulkefli will both turn 66 on August 3 and September 27 respectively, which is also when their tenures are supposed to expire, though the Federal Constitution allows for an extension of six months.
“But the most glaring injustice of the unconstitutional extensions will be the denial of the opportunity of Tan Sri Richard Malanjum as the first Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak to be appointed as Chief Justice of Malaysia,” Lim said in a statement.
“Malanjum is in fact the most senior Federal Court judge in the country, more senior than both Raus and Zulkefli,” he added.
The Gelang Patah MP pointed out that Malanjum was elevated to the Federal Court six years earlier than Raus or Zulkefli.
Lim also highlighted that Malanjum was the first indigenous Sabahan to become a High Court judge on July 26, 2006 and subsequently, the first Sabah Bumiputera to be promoted to the Court of Appeal and subsequently, the country’s highest court.
He said previously, the post was held by a Briton, a Malaysian from the peninsula and a Sarawakian.
Lim argued that the appointment of a Sabahan or Sarawakian holding the post of the Chief Judge of the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak as the country's Chief Justice would be an important factor contributing to the “closer unity and cohesion of the Malaysian Federation”.
“Will Raus and Zulkefli decline their unconstitutional appointments, and will Malanjum be the first judge from Sabah/Sarawak to be appointed Chief Justice of Malaysia to mark the 60th National Day Anniversary and the 54th Malaysia Day anniversary?” he asked.
The retirement age for judges in Malaysia is 66.
Malanjum, who became a Federal Court judge in 2005 at the age of 52, will turn 65 this October.
On July 7, the Prime Minister's Office announced that Raus's tenure as the 14th Chief Justice of Malaysia will be further extended for another three years from August 4, while Zulkefli's tenure as the Court of Appeal President will be further extended for another two years from September 28. They had held these posts since April 1.
Both of them previously had their services as judges extended for another six months after hitting the age of 66, with Raus's term extended from February 4 to August 3, while Zulkefli's term was extended from March 28 until September 27.