Legal activist: Removing PM’s powers over JAC appointments will require an amendment to the law

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

JOHOR BARU, Dec 1 — The proposal that the prime minister should not be involved in the selection of Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) members will require an amendment to the Act in Parliament and also enhancing the process so that it is not purely seen as being administrative, suggested a legal activist.

Prominent lawyer and social activist Datuk Khairul Anwar Rahmat said the proposal requires an in-depth study and should be discussed and negotiated with all stakeholders.

“While we understand the implicit meaning of this proposal, which is to reduce the prime minister’s authority, the matter still needs to be made clear by legal practitioners.

“Improvements can be made to the JAC appointment process by amending the Act in Parliament and including some enhancements,” said Khairul Anwar in a statement to Malay Mail today.

The practising lawyer was responding to the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir’s suggestion yesterday that the prime minister should not be allowed to appoint anyone to the JAC to uphold its independence.

The JAC was established through the Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2009 (Act 695), which was gazetted on February 8, 2009.

The commission’s objective is to ensure the process for the nomination, appointment and promotion of superior court judges is made in a transparent and comprehensive manner.

At present, the JAC has nine members, four of whom are the most senior judges in Malaysia, while the remaining five are appointed by the prime minister.

Khairul Anwar, who has advised on constitutional law matters in the past, pointed out that such a proposal would mean that there must be guidance as it is written in the law that the prime minister needs to consult neutral parties before deciding on appointments to the JAC.

He explained that the prime minister’s position still needs to be respected because he has political legitimacy and is elected by the people.

“There is a need to know who are the parties that are part of the discussion. Are they really impartial and neutral, and what is the source of their authority?” he questioned.

Khairul Anwar said the prime minister before appointing JAC members will by practice refer to several judiciaries either from peninsular Malaysia or Sabah and Sarawak for review.

He explained that the prime minister in his administrative practice will also consult with relevant parties to avoid any negative accusations against the transparency of the JAC appointment process.

As chairman of the 260th meeting of the Conference of Rulers yesterday, Tuanku Muhriz proposed the removal of the prime minister’s role in appointing members of the JAC, a panel which nominates prospective new judges.

He had stressed the importance of keeping enforcement agencies and the judiciary independent and free from external influence.