News & Views

MALAYSIA DEMONSTRATES RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY

Posted on 16th July 2018

16th July 2018

The appointment of Richard Malanjum as Chief Justice has been well received by the Malaysian legal fraternity. As 65 he will only have a 2 year tenure. Although generally regarded as fair and competent, Malanjum’s appointment was not without controversy. By appointing a Christian from a minority community in Sabah, the government has shown its commitment to racial and religious neutrality choosing competence over race, and breaking from archaic unspoken rules that often led to questionable choices for top judicial positions. Malanjum’s appointment gave rise to furore amongst those expecting the post to be the preserve of Malay Muslims. The most vocal opponents of his elevation came from the race based opposition parties, UMNO and the Islamic party, PAS, both insisting that the appointment of a non-Muslim to the highest judicial office in Malaysia was an affront to Islam and the rights of Malays. It is hard not to see this as dangerous racism and religious bigotry as the logic is baffling to say the least when the rights of Malays and the status of Islam under the constitution are clear and cannot be affected by the personal beliefs of any single judge who in any event is bound to uphold the tenets of the Federal Constitution.

In its official statement the Malaysian Bar Council said:

“The Malaysian Bar welcomes and congratulates Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Datuk Wira Ahmad Haji Maarop and Datuk David Wong Dak Wah on their respective appointments as Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia, President of the Court of Appeal, and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak. We trust that these new appointments herald a new dawn of independence for the Judiciary.”

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