Assalamualaikum dan salam sejahtera.
Rakan – rakan Hakim sekalian,
Para Pesuruhjaya Kehakiman yang baru dilantik serta keluarga masing-masing,
Dan para hadirin sekalian.
1. Saya mulakan dengan ucapan setinggi-tinggi tahniah kepada rakan-rakan kita yang baru sahaja dilantik dan mengangkat sumpah sebagai Pesuruhjaya Kehakiman. Tahniah juga diucapkan kepada ahli keluarga yang hadir. Saya yakin anda semua khususnya kaum keluarga pasti gembira dan berbangga di atas kejayaan rakan-rakan kita yang baru dilantik ini.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2. At the moment, we are not only facing backlogs but we are also short of litigation lawyers. This is evident by the fact that when an early date is given to a lawyer, he cannot accept it because he has too many cases on his hands. In Penang, we had to reduce the number of criminal courts from four to three because there are not enough criminal lawyers to attend the four courts. At the Federal Court, counsels cannot accept early dates offered by the Registrars. For example, at the case management last week, only three out of 12 cases to be fixed for appeal can accept fates in late November. Others ask for January and February dates.
3. All of you new Judicial Commissioners are from the private practice. So far, those from the private practice seems to be performing very well as judges. I do hope that you will be as good, if not better than those already on the bench. In this respect, I would like to quote to you a passage that I read from a book recently.
“When I walk into the courtroom and see his honor take the stand I am stricken with awe. He takes his high place on the bench and looks down on us. He has more power over me and my client than the President of the United States. He can make rulings that will forever change lives. In the courtroom, he is omnipotent. I cannot strike out at him if he is a tyrant. I cannot criticize him if he is a buffoon. Yet, yesterday he may have been a lawyer with little talent and an empty fund of wisdom, but who contributed to the right political party. Why am I stricken with such awe and fear of this person?”
4. Of course, his statement about a lawyer with little talent and empty fund or wisdom, does not apply to you. So is his statement about the contribution to the right political party. The statements that he can make rulings that can change lives, that he is omnipotent are to some extent true but they do not apply to you as judges. For if there is any truth that you are of little talent, you would not have been chosen to be elevated to the Bench. The Judiciary has confidence in you. By the way, the extract came from an American author.
5. There are many who seek to become Judicial Commissioners. Their names are put to the Judicial Appointments Commission for their views although there is no legal obligation to do so. I also consult the Chairman of the Bar Council. It is only after these filtrations that the names of the selected few are put to the Prime Minister for his consideration and his advise to the Yang di Pertuan Agong. You should be therefore extremely proud to be amongst the selected few.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
6. From the angle of private practice, I have another quotation:
“If I am a Plaintiff, nothing can stop me!
If I am a Defendant, nothing can move me!”
7. This in fact is a reminder to you as previous practitioners that if you allow counsels appearing before you to have their own ways, the quotation I just cited can be true. It is your duty to prevent this happening.
8. There is another thing. Somebody told me, (I am not sure how to express this) that when the then past Chief Justice of Singapore was trying to change the Judiciary and the Bar of Singapore, from what it was to what it is today. He said "the Chief Justice dragged the Judiciary and the Bar kicking and screaming to the iconic efficiency it enjoys today”. I believe the Malaysian Judiciary is facing the same challenge. I am proud to say that as far as Malaysian Judiciary is concerned, the judges are working extremely hard to achieve our objectives. But I am still facing objections and protestations from a small percentage (a very small percentage) from the Bar.
9. The Kuala Lumpur lawyers have got used to the pace of work but lawyers in the other parts of the country still have to change their work culture. Be that as it may, I am also proud to say that the State Bar Committees recognize this and are doing their part in getting their members to change the work culture. For example, the Penang Bar Committee, have agreed to sacrifice their 31st October Saturday (and for that matter, the High Court Judges and staffs) to attend to a large number of longstanding chamber matters in order to help the court to dispose of them. If this is successful, the Chief Judge of Malaya is looking at other states. We call this “The Blitz”.
10. In closing, I would like to say to the new JCs that I hope you will find it pleasant to join the Judiciary, as you are joining it at a time when we are making big positive changes from what it was. Cases are moving faster, judges work harder and lawyers are expected to join the flow and not delay disposal of cases.
11. “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success"… We have come together, we are working together, and we will succeed! Succeeding in clearing the backlogs! I have confidence that we will without sacrificing justice. This I must stress. You will, I am sure be proud to be a member of the judiciary, irrespective which level you are.
12. I am sure you will find it pleasant to do so and I am most pleased to welcome you to the brotherhood of the Judiciary.