Friday 2 September 2011

Leaked cable: Umno's 'tepid' response to Lingam RCI

Recommendations for judicial reform laid out by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the VK Lingam tape received no support from either the government or Umno, claims a leaked US embassy cable.

The cable, posted on Wikileaks, includes an analysis which concludes that the recommendations clashed directly with "vested political interests", especially within Umno.

The analysis, dated July 2, 2008, says "Umno conservatives" had even actively defended the government's control over the judiciary as critical for effective rule by the BN.

The cable points out that Umno made it clear that the RCI's recommendations lacked traction by keeping mum over Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor's continued role as the party's secretary-general despite being implicated in the scandal.

"The commission's recommendation to re-establish an independent judiciary clashes with vested political interests, particularly within the leading Umno party and including those of Abdullah's own family and associates; consequently, the recommendation has found no support within the cabinet," the cable says, referring to the then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

vk lingam aca lingam tape 211107 confideThe 191-page report by the RCI on the Lingam video controversy regarding rigged judicial appointments pointed at the involvement - be it directly or indirectly - of six prominent individuals, including Lingam (right), a senior lawyer.

The others said to be involved in the fiasco are Eusoff Chin, who was chief justice from 1994 to 2000, his successor Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Halim who retired in October 2007, tycoon Vincent Tan, who is closely aligned to former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tengku Adnan and Mahathir.

The Court of Appeal recently granted leave for Lingam, Eusoff and Ahmad Fairuz to challenge the RCI findings on grounds that they had been adversely affected by the findings.

'No cabinet support' for recommendations

The cable claims that despite the recommendations of a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) that were "championed" by the then de-facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim, it appeared that there was no support from cabinet for the proposed JAC.

NONEThe cable adds that the cabinet sat on the proposal for several months before eventually deciding to put its implementation "on hold", as announced by Zaid (left) on June 21.

"A close aide to Minister Zaid informed us in late June (2008) that there was no cabinet support for the recommendations, and that PM Abdullah had not provided sufficient backing to the proposals.

"A number of Umno members of parliament have told us that Zaid Ibrahim's reform proposals are very unpopular within Umno," the cable says.

The situation eventually led to Zaid's resignation from the cabinet in protest. He was later sacked from Umno for "attending opposition events", though it is widely speculated that that had more to do with him breaking party ranks.
The analysis goes on to state that although Zaid's appointment as law minister and his planned reforms sent "hopeful initial signals", the lack of progress "in moving modest reforms" reflected Abdullah's inability to build support within his party and his own "tepid backing".

"The BN government's lack of follow-up on the Royal Commission's conclusions does not bode well for judicial reform," the cable concludes.

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