When Nazri says, ‘don’t worry’, start worrying!

Posted on December 7, 2007



Malaysiakini reports him as saying that ‘there is no law against the fast-track appointment of Zaki. We are not doing something unconstitutional or illegal’.

Nazri said that Zaki is a ‘straight fellow’ and that the ‘only reason we roped him in was due to his past performance and his character’.

‘we roped him in’?

Who is ‘we’?


His past performance and character?

Could Nazri tell us how the past performance and the character of the seven other more senior Federal Court judges is lacking such that ‘they’ had to ‘rope him in’?

What performance and character, specifically?

Perhaps Nazri is alluding to that referred to by Kim Quek in a Malaysiakini article entitled ‘Judicial rot : From one nightmare to another?’

I quote Kim Quek :

‘Just as the nation is heaving a sigh of relief at the exit of the scandal-ridden Ahmad Fairuz as chief justice, in comes another dubious candidate poised to take his place.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s sudden announcement of the appointment of Zaki Azmi to the second highest post in the judiciary – President of the Court of Appeal – must have jolted and dismayed many who have cherished hopes of judicial reforms following the reluctant retirement of Fairuz.

…In fact, when Zaki was appointed a Federal Court judge in September, he was instantly recognized at home and abroad as the person planted to the highest court to succeed Fairuz, whose request for a six-month extension of service beyond his mandatory retirement on Oct 31 was not accepted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Such instant recognition of Zaki’s mission came from his deep involvement with Umno as a key party player. He was chairman of the party’s election committee, deputy chairman of its disciplinary board of appeal, party legal adviser etc.

As Umno’s legal man, he was involved with the party’s myriad of scandalous financial misadventures that were bailed out by the government in the heydays of Mahathir’s crony-capitalism during the last Asian financial crisis. One prominent example is the RM3 billion loan scam in the disastrous acquisition of Philippines’ National Steel Corp (NS) by Umno’s financial proxy Halim Saad. When the shares of NS became scrap, four top Malaysian banks were made to stomach the entire RM3 billion losses. And Zaki was then a director of the investment vehicle – Hottick Investment Ltd of Hong Kong – which borrowed the RM3 billion and embarked on the acquisition of NS.

Apart from acting as Umno’s nominee, Zaki also has held directorship in scores of major companies including some of the most well known names such as Berjaya, Metacorp, Pan Global, SP Setia, Malaysia Airports, Hume, Matsushita Electric, Pharmaniaga etc. Zaki was reported by Bernama on April 21 this year to have said that his 58% owned Emrail Sdn Bhd, a railway specialist company, had only the government as employer, and that he was earnestly soliciting contracts in the northern and southern portions of the double-tracking project to turn the cash-strapped Emrail around.

Such political and business background would already have made him a poor candidate for any judicial appointment, Zaki is battered by yet another serious handicap – the question of his moral integrity arising from his controversial marriage and divorce from his second wife Nor Hayati Yahaya, who was half his age.Zaki married Nor Hayati in a ceremony conducted by a kadi from Thailand in a textile shop in Perlis in March 2005. They separated three months later. In the messy divorce that ensued, it was revealed that Zaki burned the original marriage certificate to hide the marriage from his first wife. Further, the marriage was ruled by the Syarah Court as illegal.

Following the revelation of Zaki’s marital trouble, he resigned as deputy chairman of Umno’s disciplinary board, for which he commented: “Considering that members of the disciplinary board are of the highest integrity, I have made this decision following reports in the media ….” (New Straits Times, 9 Aug 2005)’.

See also Sisters in Islam take on this sordid affair in an article entitled ‘Deception and Dishonesty in the Practice of Polygamy’ :

Tan Sri Zaki Azmi with his second wife, Nor Hayati, deliberately burnt their original marriage certificate to keep their union a secret from his first wife (NST, 5 August 2005). Now that he is facing problems with his second wife, he is seeking to get their marriage declared null and void as a way to resolve the matter. In other words, to claim that the second marriage did not really exist and that he had in effect, deceived his second wife about the legality of their union. When a prominent senior lawyer and public figure chooses to use his access to knowledge and expertise in law to effect deceit in his existing married life, as well as to evade responsibility and problems in his subsequent marriage, this demonstrates a startling lack of respect not only for his chosen life partners, but also to the family as instituted in law and religion. What can Malaysians expect when leaders of our community display such blatant lack of deference to the integrity of family life and the institution of marriage? Why have laws on polygamy in the first place, when they are used not to protect rights and interests of contracting parties, but as a way to avoid duties and responsibilities?

Kim Quek’s questions below sum up just how nonsensical Nazri’s attempt to calm public concerns is :

‘The question we must ask now is: If Zaki is morally unfit to serve in Umno’s disciplinary board, how could he be considered morally fit to be a federal court judge, not to mention his lightning elevation to the No.2 position, and anticipated imminent rise to the top job in the judiciary?Is this country so poor in legal talent and integrity that we have no choice but to appoint some one so glaringly unsuited for such important judicial position arising from his multiple conflicts of interests and questionable integrity? If not, then why did the prime minister make such a move? If it is not to advance the prime minister’s and Umno’s interests, then what motivated such an appointment?’

Whilst I could be wrong, my sense is that if no effective date has been fixed for Zaki’s appointment to take effect, then His Majesty has not as yet assented to Zaki’s appointment as President of the Court of Appeal. It seems unimaginable that His Majesty would sign an appointment letter with dates blank. 

And if I am right, then the announcement by the PM that Zaki has been appointed when in fact the Agong has not is an act most mischievous on the part of the PM.

Kim Quek seems to share some of these concerns. This is what he says :

‘Knowing that the King and the Council of Rulers had previously declined to accept nominees deemed inappropriate to fill the vacancies of the President of Court of Appeal and Chief Judge of Malaya respectively, as well as having turned down Fairuz’ request to continue as chief justice, the suddenness of PM’s claim of royal assent – particularly in reference to Zaki’s controversial promotion – came as a surprise to many people. Did the Agong also assent to Zaki’s appointment? If so, why couldn’t Zaki’s date of appointment be also decided alongside with Hamid’s? Or was there a problem of royal assent?’

These concerns also raise the question as to the sincerity on the part of the government in the setting up of the Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the judiciary following the VK Lingam video expose. Media reports have it that the names of nominees have been submitted to His Majesty for approval.

People, start worrying.

Update : See also Malik Imtiaz’s take on this issue.