Distinguished Speakers Program: Zaki Tun Azmi

9 May 2013

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Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary in Malaysia: New Government, Old Government, does it really matter?

On 5 May 2013, the Malaysian people will elect another government. According to opinion polls and the rumour mill, Malaysia could be about to have its own 'spring' and usher in to power a new coalition. But whatever the result, a new political landscape is forming, old loyalties are shifting and a younger generation is expecting more of those who govern them.

The Malaysian judiciary has often been in the firing line. In the 1980s, during the tenure of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, the torch of judicial independence appeared to shine brightly with the judges expanding grounds for judicial review and acting with the temerity to declare UMNO, the dominant member of the ruling 'National Front', an 'illegal organisation'. In the eyes of overseas commentators at least, that spirit of independence was short-lived with the Malaysian Supreme Court (then, its apex court) effectively 'sacked' in 1988, then 'stacked' with known party stalwarts and subsequently 'stripped' of its inherent jurisdiction by constitutional amendment. A decade later, political machinations reached their zenith in the prosecution and subsequent conviction, by judges not by jury, of then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. In the 'noughties', following the revelation of the 'Lingam Tapes', matters went from bad to worse with the 'rigging' of judicial appointments and the coming to light of a 'corrupt' judiciary.

There are, of course, two sides to every story, but the above impression of the Malaysian judiciary has endured at home and lingered overseas notwithstanding a series of recent reforms and measures designed to restore the judiciary's reputation and the credibility of the Malaysian legal system.

This talk, given by an insider, ZakiTun Azmi, a recently retired and 'reformist' Chief Justice of Malaysia, will explore these issues and discuss, through questions and answers, his opinions of where the future might lie regarding the independence of the judiciary in his country, and ultimately the 'rule of law'.

About the speaker

Zaki Tun Azmi was the 12th Chief Justice of Malaysia. He was elevated directly to the apex court as a Judge of the Federal Court in September 2007. Shortly thereafter, Zaki Azmi was appointed President of the Court of Appeal. Prior to his elevation to the Federal Court, Zaki Azmi had served for 15 years in the Judicial and Legal Service and was in private practice for another 22 years. He read law at Lincoln's Inn and was called as a Barrister in 1969.

Zaki Azmi is nationally and internationally recognised and acknowledged as instrumental in introducing reforms to the Malaysian judiciary. The sweeping reforms that were implemented by the Zaki Court resulted in the clearing of backlog of cases, the introduction of the use of up-to-date technology in the courts and the putting in place of an efficient system for the disposal of cases, from the time of filing of an action to the disposal of the final appeal. As a result of these successes, Zaki Azmi was invited by distinguished bodies such as the Singapore Academy of Law to speak on and share his experiences with the international legal community on the subject of reform of the judiciary.

His service to his nation extends beyond the legal sphere. After his retirement as Chief Justice, Zaki Azmi was appointed the Chairman of the Civil Service Transformation Commission by the Government of Malaysia. His contributions and services in the field of education are evident from his appointments as Chancellor of two private universities and Adjunct Professor in three other public universities in Malaysia.

Zaki Azmi's pre-eminence in the field of law has been recognized with accolades by both domestic and international bodies. He was made Honorary Bencher of Lincoln's Inn and conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by two local universities.

Time: 6-7pm followed by a cocktail reception (registration from 5.30pm)

Location: Common Room, level 4, New Law School Building (F10), Eastern Ave University of Sydney

Cost: Full Fee $25; SLS Alumni $20; USyd Student $10

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: (02) 93510323

Email: 36352e6836040e5c2e007934105d281749181037237d501f