Posted by SM Maulana
Datuk Zaid Seri Ibrahim (left) presenting the ex-gratia payment to Tun Salleh Abas and Salleh’s wife Toh Puan Azimah Mohamad Ali this morning. — Picture by Choo Choy May
By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — House number 28 was due to receive an important visitor this morning. The flurry of activity spilled out into the quiet street as reporters and photographers milled outside.
The neighbours must have been curious, though few took the trouble to step out of their double-storey houses in Setiawangsa.
Word on the street was that de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Zaid Ibrahim was due to arrive at 10.30am to present former Lord President Tun Salleh Abbas — the occupant of house No. 28 whenever he’s in the capital — with a goodwill payment from the government for events that led to his undignified sacking from the top judiciary post in 1988.
The minister arrived earlier than expected. He was greeted warmly by Salleh’s family and hustled into the living room where he handed over the cheque — sum undisclosed — in a very simple ceremony.
“Tun Salleh is a symbol of high honour and bravery in defending the principles of the judiciary,” Zaid said.
Soon after, Zaid dashed off to visit the last of the five judges who had attempted to defend the honour of the judiciary in 1988 — Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin.
Salleh accepted the token with gentlemanly grace. He said some people were not satisfied that the government did not apologise but for him, the ex-gratia payment showed the government’s sincerity.
“Now (it is) difficult for the government to give a complete apology in the present scenario,” Salleh said, though he declined to elaborate on what he meant by that, just as he declined to reveal the amount he received.
“How can I tell you? Aiyo! It’s a secret. If the government doesn’t want to disclose, then who am I to do it? Even my children don’t know,” he said.
Though he willingly posed for pictures, he was impatient to get back to the present. He also impatiently dismissed requests to comment on the allegations against the judiciary made by Matthias Chang, a lawyer who was a former aide to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
After all, Salleh has much work still to do with a memoir that was due to be published on Aug 8 but has now been delayed.
“I don’t think it can come out (by that date). It’s writing facts, not fiction; starting from my childhood right up to the present day — 70 years! I don’t know how thick it’s going to be,” he said with a smile.
Dr M wanted to rule like ‘dictator’, says ex-judge
KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — Former Supreme Court judge Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin claimed today that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wanted to rule “like a dictator” when he was prime minister.
Azmi said Dr Mahathir wanted the judiciary to be under his control eventhough he was already head of the executive and legislature.
Speaking to reporters at his house after receiving his ex-gratia payment today from de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Zaid Ibrahim for the events in the 1988 judiciary crisis, Azmi also claimed that Dr Mahathir wanted to amend Article 121 of the Federal Constitution, a provision which defines the separation of power between the legislature, judiciary and the executive.
Azmi, who refused to say how much he received, was 1 of the 6 former judges implicated in the 1988 judiciary crisis.
Azmi and five other top judges, including then Lord President Salleh Abas, was forced to face tribunals in 1988 which resulted in the sacking of three supreme court judges including Salleh and the suspension of the rest.
As part of the government’s effort to restore the integrity of the judiciary, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had on April 17 said ex-gratia payments would be made to the judges implicated.
Zaid had earlier handed a cheque to Salleh at his house in Setiawangsa.