[JURIST] Malaysian Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim [firm profile] Wednesday said legal reforms are needed to safeguard the independence of the country's judiciary. His remarks came in response to recent allegations that during his term of office, former PM Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad threatened to remove judges unless they rendered satisfactory verdicts. Ibrahim indicated that the reform would come as an amendment to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia [text, PDF]. The amendment will be designed to endure greater judicial independence and increase the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary branches. Ibrahim added that since the new amendment would address the issue of political interference with the judiciary, there is no need to begin an official probe into the allegations against the former PM. AP has more. The Star has local coverage.
Allegations concerning the interference of the executive branch in the judiciary have been common in Malaysia. An official government inquiry panel announced [JURIST report] in May that a prominent Malaysian lawyer had conspired with allies in the government, judiciary, and business to arrange favorable judicial appointments. Also in May, opposition politicians called for the prosecution of those involved [JURIST report] in the judicial fixing scandal. Public confidence in the judiciary began to diminish after the 1998 constitutional crisis, when three Supreme Court judges were dismissed by the government. Several constitutional amendments after the crisis led to uncertainty surrounding the proper role of the judiciary in the Malaysian government.