The Tun Salleh Saga – an open reply to Dr Mahathir
Dr Mahathir, I read with considerable interest your blog on the Tun Salleh Saga. To a certain degree, I must confess, I am happy for you have obviously regained your memory after having a momentary lapse of the same during the proceeding of the Royal Commission on the Lingam tape.
I must confess that I was not moved to post anything about the Tun Salleh issue as everybody and his dog has apparently written about it. However, after having read your latest boot-leg version, I am compelled to write this reply, just to put things on record and in proper perspective.
It is quite obvious that you have mastered the fine art of manipulation. When everything else fails, what better way than to stoke racial sentiment in order to gain support. That was what you were doing in Johore Bahru recently when you quite irresponsibly pointed out that the Malays are the ones who would lose out if the IDR project were to continue. You then quickly followed it up in Japan when you again reminded the Malays to unite and be strong because, according to you, other races are now asking for many things and questioning Malay rights. Samuel Johnson’s “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” would normally be a cliche to repeat, but in your case, I would make an exception. Just change the word “patriotism” to “racialism” and you would, hopefully, catch my drift.
When the issue of an apology to Salleh Abas was started by Zaid Ibrahim, I remember you were quoted as saying that Salleh Abas was sacked by the tribunal and so an apology should be sought from the tribunal.
How very convenient of you, Dr M. Of course you had conveniently overlooked the fact that the tribunal was established at your advice as the then Prime Minister. And so now, in your blog, you have revealed the truth. The truth, according to you, is that the King had wanted Salleh Abas removed because His Majesty was angry with Salleh Abas’ letter complaining about His Majesty’s renovation work. So, are you now blaming the King, may I ask? That is the first question which came across my mind while reading your post.
The second question is this. Since when have you become a Royalist so much so that you were almost paralysingly subservient to the King? The King had wanted Salleh Abas, the Lord President, sacked because of a letter over some noises made in a renovation work, and you followed it up with a tribunal established under our primary law, the Federal Constitution? You wanted us to believe that you, the then Prime Minister, the very same Prime Minister who amended the Federal Constitution to curb the powers of the King and the Malay Rulers, had agreed to establish the tribunal at the behest of the King? Since when has Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the fearless Prime Minister, who took away the necessity for Royal assents to any bill of law before it could effectively be the law of the country by amending the Federal Constitution, had suddenly become so subservient to the King in relation to the sacking of Salleh Abas?
The third question is glaring to people in the know. It is, of course, not there for every supporters of yours to see, as we could well surmise from the majority of the comments made in your blog on the issue. The question is this. Why was it that Salleh Abas was not charged over THAT letter? If what you said was true, why wasn’t Salleh Abas charged for writing such a letter to the King and carbon copying it to all the Rulers? WHY?
If the King had wanted Salleh Abas sacked for being rude to His Majesty, why is it that Salleh Abas not charged for being rude to our King? W.H.Y.??? Why is it that only now, 20 years later, suddenly, this letter has appeared and becomes an issue? Is it a case of you forgetting about that letter in 1988, just as you have forgotten about some events during the Lingam tape hearing, and suddenly rediscovering your memory last week about the same letter?
Coincidently, your former secretary, Matthias Chang, has spoken about this letter in his blog sometime in the past weeks.
By the way, during the constitutional crisis caused by your belligerent attitude towards the King and the Malay Rulers, I remember the state mass media, that is the newspapers and RTM, had even belittled the King and the Malays Rulers. The whole propaganda machine was used to smear the King and the Malay Rulers. Pictures of their palaces and mansions were shown on TV and in the newspapers. Stories about their wrongdoings were splashed in newspapers.
Even Sultan of Kedah’s house in Penang did not escape your propaganda machine. RTM would proceed to air old Malay movies about how stupid the Malay Rulers in ancient days were. Films like Nujum Pak Belalang, Hang Tuah and Dang Anum were aired just to shape the people’s thoughts about how bad the King and the Malay Rulers were or could be.
And yet, you now want us to believe that you were just doing what the King had wanted you to do by establishing the tribunal against Salleh Abas? Stretching your argument that Salleh Abas had to go because the King said so, why didn’t you sack yourself, your whole cabinet and everybody else who had then partaken in the whole process of smearing the good name and dignity of our King and the Malay Rulers? Why only Salleh Abas?
Dr M, sometimes, one’s stupidity is most glaring in one’s thought that everybody else is stupid! You then mention in your blog that it was your opinion that Salleh Abas had committed wrongdoings and that he was not fit to be a Judge. If that was the case, may I respectfully ask why is it that you had not deemed it fit to establish a tribunal against a certain Lord President who was photographed with a certain lawyer overseas? Wouldn’t that constitute a wrongdoing?
That fact was, I am sure, known to you as it was widely discussed in the media during your premiership. It was even investigated by the ACA. Or how about the ACA investigation which showed that a certain lawyer had written a certain judgment for a certain Judge? Wouldn’t that be a wrongdoing which would, if substantiated, render the Judge unfit to continue be a Judge? Why only Salleh Abas? Why not these Judges? Or is it a case of you having forgotten what they did just as you have forgotten several events during the Linggam tape proceedings, again?
You now charge, as you have always charged, that the judiciary, had interfered in the administration of the country. Your disdain for the law, lawyers and judiciary is well documented. Dr M, I remember clearly in one speech, you likened the lawyers to vultures. But of course, you would now say it was all in jest.
Your contempt for the law and judiciary, every time the judiciary made a decision against you or your government is almost peerless. You would deem such decision as interference with the administration. Although you know that the administration consists of 3 different, but essential, arms, namely, the legislature, executive and judiciary, you failed miserably to understand their respective functions and duties. The phrase “check and balance” was missing from your administrative lexicon which was probably reprinted with an express instruction from you to delete the same.
Thus, history will show that you were so upset and angry with the judiciary that you had instigated another Constitutional amendment to take away “judicial powers” from the judiciary! May I point out Dr M, that Malaysia would be the only country in the whole Commonwealth (I say Commonwealth because I am not accustomed to non-Commonwealth systems) whose judiciary does not have judicial powers unless the legislature says so. Coincidentally of course, who controlled the legislature? That was, and I surmise, still is, your idea of a democracy.
Remember what I said above about stupidity? Let me repeat it. One’s stupidity is most glaring in one’s thought that everybody else is stupid! You somewhat deny that the sacking of Salleh Abas had anything to do with the UMNO 11 appeal which was then fixed by Salleh Abas to be heard by a full bench of 9 Judges on 13.6.1988. Events will show, at least on a balance of probability, otherwise.
Salleh Abas was served with a letter of suspension on 27.5.1988. Abdul Hamid Omar became the Acting Lord President. I will come back to this character later in this post.
On that very day, namely, 27.5.1988, on which Salleh Abas was suspended, Abdul Hamid Omar, as Acting Lord President, acting without any application by any party named in the UMNO 11 appeal, adjourned the appeal to a date to be fixed later. Why? For what reason? Why the haste? Nobody knows. That appeal was later fixed for hearing on 8.8.1988 before only 5 judges comprising of 3 Supreme Court Judges, including Abdul Hamid Omar himself and 2 High Court Judges. Not 9 as originally fixed by Salleh Abas.
How could a valid decision by a Lord President, which was made prior to his suspension, be reversed by an Acting Lord President is quite beyond me or my intellect to comprehend, let alone answer. And quite why the appeal was to be heard by a corum of 3 Supreme Court Judges and 2 High Court Judges, instead of all Supreme Court Judges, is also beyond my tiny brain’s ability to understand. I am sure you wouldn’t remember this fact Dr M. Otherwise, I am sure you would have stated it in your post.
If the sacking had nothing to do with the UMNO 11 appeal, why, may I ask, is that the first official act of the Acting Lord President was to postpone the hearing of that particular appeal? Why did he then proceed to overturn a valid act of the Lord President, who was then still a Lord President, albeit the fact that he was suspended? Why?
Salleh Abas made a statement to the press after his suspension. In the statement, he alluded to a meeting on 25.5.1998 with you, in the presence of the Chief Secretary, Salehuddin Mohamad, where you allegedly told him (Salleh Abas) that he was to be removed because, among others, of his bias in the UMNO 11 appeal. Salehuddin Mohamad was a witness at the tribunal. He said he was taking notes during the said meeting. While he could remember writing down only 2 matters in the note book during the meeting, namely, Salleh Abas’ speech and his letter to the King (about your attack of the judiciary and not about the renovation issue), he only managed to say that he cannot remember that you had mentioned the UMNO case during the meeting when asked by the tribunal members. If he was so sure that he only took down notes about the aforesaid 2 matters in his notebook, why then he could not EXPRESSLY deny that you had mentioned about the UMNO case during the said meeting? Why can’t he remember? And, in a show of embarrassing shallowness on the part of the tribunal, it FAILED to ask Salehuddin to produce the notebook! Why? It would appear that your Chief Secretary was clearly suffering from the same disease as yours namely, partial and momentary lapse of memory.
On the balance of probability therefore, your contention that the sacking of Salleh Abas did not have anything to do with the UMNO case under appeal is flawed, to say the least. Why don’t you state all these facts in your blog Dr M? And let the people who read it judge the matter after having been fed with all relevant facts. Not with facts which you think are relevant. Not with facts which you choose to remember for your own purpose and objectives.
I have reserved my comment about Abdul Hamid Omar. Now is the time for me to say something about him. This was the man who was effectively Salleh Abas’ subordinate. He became Acting Lord President when Salleh Abas was suspended. He was also next in line to be the Lord President, in the event Salleh Abas was sacked. History will show that he did replace Salleh Abas after his sacking. How could he then head the tribunal? He was obviously conflicted out from being in the tribunal. Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done. Haven’t you heard of that? Or have you forgotten about it? Or is it a case that you did not really care?
Salleh Abas was then charged, among others, for writing a letter to the King date 26.3 1988. For the benefit of those readers who don’t really know the facts, this was not the letter complaining about the renovation. As I had said it, the renovation letter was never mentioned in any of the charges. The letter dated 26.3.1988 was a letter by Salleh Abas to the King to inform the King that Dr M had been attacking the judiciary. I will not touch on the merit or demerit of this letter. But what Dr M had failed to realise, or rather, what Dr M had ignored was the fact that this letter was written by Salleh Abas after all the Judges had a meeting on 25.3.1988. Even the Chairman of the tribunal, the aforesaid Abdul Hamid Omar, was present during the said meeting. In more ways than one, the said letter was a collective result of the Judges’ meeting, including that of Abdul Hamid Omar, the Chairman of the tribunal.
Two questions arise here Dr M. Firstly, stretching your contention that Salleh Abas had to be removed because of that letter as well as the renovation letter to its own logical conclusion, why didn’t you suspend all the Judges who attended the meeting of 25.3.1988 and institute the same proceeding, with a view of dismissing all of them? That would be its reasonable conclusion as the letter was a collective result. Secondly, how could Abdul Hamid Omar, be a part of the tribunal, let alone its Chairman when he was obviously a potential witness? But then again, the 2nd question is borne out of a legal point, and so I don’t expect you to understand it, let alone grasp it.
Allow me to also set out the exact facts and events around the same time Salleh Abas was charged. In 1986, you, as Home Minister cancelled the work permit of 2 Asian Wall Street Journal journalists in Malaysia. They brought the matter to the Court and the Supreme Court held that your action was illegal and therefore invalid. You were upset. IN TIME magazine (issue of 24.11.1986), you expressed your displeasure. Contempt proceedings were brought against you by the opposition. You escaped as the proceedings were dismissed by the Court. However, the learned Judge remarked in his judgment that you were confused at the doctrine of separation of powers.
Later, in a speech to law students, the same Judge said that the process of appointing senators should be by way of an election. You mistook, as usual, this speech as a challenge and interference in politics when all the learned Judge was doing was expressing his own personal opinion over a matter which was not entirely political but also legal as well. Of course you then had to accuse “certain Judges” as interfering with politics. You then began a series of unwarranted attacks against the judiciary at a level and intensity as yet unseen in Malaysian history. What would you do if you were Salleh Abas, the Lord President? Take all the attacks lying down while waiting for pension?
You failed to appreciate his duty as the Lord President. He was the chief of the judiciary, an essential branch of the country’s administration system. As much as you were the head of the executive, so was Salleh Abas the head of the judiciary. He had to defend the very institution which he then headed. He convened a meeting of Judges on 25.3.1988 and collectively they decided to write a letter to the King about all the attacks leveled against the judiciary. What was so wrong with that? Why, you wanted him to lodge a police report over the matter?
By the way, in the present climate when every other Malay politician is trying to be more Islam than every other Malay and his pussy cats, you, of course, forgot to mention one of the charges against Salleh Abas in your blog for obvious reason. The charge was that Salleh Abas had advocated the acceptance of the Islamic legal system in Malaysia and had re-stated the law along Islamic legal principles against the multi-racial and multi-religious character of our country. Why didn’t you mention this in your blog? You forgot? Or is it simply a case of you being afraid of losing the Malay support among your Malay readers if that was published by you in your blog?
Dr M, I am not your supporter. Nor am I Anwar Ibrahim’s or Abdullah Badawi’s supporter. I am a supporter of truth. In this matter, nobody would know the truth. But if you are persuading people that your version is the truth, I would at least, expect you to lay out the whole story. And let the people, and history, be the judge.
Do you know what the beauty of the Common Law (which we practise)? The beauty is that it is a set of laws common to all the people. That means, when a matter is wrong or right, ultimately, the common people would know. The common people. Me, and your readers.