"I Don't Have To Explain Why," Says Dr Mahathir

January 17, 2008 19:14 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 (Bernama) -- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was queried today by a royal commission of inquiry on his decision to reject a former chief justice's recommendation to appoint the late Tan Sri Abdul Malek Ahmad as the Chief Judge of Malaya (CJM).

The 83-year-old former prime minister was asked to disclose his reasons for not accepting Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah's proposal nominating Abdul Malek for the post of CJM.

Dr Mahathir replied thus: "Why I made the decision at that time is not something I tell people. It is my prerogative. The prerogative is with me to make the decision. I don't have to explain why."

He also said that he could not remember Mohamed Dzaiddin recommending the appointment of Abdul Malek as CJM. Abdul Malek died of brain tumour on June 1 last year.

Dr Mahathir, who took his oath in Bahasa Malaysia, testified for one hour and 20 minutes on the fourth day today of the inquiry into the "Lingam video clip" to verify the authenticity of a video clip which shows a senior lawyer apparently brokering the appointment of judges.

Replying to the question posed by Malaysian Bar representative Christopher Leong on the selection of candidates for top positions, Dr Mahathir said that after listening to and hearing what people said, he would form a conclusion before deciding.

To Leong's question as to whether he could remember the main sources of the information he obtained, Dr Mahathir said he could not remember precisely but added that he remembered listening to public views and consulting the "Lord President" (now known as Chief Justice) and then he made the final decision on his own.

He said he usually asked people who might know the person he (Dr Mahathir) had proposed for nomination for a top position, including civil servants.

Dr Mahathir said the sources of the information he obtained pertaining to the suitability of a candidate would be at random and might include civil servants and that at times he might verbally question police or Anti-Corruption Agency personnel if he suspected something.

He said he had to make sure that the candidate was the right one.

To another question, on whether businessman Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun was one of the persons he obtained or sought information from, Dr Mahathir said he could be.

Dr Mahathir was questioned on this matter as there existed a letter written by Mohamed Dzaiddin to him suggesting that Abdul Malek be appointed to the post of CJM.

Mohamed Dzaiddin's counsel yesterday contended that the word "masih" (still) in the phrase "Sekiranya Datuk Seri masih tidak bersetuju dengan pencalonan Abdul Malek ..." (If Datuk Seri (Dr Mahathir) still does not agree with the nomination of Abdul Malek ...) implied that Abdul Malek had been earlier nominated for the CJM post.

The commission also heard yesterday that it was Mohamed Dzaiddin's stand that Abdul Malek be nominated by him to hold the third highest ranking post in the judiciary before he selected former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim to hold the CJM post in 2001.

Dr Mahathir was also questioned on his decision to drop from a list the names of two lawyers for appointment as High Court judges in late 2001.

Dr Mahathir said he would take note of views from people on candidates for such posts during conversations and social functions even though he did not ask for feedback but added that he made the final decision.

"I normally don't explain to anybody the reason why I reject them. I listen to people. I make my own decision," he said when replying to a question from Commissioner Datuk Mahadev Shankar on whether he discussed with Mohamed Dzaiddin the reasons for his rejection of the nomination of Abdul Malek as CJM.

He said he also did not receive a specific memo recommending names from lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam but, in his capacity as the prime minister, he might have received letters from then Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin but he could not remember.

He said he really could not remember whether he received a memo from Eusoff Chin recommending names after Eusoff Chin had retired.

The person in the video clip is heard saying during the phone conversation that the names of Dr Andrew Chew and Zainudin Ismail had been rejected, the latter because he had criticised certain judicial appointments.

Former Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Samsudin Osman testified yesterday that the man in the video clip had knowledge of the details of a letter sent by Dr Mahathir to Mohamed Dzaiddin regarding nominations of High Court judges.

Samsudin had said he could not speculate as to how the person had got the information as such correspondence was classfied under official secrets which even ministers and deputy ministers had no access to.

The five-member Royal Commission of Inquiry is headed by Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor. The other members are Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong, Datuk Mahadev Shankar, Puan Sri Zaitun Zawiyah Puteh and Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim.