Yes, judges were sacked!
KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 13, 2008) : Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz admitted today that he did not have all the facts when he said six former judges were not sacked in 1988.
He said he based that assumption, when answering a question in the Dewan Rakyat last week, on the fact that the judges had been receiving their pensions.
After checking the files, Nazri admitted that the former top judges were sacked, but pensions were paid upon the request of the King.
“I regret that my statement was misinformed and caused some misrepresentation. There was no intention to do so,” he told a press conference in Parliament lobby.
Last Thursday, Nazri when winding-up for his ministry on Budget 2009, had said the judges were found guilty by a tribunal and asked to take early retirement, “not sacked”.
He also revealed that former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas received RM5 million in ex-gratia payment from the government for being removed during the crisis. Five other judges were paid a total RM5.5 million.
Former Supreme Court judges Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawan Teh and George Edward Seah Kim Seng received RM2 million each. Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohd Salleh, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin and the late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdolcader were paid RM500,000 each.
“For the past 50 years in government service, it is understood that if you were sacked, pension would not be paid. In this instance, the judges were paid pensions so we were under the impression that they were not sacked,” he said.
“But in this instance, I took some time to check and true enough … I found a letter from the Agong to the Chief Secretary to the Government that even though they were sacked, the King requested that pensions be given to them on compassionate grounds.
“This is a letter that we all did not know (of). But now that I know, I wish to say that I regret my statement and when asked in the Parliament (last Thursday), I did not have the fact and I had to reply that I feel that they might not have been sacked as written in the Hansard,” he said.
Asked if he will apologise for his erroneous statement, Nazri said: “I will.”
Deputy Speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he will decide next week whether to refer Nazri to the Rights and Privileges Committee for allegedly giving an untrue statement to the Dewan Rakyat.
“I have to go through all the details because the matter involves many implications.”
Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) had called for Nazri to be referred to the Committee, claiming that the minister’s earlier statement had been a big lie.
To another question, Nazri said it was not his problem whether the government was wrong to sack the judges.
“I just want to correct that they were sacked.”
Nazri also stressed that whatever the government had decided to do, the public must be informed, including the ex-gratia payment because it was money belonging to the people and the government had no right to make a side agreement with the judges that the amount should not be disclosed.
After Nazri’s blunder, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim was first to reiterate that the judges were sacked, followed by the Bar Council and then former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir said: “As far as I know, the judges were sacked. However, pension was given on compassionate grounds as there was an appeal that although they were sacked …”
Meanwhile, on Mahathir’s comment that “there is a lot of hanky-panky going on” in the run-up to the Umno central elections, especially in the three-cornered deputy presidential race, Nazri said such accusations hinting the involvement of money politics was very serious.
“Mahathir should not just speak like that as it will affect the candidates. He should furnish evidence and report to the disciplinary board.
“He (Mahathir) has to remember that he is a statesman and the people believe what he says. If there is no evidence, we cannot act. So he should show proof,” he added.