Justice Datuk H C Ian Chin informed the parties in open court that he had certain disclosures to make at the start of the proceedings, saying he was doing so to forestall any complaints that might be made by the parties later.
He said complaints had been made against him in an earlier case that he had failed to disclose the detention of his father and brother during the time of the Mustapha regime in Sabah in late 1969 and the early 1970.
Chin then proceeded to make his disclosure the contents of which could only be described as explosive, coming hot on the heels of the findings of the Royal Commission in the Lingam video tape.
He started by saying that “it is better to err on caution that I take this step to shortly disclose what the parties and counsel may not be aware but which they may later complain that I should have disclosed”.
Chin said the other was the judgement handed down on Feb 13 1997 in respect of an election petition (Donald Lawan v Abang Wahed bin Abang & Ors [Sri Aman High Court]) by which he set aside the election of Mong Dagang.
“Shortly after those two judgements, the Judges Conference was held from April 24 1997.
The then prime minister (Mahathir) was scheduled to have a dialogue with the judges on that date. What was termed a dialogue and later reported as one was anything but a dialogue.
“The then prime minister went there to issue a thinly veiled threat to remove judges by referring to the tribunal that was set up before and stating that though it may be difficult to do so, it was still done. He said all that after he had expressed his unhappiness with what he termed ‘the Borneo Case’ and after he had asked whether the judge who decided that case was present or not.”
Chin said no one had any doubt that he was referring to the election case though he (then prime minister) did not mention it specifically which he decided on Feb 13, 1997.
Added the High Court judge: “After he was done with issuing that threat, he then proceeded to express his view that people should pay heavily for libel.
“He managed to get a single response from a Court of Appeal judge who asked whether he would be happy with a sum of RM1 million as damages for libel.
“He approved of it and he later on made known his satisfaction by promoting this judge (since deceased) to the Federal Court over many others who were senior to him when a vacancy arose.
“I was devastated after hearing all that but help came immediately after the “dialogue” was over when Federal Court judges came to my side and asked me to ignore him. Equally comforting were the words of my brother High Court judge who later told me that the then Prime Minister was too much.
“It will be recalled that the then prime minister not long after he assumed office had said, in a much publicised campaign against corruption, that he will put the fear of God in man but this apparently, given his diatribe in that conference, changed to instilling a fear of him if any judgment is to his dislike.”
Chin went on to say that to commemorate his “dialogue” with the judges a group picture was taken (which can be viewed by going to www.kkhighcourt.com/ JudgesnMahathir.htm).
A month later, Chin said he was packed off to a boot camp from May 26-30 together with selected judges and judicial officers.
He said that the boot camp was without any doubt “an attempt to indoctrinate those attending the boot camp to hold the view that the government interest as being more important than all else when we are considering our judgement”.
“Stating this devilish notion was by no less a person than the President of the Court of Appeal. Everyone was quiet during the question sessions. Also invited to the boot camp was a lecturer from a university who berated the election case and the bright spot in this episode was that a judicial officer, during question time, told the lecturer that she had no question but only a statement to make which was that the lecturer was in contempt of court.
“The then prime minister was scheduled to talk but he did not turn up and instead sent his then deputy who instead of talking invited questions and the one question I remembered being asked was — Are politicians looking for girls when they are often seen loitering at posh hotel lobbies?
“The perversion of justice did not stop there. My brother judge Kamil Awang was one morning looking for me after clocking in; we were both then serving in Kuching, Sarawak. When I met up with him in his chambers he was distraught and he told me that he had last night received a telephone call from the then Chief Justice asking him to dismiss the election petition that he was going to hear in Kota Kinabalu.
“He sought my opinion as to what to do with the telephone call.
“We went into the possibility of making a police report or of writing to the Chief Justice a letter to record what he had said over the telephone but in the end he decided against it since it will be his words against that of the Chief Justice,” he said.
“Now, though no longer the prime minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges which should therefore dispel any fear which any judge may have of him, if ever there was such fear, nevertheless the coalition party that he led is still around and the second respondent won on a ticket of that coalition party and it may cross someone’s mind that I may have an axe to grind against the party concerned or any member thereof.
“No amount of words from me would assuage you of your worry; you will have to read my judgments as to whether they are according to the evidence and the law or whether they were influenced by threat.”
Read the whole news here: Borneo Post: High Court judge makes explosive judicial disclosures and here: Malaysiakini