Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Being on the Bench and on the Ropes

It’s a noble calling and relatively very few people are bestowed the honour of serving their nation in the capacity of a judge. Laypersons may be forgiven for often not fully comprehending the magnitude, gravity, and complexity of serving one of the highest callings possible. I’d be the first to admit that I’m likely among the multitudes who have often not paused to appreciate the phenomenal undertakings by you the judges as part of your daily routine. And as we all know, there would not be much of a legal system to speak of if you judges did not uphold your solemn duty and role as preserves of justice.

And I suspect few of us have ever paused to appreciate exactly how difficult at times it must truly be for you given the kind of political pressures you fine judges might have to fend off in order to execute your duties with prudence, impartiality, and an untainted regard for the supremacy of the law irrespective of the consequences. It is with this newfound awareness and sensitivity that I express my deep sympathy for you judges, especially those of you on the Appeals Court, who will be hearing the arguments surrounding the battle of the Perak menteri besars. In some respects, it must obviously be a rather unenviable position, for you to be in.

I can’t imagine the kind of political pressure you must be feeling. After all, some of the very people in the establishment whose interests may not be favourably served by what you judges decide were the ones who might have had a part in the ascendancy of your career and appointment as an Appeals Court judge. Surely you must have various social ties and relationships with members of the political elite who have much at stake in this case. I know most of us probably can’t imagine how the judges must feel. Let me put it this way: Most of us might have had some relatively mundane compromising situations where we might have been confronted with conflicting demands – but probably nothing like the pressure you justices must be feeling, right?

That said, we can only try to imagine just how hard it must be on you judges to have to pass judgment on this mentri besar crisis in Perak. Maybe some of your fellow citizens might say, well, that’s exactly why you all are so well compensated and rewarded: It’s for making the decisions that don’t rubber stamp the regime’s political agenda. Agreed. But I do, nevertheless, sympathise with the predicament you’re in. I feel for you, la. Indeed, I have a strange feeling that like most of us, you judges also deeply care about your calling and do feel a profound sense of professional duty to do the right thing in the name of justice. After all, most normal beings would have a tough time sleeping and facing themselves in the mirror when they know they’ve not quite been honest with themselves or in their professional conduct. Well, maybe you’ve never had such an experience but I have a strange feeling this constitutional crisis in Perak is not going to be politically easy for you judges. Someimes things can seem to so compromising it can feel like seeing of the soul t the devil, so to speak.

And perhaps you will be able to look yourselves in the mirror and say that you did the right and honourable thing: you preserved the supremacy of the law – and the faith of the people in the institution of the judiciary.

Yes, Your Honours, I do feel for you.

G. Krishnan