Perak muddles further with Ridwan’s eligibility to judge

The Malaysian Insider | March 4, 2009

IPOH, March 4 — With his term as judicial commissioner ending February 28, the Perak constitutional crisis has taken another twist with the question whether Ridwan Ibrahim was eligible to hear or grant a restraining order against state speaker V Sivakumar yesterday.

The Ipoh-based judicial commissioner was first appointed on March 1, 2007 to a two year term which ended last Saturday. It is not known if his term of office has been extended as the newly-minted Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has yet to meet.

Unlike judges who have full tenure, judicial commissioners get two-year contracts under Article 122AB of the Federal Constitution and can sit to hear cases in the High Court.

A legal source said the judicial commissioners used to get extensions but now have to apply to the JAC for consideration as high court judges.

“I am not sure about Ridwan’s status but the JAC can easily extend his appointment retrospectively like in the past,” the source told The Malaysian Insider.

Ridwan’s status, unless confirmed, could be another contentious point in the protracted Perak political impasse turned constitutional crisis as Pakatan Rakyat’s Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin claims he is still Menteri Besar although the Perak palace has appointed Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir last Feb 5 when three government lawmakers turned independent.

Both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional have 28 members each in the 59-seat state assembly, making the three independents a decisive force. Lawsuits from both sides have muddied the issue which is now tied up in legal process. Earlier, judicial commissioner Mohamad Ariff Yusof had recused himself in Kuala Lumpur to hear Nizar’s suit challenging the validity of Zambry’s appointment.

The legal source said the matter could be clarified when the JAC finally meets. “We don’t even know where and when they are going to meet, their staffing and other issues. They could meet under a tree,” he quipped, referring to the Perak assembly meeting under a rain tree in Ipoh.

Ridwan, who disqualified Sivakumar’s private lawyers yesterday in favour of state lawyer Zulkairnan Hassan, issued a restraining order against the Perak speaker from convening meetings “purporting to be meetings of the Perak legislative assembly”, after accepting arguments that the immunity from judicial review stated in the federal constitution was only for proceedings in the state assembly.

The order for an indefinite period of time was granted at 5pm under Section 44 of the Specific Relief Act which grants the court the power to make orders to a public official.

The order came hours after Sivakumar convened a meeting under a raintree 200 metres from the state legislative assembly building that was locked by order of the State Secretary and cordoned off by a phalanx of riot police armed with shields and water cannons.

A hearing date will be set by the court on March 5, which is also the day that the three independents who left Pakatan Rakyat and now support Barisan Nasional, will go to court to quash the speaker’s decision to consider their state assembly seats vacant.

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