Tributes pour in for honest, sacked CJ
Published on: Sunday, January 17, 2021
By: Bernama
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KUALA TERENGGANU: Former Lord President Tun Dr Mohamed Salleh Abas (pic) was buried at the Sheikh Ibrahim Muslim Cemetery in Jalan Pusara here at 10.40am Saturday.

The body of Mohamed Salleh, 91, who died of pneumonia at 3.20am, was taken to the cemetery at about 10.15 am.

The burial process was handled by some 10 personnel from the Terengganu Health Department who were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). However, his family members and journalists were not allowed to be at the burial ground.

His son-in-law Wan Pauzi Yahya said Mohamed Salleh, who was Chairman of as-Salihin Trustee Berhad, was admitted to Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah (HSNZ) here on Thursday after he tested positive for Covid-19.

“After he was taken to hospital, his children and other family members could still talk to him but then he was not admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) yet. We were told he had breathing difficulty, declining blood pressure and other problems. Furthermore, he was born with only one kidney,” he told reporters after the burial.

Wan Pauzi said his father-in-law was put on a ventilator Friday. He said Mohamed Salleh was buried next to his first wife, Toh Puan Azimah Mohd Ali, who died in 2016.

Wan Pauzi said the family hoped that the relevant quarters would preserve Mohamed Salleh’s legacy by collecting the books written by him and his personal items like photographs for the benefit of future generations.

Mohamad Salleh leaves behind his wife Toh Puan Junaidah Wan Jusoh, five children and 26 grandchildren.

In 1984, Mohamed Salleh was appointed the Lord President (now known as Chief Justice), a post he held until his expulsion during the constitutional crisis in 1988.

He was also one of the drafters of the Rukun Negara in 1970.

In the 10th general election in 1999, he won the Jertih state seat in Terengganu on a PAS ticket but did not contest in the next polls in 2004 on health grounds.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah expressed their condolences to the family.

They said they were saddened by his passing and hoped that his family would be patient and resolute in facing this situation.

“Their Majesties truly appreciate his service and deeds to society and the country and regard his death as a big loss to the nation,” according to a statement posted on Istana Negara’s Facebook account. He is fondly remembered by his fellow lawyers as an honest, independent judge who “loved the law”.

Ex-Bar Council president Param Cumaraswamy, a close friend who kept in touch with Salleh over the years, recalls the moment Salleh and five other judges were removed from the Bench as a “traumatic time for the judiciary”.

“I was overseas when I got a call from Salleh frantically telling me what happened back here and how five judges were removed. He said ‘Param, come back, we need your support’.

“Salleh will go down in history as a man who stood up for his rights and fought through everything until the very end. He is gone now, but may his soul rest in peace,” Param told FMT.

Former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim said he remembered Salleh for his refusal to “not bow down to the dictates of a dictator”, and his contributions in defending the basic structure of the Constitution.

“His proclamation that the country is a secular state showed Salleh’s courage, despite being a strongly religious man,” said Zaid, adding that other judges should seek to follow Salleh’s footsteps in defending judicial independence in a “politically volatile country such as ours”.

“I was fortunate that I was able to persuade the government to help him by getting some compensation, together with five other judges,” he said, referring to gratuity payments by the government under Abdullah Badawi in 2008.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin placed on record the government’s gratitude for Salleh’s contribution in strengthening and upholding the integrity of the judicial institution throughout his tenure as the lord president from 1984 to 1988.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat described his death as a big loss to the legal profession.

“He had contributed immensely to the Malaysian judiciary during his time as lord president. His demise is indeed a great loss to the judicial fraternity speciffically and the nation as a whole,” she said in a statement.

Former chief justice Md Raus Sharif said Salleh was a towering Malaysian and that his many accomplishments and contributions to the country were well documented, in particular when he was the solicitor-general at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Raus said as a Supreme Court (now Federal Court) judge and later as the lord president (now known as chief justice), Salleh he had written a number of landmark judgments.

“His judgments, which reflected his judicial independence accompanied by legal clarity and intellectual analysis, constitute a major contribution to Malaysian jurisprudence and justice system.”

Sharing the same thoughts, former chief justice Arifin Zakaria said Salleh was known for his dedication and sharp legal mind and also was highly respected by those who had served under him.

“As a judge and subsequently as the lord president, he presided over a number of landmark cases and after his removal from his office, he continued to serve as a legal practitioner.”

Recalling his days working with Salleh, former chief justice Zaki Azmi said Salleh was his boss and that he was an honest person and a very knowledgeable one.

“Back when I was at the AGC, everyone was frightened of him. Although he was a strict man, I admired and respected him,” he said.

‘A man of principle, honest and pious’

Former attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali said Salleh was his mentor and his boss when he was then the solicitor-general of Malaysia.

“Though he was a tough boss, he was a very good man and had a kind heart. I remember requesting him to preside over the ceremony of my call to the Malaysian Bar in 1982. He was then a Supreme Court judge but he obliged and came down to sit as High Court judge in Kuala Terengganu.

“Later, when he was facing a tribunal to remove him, I personally called him and advised him to attend the said tribunal. He refused and took a defiant stand that the tribunal was not properly constituted.

“Later on, as history unfolded, he was given due justice and his position was restored and he was compensated,” he said.

Apandi also described Salleh as a man of principle, honest, of the highest integrity and pious.

Former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said Salleh’s passing leaves a huge vacuum in the legal profession.

Sri Ram said that when Salleh was solicitor-general, he ran the AGC in a professional manner as no politician dared to impose his will on any member of the chambers.

“When he was on the bench, he was very conservative when it came to personal liberty and freedom of speech. As far as I can recall, he always protected the executive from any challenge by a citizen.

“His judgment in Government of Malaysia v Lim Kit Siang continues to pose a huge problem for citizens who want to challenge the legality of executive action. He returned to practice and was a formidable advocate.

“Having appeared against him in both civil and criminal cases, I can say with confidence that he was a brilliant lawyer. He will be sorely missed,” said the retired judge.

Prominent lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah described Salleh as a hardworking man, very clever, but conservative and strict.

“I was the only junior officer who could see (the late) Tun to consult. Tun would be all ears and heart to discuss legal issues. I can say with conviction that Tun was incorruptible, the most honest man I have ever dealt with in my entire life.

“He trained many to have moral courage and dignity. He was a small- sized man, but he was a giant in law and justice.”

Born in Kampung Raja, Besut in Terengganu, Mohamed Salleh left the country in 1949 to pursue his tertiary education at the University of Wales in United Kingdom (UK), where graduated with a degree in law.

He joined the legal service upon his return to the country in 1957 and subsequently served as a magistrate in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

Not long after the country gained its independence, Mohamed Salleh was transferred to Kuala Lumpur, where he served as deputy public prosecutor.

He then returned to the UK to obtain a master's degree in international law and constitution at the University of London.


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