Sabah’s Richard Malanjum The Only Former Chief Justice Without A “Tun”
On Monday, a total of 829 recipients were bestowed the 2020 Federal Awards in conjunction with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s birthday.
But of the 829 recipients, Sabah’s Richard Malanjum, a former Chief Justice of Malaysia did not make the list.
By convention, all who have held the highest office in the judiciary have been awarded “Tuns”.
The eight predecessors of Richard Malanjum are namely Tun Abdul Hamid Omar (1988 – 1994), Tun Mohamed Eusoff Chin (1994 – 2000), Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah (2000 – 2003), Tun Ahmad Fairuz Abdul Haim (2003 – 2007), Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad (2007 – 2008), Tun Zaki Azmin (2008 – 2011), Tun Ariffin Zakaria (2011 – 2017) and Tun Mohamed Raus Sharif (2017 – 2018).
All of them were bestowed Malaysia’s highest civilian honour, except for Richard Malanjum.
This problem is a systematic hurdle for Sabahans and Sarawakians
Richard Malanjum served as the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak for 12 years (2006 to 2018).
In August 2017, there was discontent among Sabahans when a vacancy arose in the post of the Chief Justice of the Federal Court.
Being the senior most judge of the Federal Court, Richard Malanjum, the then Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak was expected to succeed as Chief Justice. But that did not happen.
Instead, Richard Malanjum was bypassed by Md Raus Sharif who was more than five years his junior.
A Catholic by faith, Richard Malanjum has been a Federal Court judge since 26 July 2006. He was also the sole dissenting judge in the Lina Joy case.
In contrast Md Raus has been a judge of the Federal Court (and President of the Court of Appeal) only since Sept 12, 2011.
It was not until a change in the Federal Government in 2018 that Richard Malanjum, a Sabahan was promoted and sworn in as the ninth Chief Justice of Malaysia on 11 July 2018.
The misgivings and mischief by West Malaysia over the appointment of Sabahan Richard Malanjum as Chief Justice of the Federal Court reflects the systemic difficulties Sabahans and Sarawakians face to serve in top government positions.
This explains why East Malaysians hold the belief that they are not being fairly treated by the Federal Government dominated by West Malaysians and their ruling parties.
Richard Malanjum left office in 2019, declining even an official send-off by his staff on his April 12 retirement after serving only nine months.
He has contributed positively, much more in nine months than other Chief Justices had in years.
He introduced the use of computers in court and a concept of a joint and group management, where the judges holding the top four posts (Chief Justice, Court of Appeal president, Chief Judge of Malaya, and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak) were given equal power and responsibility in all matters pertaining to policy and inclusion in the management of the judiciary.
He also introduced a “timesheet system” in peninsular courts, a computerised system to encourage effective management of the court’s time among judges and judiciary officers.
He also introduced the e-review, an online case management system without the physical presence of parties in a court case for case management.
In order to avoid any allegation and negative elements in the allocation of cases and selection of a panel of judges, Malanjum introduced the selection of the panel of Federal Court judges by balloting to hear cases in the Federal Court.
He also made changes regarding the number of judges to sit on the Federal Court panel to hear constitutional cases and public interest cases.
He introduced a mobile court to travel to the rural areas to serve the people especially bona fide Malaysians on cases of obtaining identification documents.
But why did Richard Malanjum not make the list?
Because he is a Sabahan?
Because he is a Catholic?
Because he does not subscribe to West Malaysia’s Malayan supremacy?
Because he does not subscribe to certain powerful people’s racial supremacy?