Punishment of whistleblower judge a regressive step in calling out corruption and injustice


06 FEBRUARY 2021

The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) laments the fate of Judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer who has been suspended until retirement for his affidavit alleging judicial misconduct, and views this verdict with concern as future whistleblowers will now be less likely to come forward for fear of punishment. This suspension also effectively ends Judge Hamid’s judicial career.

It is also of major concern that Judge Hamid was not allowed the right to be heard at the Judges’ Ethics Committee (JEC) proceedings which determined his suspension, as they continued without his presence. This is despite his lawyer requesting an adjournment due to his ill-health and his hearing with the Court of Appeal on Friday. According to the rules of natural justice, every litigant must be given the right to be heard. This right was overlooked by the JEC and not afforded to Judge Hamid.

What stands out from this entire ordeal however, is how inadequately Judge Hamid, a whistleblower, was protected. Never before in our country’s history has a sitting judge so openly called out potential misconduct within the judiciary. Judge Hamid must have known that there would be backlash, but the sheer lack of support or protection for this act of whistleblowing is astounding. His courage in calling out judicial misconduct amounting to potential corruption among judges has been used to punish him and be made an example of to others who may do the same. It is clear also that the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 is essentially toothless in its overriding purpose to protect whistleblowers, as it does not cover these circumstances.

With this verdict, C4 Center demands answers as to what will become of Judge Hamid’s serious revelations. During the Pakatan Harapan government, an establishment of the Royal Commision of Inquiry (RCI) was promised to investigate the allegations. There has been complete inaction from the current government on this. Recent statements by former Attorney General Tommy Thomas reveal that such an investigation was not welcome to numerous judges, both serving and retired, and as such, this issue was pushed to the background.

C4 Center demands that there are no further delays in investigating the purported abuses. It is unthinkable that allegations of such severity can be quietly left to be forgotten and eventually swept under the rug. The judiciary is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy and all efforts must be taken to defend its integrity and independence.  

C4 Center also calls for Judge Hamid to be granted his right to be heard. Furthermore, the judiciary must clarify its stance on whistleblowing to ensure that potential whistleblowers are not undeterred, even if it appears to be an attempt at scandalising the sanctity of the institution. Punitive action ought to be exercised only when investigations show mala fide or ill intentions.

This detestable episode only illustrates that it is way past time for the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 to be given the improvement it is due.

Released by:
Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center)

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