KUALA LUMPUR: The Prime Minister’s appointments to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) fell short of the Government’s 30% quota for women, said several civil society groups.
The JAC comprises nine members: four are automatic – the Chief Justice, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of Malaya and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak; and five are appointed by the Prime Minister – four eminent persons and one Federal Court judge.
The eminent persons and Federal Court Judge’s posts, which were vacant for 66 days, were filled on April 17 and all five were men.
The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) chairman Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said the body was concerned that there was not a single woman among the four eminent persons.
“Article 8(2) of the Constitution guarantees non-discrimination on grounds of gender and the Prime Minister himself, who launched the Malaysian Chapter of the 30% Club, encouraged the corporate sector to break glass ceilings and include women in their board.”
“Proham is saddened by this missed opportunity for the Prime Minister to have broken the glass ceiling himself,” said Kuthubul, in urging the Government to consider and appoint more women in public policy-making positions in the future to ensure that all voices are heard and represented.
Human rights lawyer Honey Tan pointed out Paragraph 54 of the 11th Malaysia Plan promised Malaysians it would implement the policy of 30% women’s participation in decision-making levels in the public sector.
“If they are sensitive to racial diversity – there is a Chinese, an Indian and Malays among the eminent persons – when will they become aware of the need for female representation in the very important decision-making body of appointing judges and judicial commissioners?” asked Tan.
“What is the reason for not appointing even one woman? In the Federal Court Judge category, Tan Sri Zainun Ali, Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim, or Datuk Aziah Ali could have been one of the appointees.
“In the eminent persons category, surely at least one eminent woman may be found in the whole country to fill that post,” she added.
Asked whether Datuk Seri Ainum Mohamad Said was in the first batch of eminent persons because she was a former Attorney General, Tan said it was possible.
Perak Women for Women Society, Women’s Aid Organisation and the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) welcomed the appointments after a two-month delay but lamented the lack of diversity.
AWL exco member Thulasy Suppiah said the JAC must not only be independent but inclusive and diverse.
“Female appointments to the JAC and the judiciary in general are necessary to ensure that the realities and perceptions of women in our society are also accounted for when making decisions that may differ from that of an all-male commission or panel,” said Thulasy, who cited a civil court sentence for rape and the statement of a former Syariah court judge who advocated marriage as a social remedy to rape.
She quoted Lady Brenda Hale, a British Supreme Court Judge and advocate for an inclusive judiciary, who said “even if we do not persuade our colleagues to share our point of view, it is important that we articulate it.”
“We hope subsequent appointments to JAC will be more diverse and representative,” added Thulasy.