The Malaysian Bar is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the Former Lord President of the then-Supreme Court of Malaysia, Tun Dato’ Dr Haji Mohamed Salleh Abas (“Tun Salleh Abas”).1 His passing is a terrible loss to our nation and to the legal fraternity.
Tun Salleh Abas had authored two books detailing the importance of judicial independence — The Role of the Independent Judiciary, and one chronicling the events of the 1988 judiciary crisis titled May Day for Justice. The content of these books highlighted his views on how a judiciary should function, freedom from fear or favour, and the Judiciary acting as a bastion for justice. A free and impartial Judiciary is one that acts without concern of interference or influence. That is what Tun Salleh Abas believed in and will be remembered for.
When one recounts the 1988 judicial crisis, one simply cannot reverse the injustice that was done to the brave few with strong and good convictions. It serves as a reminder to us that judges require courage, integrity, and honour in defending the independence of the Judiciary. The crisis was an example of how the Judiciary should stand up to protect the rule of law and the separation of powers, to safeguard our Constitution.
“Provisions on fundamental liberties entrenched in the constitution would be meaningless if an aggrieved person could not have access to court to challenge the constitutionality of the act taken by the authority.” These words were spoken by Tun Salleh Abas during a speech at the Ahmad Ibrahim Memorial Lecture in 2008 themed “Fifty Years of Constitutional Government in Malaysia”. This perfectly encapsulated his outlook on the duties of a judge to protect our Constitution.
The Malaysian Bar extends its heartfelt condolences and sympathies to his family members and loved ones, as well as to those who had the privilege of knowing him. Tun Salleh Abas was guided by the conviction that abiding by the rule of law was one of the key principles and cornerstone of a functioning democracy. He will be greatly missed.
16 January 2021
1 This position is now known as the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia.