Malaysian top judges quit as new government cleans house

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia’s top two judges are resigning, court officials said yesterday, the latest senior public servants to leave their posts since the former government lost power.

Chief Justice Raus Sharif and Appeals Court President Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin are to step down on July 31, a judiciary statement said.

They were the latest senior officials to quit, or be forced from, their jobs since Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad won a shock election victory last month on a pledge to clean up a government beset by scandal and other abuses.

The attorney-general and central bank governor both left their jobs after allegations related to a scandal surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Ousted former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, his family and cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the fund. Najib, who was questioned by anti-graft investigators twice over the controversy since losing power, and 1MDB denied any wrongdoing.

The judiciary statement said the judges’ resignations were approved by the Agong on June 8, as is required by law for such senior legal posts.

The judges had their terms extended last year despite exceeding the legal retirement age of 66 for their posts, in a move that sparked protests from Mahathir – then in the opposition – and the legal community.

Critics said the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary had been eroded steadily over the years.

Mahathir, who is 92 and serving as premier for the second time, is himself accused of starting the process of weakening the courts in the 1980s during his first period in office.