Sunday, February 15, 2009

The return of Datuk Seri Ainum Mohamad Said

In November 2001, Malaysia's first woman Attorney-General, Datuk Seri Ainum Mohamad Said, then 55, resigned "for health reasons", barely a year on the job as the government's chief prosecutor and legal adviser.

During her short stay at the A-G Chambers, her tenure was questioned by certain quarters not happy with her appointment. She was rumoured to be under investigation by the Securities Commission (SC) over duties performed as the deputy chief executive of the Commission. The SC then issued a statement denying it was investigating her.

It was no secret that Ainum's appointment as A-G, succeeding the late Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, though welcomed by the legal fraternity, did not went well with certain quarters. In fact, Mohtar "groomed" a certain high-ranking officer from the Judicial and Legal Service to succeed him.

As the A-G, Ainum was seen as a person of integrity and she administered the Chambers with a firm hand. Ainum had previously served the A-G Chambers as head of prosecution (third highest-ranking post) and as parliamentary draftsman.

Ainum had served 26 years in the judicial and legal service, before leaving in 1996 to join the private sector and later, the Securities Commission.

During her tenure as A-G, one of the "cases" being investigated by the police then was the allegations by former Election Court Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang that he was asked to throw out a case. Muhammad Kamil, in his judgement on June 8, 2001 declaring the 1999 Likas by-election null and void, said that he had been directed by a superior to dismiss the case without going into its merits.

Former Chief Justice Tun Eusoff Chin admitted making the call but said Muhammad had misunderstood the conversation as he (Eusoff) had only instructed him to expedite hearing the petition. (May I add... correct, correct, correct!)

Ainum's appointment coming so closely after the appointment of Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah as the Chief Justice of the Federal Court "marks the beginning of a new era in the aministration of justice and the rule of law" in Malaysia.

Writing in his "Benchmark" column in the New Straits Times, the late Federal Court Justice Harun Hashim said the appointments were a welcome relief from a period of confrontation and adverse criticism of the two establishments.

"There is much for the A-G to do. Ainum's appointment augurs well for the future. The public awaits with great expectations," Justice Harun wrote.

But, unfortunately, it was not to be when Ainum had no choice but to resign for "health reasons".

In November 2001, Ainum submitted her resignation letter citing health reasons, now, nearly eight years down the road, Ainum is back as one of the eminent persons to serve in the newly-established Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

Was she pressured to resign as A-G citing health reasons? Ainum is certainly in good health.

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