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Malaysia Confirms New Chief Justice

December 7, 2000

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysia confirmed the appointment of a new chief justice Thursday, a move legal experts hope will restore the integrity of a judiciary criticized at home and abroad after the conviction of a former deputy premier.

Mohamad Dzaiddin Abdullah, 63, a former journalist who has served as a High Court judge since 1982, succeeds Eusoff Chin. Chin had come under fire from critics who said his independence was compromised when he was photographed on a foreign holiday with an influential lawyer.

Mohamad Dzaiddin’s appointment, made by Malaysia’s king, was confirmed in a statement Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s office released to the national news agency, Bernama. The chief justice is selected by the king on the advice of the prime minister.

Mohamad Dzaiddin has good relations with the executive branch of government, the Bar Council and other judges on the Federal Court, legal experts said. They expressed hope that he will be able to smooth recently strained relations.

``He will be able to enhance the status at the international level and restore public confidence in the judiciary as an independent institution,″ Annuar Zainal Abidin, a former federal justice, was quoted as saying by The Sun newspaper.

The Malaysian judiciary has come under fire for the convictions of Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy premier, on charges of sodomy and corruption following his September 1998 dismissal as Mahathir’s heir-apparent.

Anwar, who was fired during a dispute over the handling of the Asian economic crisis, has claimed to be the victim of a conspiracy aimed at ending his political career. Sentenced to prison terms totaling 15 years, he has emerged as a rallying point for Malaysians weary of Mahathir’s 19-year rule,

Seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives recently sponsored a resolution urging retrials for Anwar, claiming he was treated unfairly. Mahathir accused them of unwarranted interference in Malaysia’s internal affairs.

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