KUALA LUMPUR: The legal fraternity has paid tribute to former Lord President Tun Dr Mohamed Salleh Abas, who died today at the age of 91.
He died of pneumonia at the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital (HSNZ), Kuala Terengganu at 3.20 am.
In sharing her thoughts, Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat described his demise as a big loss to the legal profession.
“Allahyarham (the late) Tun Mohamed Salleh contributed immensely to the Malaysian Judiciary during his time as Lord President. His demise is indeed a great loss to the judicial fraternity specifically and the nation as a whole,” Tengku Maimun said in a media statement.
Meanwhile, former Chief Justice Tun Md Raus Sharif said the late Mohamed Salleh was a towering Malaysian and that his many accomplishments and contributions to the country were well documented, in particular when he was the Solicitor-General at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
Md Raus said as a Supreme Court (now Federal Court) judge and later as the Lord President (now known as Chief Justice), Mohamed Salleh he had written a number of landmark judgments.
“His judgments which reflected his judicial independence accompanied by legal clarity and intellectual analysis constitute a major contribution to Malaysian jurisprudence and justice system. My condolences to the family of the late Tun, “ he said.
Sharing the same thoughts, former Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria said Mohamed Salleh was known for his dedication and sharp legal mind and also was highly respected by those who had served under him.
“As a judge and subsequently as the Lord President, he presided over a number of landmark cases and after his removal from the office of Lord President he continued to serve as a legal practitioner.
“His passing will be felt not only among the legal fraternity but by all those who knew him,“ he said, adding that he was saddened by the news of the passing of Tun Mohamed Salleh this morning.
Arifin said he first met Tun Mohamed Salleh in 1974 after he returned from his studies abroad and Allahyarham encouraged him to join the legal and judicial service, which he did.
Recalling his days working with Mohamed Salleh, former Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi said Allahyarham was his boss and that he was an honest person and a very knowledgeable one.
“Back when I was at the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC), everyone was frightened of him. Although he was a strict man, I admired and respected him,“ he said.
Former Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said Mohamed Salleh was his mentor and his boss when he was then the Solicitor-General of Malaysia.
“Though he was a tough boss, he was a very good man and had a kind heart. I remember requesting him to preside over the ceremony of my call to the Malaysian Bar in 1982. He was then a Supreme Court judge but he obliged and came down to sit as High Court Judge in Kuala Terengganu.
“Later, when he was facing a Tribunal to remove him, I personally called him and advised him to attend the said Tribunal. He refused and took a defiant stand that the Tribunal was not properly constituted. Later on, as history unfolded, he was given due justice and his position was restored and he was compensated,“ he said.
Mohamed Apandi also described Tun Mohamed Salleh as a man of principles, honest, of highest integrity and pious.
“It was a privilege for me to know him and serve under him. We have lost a true honest man. May Allah bless his Roh (soul) and place him amongst the solihin (pious),“ he added.
Former Federal Court judge Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram said Mohamad Salleh’s passing leaves a huge vacuum in the legal profession.
Sri Ram said that when Mohamed Salleh was Solicitor-General, he ran the AGC in a professional manner as no politician dared to impose his will on any member of chambers.
“When he was on the bench he was very conservative when it came to personal liberty and freedom of speech. As far as I can recall, he always protected the Executive from any challenge by a citizen.
“His judgment in Government of Malaysia v Lim Kit Siang continues to pose a huge problem for citizens who want to challenge the legality of Executive action. He returned to practice and was a formidable advocate. Having appeared against him in both civil and criminal cases, I can say with confidence that he was a brilliant lawyer. He will be sorely missed,“ said the retired judge when contacted by Bernama.
Prominent lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah described Mohamed Salleh as a hardworking man, very clever but conservative and strict.
“I was the only junior officer who could see (the late) Tun to consult. Tun would be all ears and heart to discuss legal issues. I can say with conviction that Tun was incorruptible, the most honest man I have ever dealt with in my entire life.
“He trained many to have moral courage and dignity. He was a small- sized man, but he was a giant in law and justice. I got to know Tun when I joined the AGC in 1977 as a deputy public prosecutor. I was given a room in the same wing as the rest of the DPPs. We were then housed in the Sultan Abdul Samad building( where the clock tower is, opposite the Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur).
“He was the Solicitor-General then. I would see him literally daily as his office was at the perimeter of the law library of the AGC. He would do his own research and he would be at the law library late especially on big cases,“ he said. -Bernama