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Lord President of the Federal Court

The office of Lord President of the Federal Court of Malaysia was created in 1963 on the formation of Malaysia. The Lord President was the head of the judiciary in Malaysia, and of the Federal Court, which was the highest court after the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Below the Federal Court were the High Courts of Malaya, Singapore, and Borneo, each of which had its own Chief Justice. (Singapore seceded in 1965).

The first Lord President of Malaysia was Tun Sir James Thomson, previously Chief Justice of Malaya, and a Scotsman. It is after the Scottish office of Lord President of the Court of Session that the office was named.

The right of appeal to the Privy Council was removed in 1983, and the Federal Court was renamed the Supreme Court.

In 1988, Lord President Tun Salleh Abas was removed on the grounds of misconduct by a tribunal convened by the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad. The Supreme Court in the years leading up to 1988 had been fiercely independent and increasingly active, and was at the time due to hear an appeal to determine the future of the ruling party UMNO, which had been declared an illegal society by the High Court of Malaya on the grounds of procedural irregularity.

When the Supreme Court granted an injunction prohibiting the tribunal from hearing the misconduct allegations, five supreme court justices were suspended (and three later removed), and the injunction was overturned. This was the greatest blow to judicial independence in Malaysian history. Around the same time, the federal Constitution was amended to disvest the courts of the "judicial power of the Federation", granting them instead such judicial powers as Parliament might allow them.

In 1994, in a move regarded as a further downgrading of the judiciary, the office of Lord President was renamed Chief Justice of Malaysia, the chief justices of Malaya and Borneo renamed Chief Judge of Malaya and Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak respectively. The Supreme Court was renamed the Federal Court.

List of Lord Presidents of Malaysia

Further reading